A regular season unlike any other received a fitting ending on Sunday as Aaron Rodgers put the finishing touches on what could very well be his third NFL MVP campaign.
The Packers' quarterback completed 19-of-24 passes for 240 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions during Sunday's 35-16 win over Chicago at Soldier Field, clinching Green Bay the top seed in the NFC playoffs for the first time in nine years.
It was 14th time this season Rodgers fashioned a passer rating of at least 100, pushing his season passer rating to 121.5 – second only in NFL history to his record-breaking 122.5 back in 2011.
Individually, Rodgers established new franchise records in completion percentage (70.7%) and touchdown passes (48), both of which led the NFL this season.
Not too shabby for a 37-year-old quarterback some critics felt was no longer the gold standard for the position, playing on a team with a perceived dearth of offensive weapons.
For that reason alone, four-time Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams felt there's no question who the 2020 MVP should be – it's the future Hall of Famer who reminded the NFL what he's all about this season.
"The MVP should be locked up," said Adams after Sunday's win. "There's nothing else to really talk about. You look at what we've done and what he's been able to do, and they've hit him with everything.
"(They) said he didn't have any weapons, and we go out there and go 13-3 regular season, which isn't our main goal, obviously, but it's a hell of an accomplishment, especially when you're in your second year with a new staff."
The stakes were high for the Packers, who lost four-time All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari to a season-ending knee injury in practice on Thursday.
Looking to set the tempo early, Rodgers completed his first 10 passes for 155 yards, including a trio of second-quarter touchdowns to tight end Robert Tonyan (15 yards), receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (72 yards) and tight end Dominique Dafney (13 yards).
He made history with each one. On his first TD pass, which made Rodgers the first QB in NFL history to have two seasons with at least 45 TD passes, Tonyan also tied Paul Coffman's 37-year-old record for most TD catches in a season (11) by a Packers tight end.
Valdes-Scantling's 72-yard bomb later in the second quarter came out of an empty formation in which the Packers got the third-year receiver matched up against linebacker Danny Trevathan. Head Coach Matt LaFleur said he nearly called timeout on the play as the play clock ticked down but instead trusted Rodgers to get everything under control.
Rodgers did…and it marked the first time the Packers have had a receiver catch two touchdowns of more than 70 yards in the same season since Jordy Nelson did it in 2014.
"That's what so special about a guy like Aaron Rodgers," LaFleur said. "He saw the matchup, he saw the confusion going on. … There was definitely a blitz called and he hung in there and two guys made a play. But I think those are the things that not everybody understands about a guy like Aaron. Just what he's capable of doing. How cool he is under pressure."
Meanwhile, Dafney's TD – the first of his young career – marked the 11th different receiver Rodgers has thrown a touchdown to this season, which also established a new franchise record.
Soldier Field hosted a Week 17 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021.
Yet, Rodgers was at his best when adversity struck. His completion streak ended early in the third quarter when Valdes-Scantling dropped a pass that likely would've been a 53-yard touchdown. Two plays later, the Packers would have to punt for the first time.
The offense would then go three-and-out on its other third-quarter series, allowing Chicago to claw within five, 21-16, entering the fourth quarter.
When the chips were down, Rodgers rallied the offense on a 12-play, 76-yard scoring drive that ate 7 minutes, 35 seconds off the clock in the fourth quarter. He completed 7-of-8 passes for 64 yards, including a 9-yard pass to Adams on third-and-7 to keep the drive going.
He put the exclamation point on the victory after Adrian Amos' interception, connecting with Adams on the receiver's 18th TD catch of the season – tying Sterling Sharpe's franchise record.
Fittingly, after stressing production in the "gold" zone this season, Green Bay was a perfect 4-of-4 on Sunday to finish with a league-best TD conversion rate in what's often referred to as the red zone at 78.57%.
"This is a special season. This will always be a special season for me," Rodgers said. "I know I've talked probably too much about my mental state and what I've been working on. It's such a difficult time for so many people.
"I've really just tried to have a good perspective, an attitude of gratitude, and just to really enjoy every moment of this season. And that's why although it might not have been the most fun, just because I miss the fans, it was maybe the most special regular season."
Rodgers has been exceedingly reflective this season, his 13th as the Packers' starting quarterback. At several turns, he's made it a point to step back and verbalize his appreciation for all the small moments baked into the team's 13-3 campaign.
After the game, Rodgers gave thanks for Adams, his teammates, the strength and conditioning staff and LaFleur for his "faith and trust in me this season."
However, it was Adams – minutes after completing the most prolific season by a receiver in team history – that stumped one final time for Rodgers being recognized as the Most Valuable Player to wear an NFL uniform in 2020.
Because he's earned it.
"I could talk all day about his MVP push and all of that, but I think he's allowed his play to step up and do that," Adams said. "And honestly there's been a few other plays that would have cemented it even more, had we made a couple more plays for him where he made a great ball and we came up short.
"It's pretty clear to me who the MVP of the season is. And it's going to be a person who's won a couple of them before."