GREEN BAY – As casual as he was confident, Aaron Rodgers walked out on a frigid Lambeau Field Sunday night and looked the way you'd expect a three-time NFL MVP with No. 4 in the crosshairs to look.
With his fractured toe continuing to feel better, the Packers quarterback was dialed in from the start with his 19-yard pass down the sideline to Davante Adams getting the offense going during an eventual 37-10 rout of the Minnesota Vikings to clinch the top spot in the NFC playoffs.
Over the next four quarters, Rodgers hit a slew of back-shoulder fades and contested passes, while continuing to protect the football at an unmatched level. He completed 28-of-39 for 288 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers to register his fourth straight game with a 114.8 passer rating or better.
At one point in the second quarter, Rodgers completed 10 straight passes – culminating in an 11-yard touchdown pass to Adams on a slant that staked Green Bay to an early 20-0 lead.
"What kills me about the way he plays is how easy it is," said Adams, who finished with 11 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown. "From a mental (standpoint), he kind of has different ways to mess with the DBs, the way he'll look over at me, give me more attention and then we'll just hand it off.
"We're always thinking about the next thing we're going to do. I'm almost to that point with him about his own stuff, too, now. I just expect it."
After watching Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals put away Dallas on Sunday afternoon, Rodgers and Co. took the field knowing a win over the Vikings would guarantee Green Bay the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs for the second year in a row.
The only hiccup for the Packers against Minnesota came early when the offense struggled to finish drives, settling for two Mason Crosby field goals and turning over the ball on downs inside Vikings' territory on their second possession.
However, the offense kicked into another gear after a 15-yard pass to Adams in the flat on third-and-1 off an option play.
From there, Rodgers began feeding third-year receiver Allen Lazard – first with a 17-yard pass and then on a 20-yard 50/50 ball in the end zone that came off an adjustment Head Coach Matt LaFleur made for Adams to run a double move.
Once the safety bit on Adams, Rodgers knew he had Lazard in single coverage against Kris Boyd. Despite having Anthony Barr in his face, Rodgers put the ball where his 6-foot-5, 227-pound receiver could catch it for the first touchdown of the day.
"He's been making those contested catches and the more you do that, the more opportunities you get," Rodgers said. "It's a la James Jones back in the day. When James was a young player, you started seeing him making these contested catches to give you that confidence to go back to him over and over when you know it's one of those 50-50 balls, and then when he's been coming down with a lot more of those than not."
It marked the 55th career touchdown pass Rodgers has thrown against the Vikings, surpassing Brett Favre for the most for any quarterback against Minnesota.
After taking a 20-3 halftime lead, the Packers largely put the rest of the game on the shoulders of their backfield duo of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, who combined for 189 total yards and two touchdowns on 29 touches.
Rodgers' effort was further aided by the offensive line not allowing a sack for the second consecutive week, marking the first time Rodgers hasn't been sacked in back-to-back games during the same season since Weeks 2-3 in 2010.
The fact he wasn't sacked and hit just three times went a long way in Rodgers not suffering any setbacks with his fractured toe, which continues to feel better. Rodgers practiced on Friday for the first time since Dec. 10, and said it's possible he could practice twice this upcoming week.
Lambeau Field hosted a Week 17 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022.
Despite locking up the No. 1 seed, Rodgers said he hoped to play in next week's regular-season finale against the Detroit Lions.
"We were trying to get to that six-to-eight-week window without any major setbacks. We had a couple along the way, but this was another good week for me," said Rodgers of the toe. "I feel like we're really close. I mean we haven't done an X-ray in about a week, but there's definitely significant healing and we're getting close to being 100%, which I expect to be, definitely with the bye week."
It's a bit of a marvel Rodgers has continued to perform at an MVP level despite rarely practicing due to the injury. During Green Bay's five-game winning streak, Rodgers has completed 133-of-185 passes for 1,406 yards, 14 touchdowns and no interceptions (118.9 passer rating).
Sunday marked the 12th time this season Rodgers has had a game with multiple TDs and no INTs, breaking a tie with himself (2014, 2020) and Tom Brady (2010). All three of those previous seasons ended with that individual being named MVP.
Entering Week 18, Rodgers' 111.1 passer rating paces all NFL quarterbacks and has him in line to perhaps become the first player to win back-to-back MVP awards since Peyton Manning in 2008-09.
"He's the best to ever do it, man, and it's a blessing to be able to have a quarterback like that for eight years coming out here and making my job a hell of a lot easier," Adams said. "A lot of guys can go out there and run great routes and do it what it is that wideouts do, but you still need a great ball, you still need a quarterback who knows where people are.
"That's the best part for me is I don't really have to worry about too much. I run into a few hits every now and then but having a guy that can see the field and operate in such an elite, confident level, it's not fair."