GREEN BAY – The 12-game gauntlet is over, and Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have finally reached their long-awaited bye following Sunday's 36-28 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
For Rodgers, it means a chance to finally take stock of the fractured toe he's played with the past two games. Other than the toe getting stepped on again late in the game, Rodgers said it "felt good."
On the field, Rodgers hasn't looked any worse for wear. The NFL's reigning MVP quarterback completed 28-of-45 passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns against the Rams, and even rushed for another near the end of the first quarter.
Rodgers felt focusing on rehab and walkthroughs, in lieu of practice, helped matters. A week earlier, Rodgers returned in a limited capacity the Friday before the Minnesota game.
"Last week I tried to do some stuff on Friday, felt like we needed maybe a little jolt and that kind of impacted Sunday a little bit from a pain standpoint," Rodgers said. "It definitely helped looking at the scans. The healing, kind of get to a better spot, so I've definitely felt better, but … there was definitely some pain I was dealing with."
Rodgers went into Sunday knowing how much Green Bay needed this win over the Rams following last week's 34-31 walk-off loss to the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Despite whatever pain he might have felt, Rodgers showed he was still fleet of foot when he ran a makeshift bootleg on third-and-goal from the Rams' 1-yard line with 2 minutes, 11 seconds left in the first quarter.
Rodgers said he had the option to hand the ball off to AJ Dillon or throw depending on how LA lined up. With how hard the Rams' line crashed, though, Rodgers pulled back from the draw to Dillon and rolled right. He used a pump-fake to throw off Jalen Ramsey and beat the All-Pro cornerback to the end zone.
It turned out to be a pivotal moment for the offense, which scored points on its next three possessions. The tone-setter was Green Bay's second score, which began with a 27-yard pass to Randall Cobb, included a 43-yard pass to Davante Adams and ended with a 7-yard quick slant to Cobb for the score.
Adams knows the past two weeks have been tough for his quarterback but appreciates the way he's handled himself in spite of the nagging injury.
"He's not the type of guy to feel sorry for himself or talk too much about his injury either way," said Adams of Rodgers. "Obviously you see him limping around, I know it's nagging him, but it just shows the type of laser focus that he has to be able to, still feeling like that, go out there and have two back-to-back weeks playing like he did."
Rodgers knows he isn't alone in the injury boat, either. Running back Aaron Jones was limited to 10 carries Sunday after returning from a one-game absence with a knee injury, while Cobb left after his explosive second quarter with a groin injury.
Lambeau Field hosted a Week 12 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021.
The Week 13 is the latest bye the Packers have had since 1990, surpassing 2019's Week 11 break. It's led to a grind that's lasted exactly four months dating back to the team's first practice of training camp on July 28.
Dillon, who caught one of Rodgers' TD passes Sunday, recalled a conversation he had with De'Vondre Campbell before his Zoom media session where the veteran linebacker pointed out the team just played 12 straight games.
"That's like playing a whole college football season without one bye," said Dillon, who had 90 total yards on 25 touches against Los Angeles. "I think a lot of people could use the rest and time to refresh and come back and be refueled and recharged."
Rodgers forecasts a bye week consisting of daily treatment. He'll undergo more testing on Monday, along with having a conversation with the team's medical staff "get a better view of what's going on" with his toe. Rodgers has been adamant about avoiding any surgical options that might cause him to miss time.
The Packers enter the bye week a half-game behind Arizona in the NFC. However, Green Bay does hold the tiebreaker over the Cardinals following last month's 24-21 win in Glendale.
To be 9-3, however, isn't too bad for a team that has nine players on injured reserve, including Pro Bowlers Jaire Alexander, Za'Darius Smith and Elgton Jenkins. Five-time All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari also has yet to play this season.
"It's been a lot of adversity, for sure," Rodgers said. "We've had so many guys step up, though, in their stead – guys we expected to play well and guys we didn't expect to maybe not play a whole lot or even be a part of the football team. Really proud of those guys and their efforts."