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The Legend Of Aaron Rodgers Continues To Grow In Green Bay

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Rodgers, Packers Win 5th NFC North Title in 6 Years

Long gone are the days of people questioning if Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is in decline. As it turns out, he’s the exact same guy that he’s always been. Except now he’s a little more motivated than usual.

After the media and fans alike questioned the 2-time MVP’s focus and ability to lead after a 4-6 start, Rodgers went on a mission. With the Packers 31-24 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday night he completed the first of his objectives, next up is making a Super Bowl push.

The win not only gave the Packers their fifth NFC North title in six years, but it also brought to fruition Rodgers unlikely “Run The Table” prediction.

His confidence that his team could make a run after a terrible blow-out loss to the Washington Redskins in week 11 seemed misplaced, but Rodgers never relented, and six wins later they end the regular season champions of the North.

”That’s what you have to do sometimes as a leader. You have to exude confidence even in a situation where it seems to the outside world that confidence shouldn’t exist, and that’s kind of what I did,” Rodgers said. ”I believe in myself and my abilities, but I also believe in this team.”

Rodgers belief was tested early and often against Detroit, as he completed just 1 of his 5 passes for 8 yards in the first quarter. As he often does, he found his rhythm as the game went on, strengthening his MVP resume by completing 27 of 39 passes for 300 yards and four touchdowns (126.0 QB Rating) by game’s end. His four scores brought him to 40 on the season, placing him number one in the league for the first time in his career.

His elite performance on Sunday night also included many of his old tricks. Between catching the Lions with 12-men on the field,  his Houdini-esque escapes from the pocket, and completing off balance throws no one has any right completing, Detroit had no chance.

In fact, perhaps Rodgers most memorable and magical play of the year came early in the 4th quarter with the Lions still within striking distance. And it didn’t go to Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery, or Jared Cook. Instead it went to the most unlikely of targets, undrafted rookie Geronimo Allison.

Allison has seen an increase of playing time as of late with Randall Cobb sidelined due to injury, and his four catches for 91 yards against Detroit prove he’s taking his chance and running with it.

On 3rd and 9 from the 10-yard line up only 17-14, Rodgers was flushed from the pocket and rolled out quickly to his left. He set his feet ready to launch, but instead pulled the ball down and scrambled even further left toward the sideline. Seeing Allison in the back of the endzone he turned his body one more time to get into throwing position, and let go a beautifully thrown ball as he was about to take a hit to the diving Allison.

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It was the kind of play that makes Rodgers so incredibly unique and dangerous, using his arm and feet jointly to perfection. Of course, holding the ball for nearly 9 seconds on one play isn’t possible without some help up front.

The Packers offensive line, the best pass blocking group in the league, again gave up just one sack on Rodgers as well as less than 5 hits. It’s not easy to block successfully for as long as they’re forced to on occasion, but they’ve been masterful all year. Against the Lions, Rodgers had nearly 4 seconds to throw on each play, whereas Matthew Stafford had less than two on the other side of the ball.

Stafford attempted to go punch-for-punch with Rodgers, but for the ninth time in his career failed.

He completed 26 of 41 passes for 347 yards and two scores, but one of those came on a garbage time 35-yard Hail Mary to Anquan Boldin.

Like last week against Dallas, the Lions had success early against the Packers running the ball with Zach Zenner. Zenner had 63 of his 69 yards in the first half, and was a big reason why the Lions had a 14-10 lead at half.

However, as Rodgers heated up Detroit panicked and Stafford attempted to do too much. As the Lions began to go away from the run, the Green Bay defense was able to set up in a prevent-like defense and take away a majority of the big plays he was searching for down the field.

With three corners going down in the already beat up secondary of Green Bay, they were forced to make numerous adjustments on the fly. One being playing Morgan Burnett and Micah Hyde in some one-on-one, man-to-man situations on the outside rather than their usual duties at the safety position.

“I thought it was tremendous, just the whole operation,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “Dom Capers all the way through, the coaches, the players on the sideline. There was no panic. And just the young guys that stepped in there, Brice, and all those guys.”

Even in giving up over 400 yards of offense, the Packers defense again did what they had to do to win the game. They gave up a big play here and there, but when it mattered most they held steady.

Evidence of this was Micah Hyde’s late game interception of Stafford.

With the Lions down 31-17 and surging toward the endzone, Stafford tried to take advantage of Hyde being placed in man coverage on his number one receiver Golden Tate. He threw what looked to be an attempt at a back shoulder throw to Tate, but Hyde read it all the way and essentially ran the route for him.

The interception killed the momentum the Lions were building toward another late comeback, and secured the Packers winning the turnover battle yet again. For Green Bay, it’s going to have to be about timely plays rather than consistent plays.

Also notable on the offensive side of the ball was the other unlikely star for Green Bay, fullback Aaron Ripkowski.

Already gaining a cult following in Wisconsin, “Rip” led the Packers in rushing with a career high 61 yards on nine carries, as well as being the recipient of Rodgers first touchdown pass on the night. His first career receiving touchdown.

The late season emergence of Rip and Allison have been crucial elements in the jump start of the Green Bay offense, and veterans like wide-receiver Jordy Nelson couldn’t be more thrilled about their recent play.

“It’s one of the most exciting things to watch,” Nelson, who had a quiet six catch, 66-yard day. “We tell the young guys when we start the season … you’re going to help win games for us, especially down the stretch. We know injuries become a factor in the playoffs.”

It seems for the Packers and their All-Pro quarterback, it’s coming together at the right time. Much like their 2010 run to the Super Bowl, Green Bay has all the momentum in the world to build on toward their ultimate goal.

Although this time around, they will get at least one home game as they welcome their bitter playoff rival, the New York Giants, into Lambeau next Sunday for a battle of the two hottest teams in the NFC.