GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The initial reaction was to punt. The end result was Aaron Rodgers' 'finest hour.'
Such were the range of emotions Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy experienced on his team's final drive in Sunday's 33-28 victory over the Chicago Bears that sent them jubilantly into the playoffs as the NFC North winners.
Not one for hyperbole, McCarthy did not stop himself from using his share of superlatives on Monday to describe the game-winning drive that included three fourth-down conversions, including Rodgers' 48-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-8 with 36 seconds remaining in his first game back from his Nov. 4 broken collarbone.
"Mentally, what he's been through the last three weeks, my goodness," McCarthy said of Rodgers, "I think this is probably his finest hour as a Green Bay Packer."
And don't think McCarthy has forgotten that Rodgers was the MVP of Super Bowl XLV and the MVP of the NFL in 2011.
One of Rodgers' career-defining moments would not have taken place if McCarthy didn't listen to his players, who urged him to go for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 22-yard line with 4:41 remaining. As the punt team took the field, guards T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton approached McCarthy and asked him to reconsider.
"I love the fact that they wanted to go for it," McCarthy said. "I think in my earlier days I would've said, ‘Hell yeah, let's go for it every time on 4th-and-1.' But you've got to mature through that part of it. They were right.
"I think ultimately I may have regretted that decision if I would've punted."
Instead, fullback John Kuhn plowed his way through for the requisite 1 yard, and Rodgers went on to convert another fourth-and-1 with a 6-yard pass to Jordy Nelson before the bomb to Cobb gave Rodgers a fourth-quarter comeback victory that he has often been criticized for failing to direct.
The 15-play, 87-yard drive will be one for Rodgers' career highlight reel and one for the Packers' annals.
"I don't know of one better," McCarthy said of the drive.
He recalled a time when he was an assistant coach with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1994, when Joe Montana outdueled a John Elway-led Denver Broncos' team on "Monday Night Football" and threw the game-winning touchdown pass with 8 seconds to play.
"But this was for all the marbles [in the NFC North]," McCarthy said. "Aaron hadn't played in eight weeks. They were aggressive with their game plan. This was clearly, you know it feels good today because it just happened yesterday, but it's the finest one I've ever been a part of."