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Aaron Rodgers makes some magic in big moments

Packers QB saved the game’s most critical drive

QB Aaron Rodgers
QB Aaron Rodgers

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Aaron Rodgers said this week he has to "get hot" for the Packers during the stretch run.

Turns out all he needed on Sunday was the right amount of magic at the right time.

A couple of vintage Rodgers plays on the game's most important drive fueled a strong finish to the Packers' 31-13 victory over the Giants on a slick MetLife Stadium surface.

The Packers were looking to answer a third-quarter field goal by the Giants that cut Green Bay's lead to 17-13, and they faced fourth-and-10 from the New York 35-yard line.

It was too far for a field goal in the conditions and too close to punt (the Giants went for it twice on fourth down in Green Bay territory on a long second-quarter drive), so Head Coach Matt LaFleur kept the ball in Rodgers' hands.

All the two-time MVP did was somehow sling one over the middle off his back foot with Giants leading sacker Markus Golden bearing down on him, finding Geronimo Allison for a 15-yard gain.

"That was kind of the play of the game," Rodgers said, the understatement of the day. "We needed a drive there. I love the aggressiveness from Matt.

"I kind of held it, held it, and saw G-mo put his hand up. I was fortunate to get it in a good spot there."

Indeed, only Rodgers wasn't done. As the drive continued and the fourth quarter arrived, a penalty and a couple tackles for loss turned first-and-goal from the 1 into third and goal from the 17.

No problem, right?

Rodgers caught the Giants trying to substitute and used the free play to find Davante Adams for the touchdown to put the Packers back in command. More classic Rodgers.

"That was just a great heads-up play by him and he's done that for years," LaFleur said. "Our guys were all on the same page."

The Green Bay Packers faced the New York Giants in a Week 13 matchup on Sunday, Dec. 1.

Rodgers was keenly aware of exactly what was going on. He saw the Giants run two defenders on, but only one ran off, and their nickel back was looking to see who should exit but it was too late.

"We hadn't done that in a while so maybe it wasn't on their radar," said Rodgers, who has caught many a defense with 12 on the field but not as often this year, partly because the Packers under LaFleur haven't run as much up-tempo, no-huddle in normal game situations.

"You can tell there was some confusion. At that point it was making sure you just give your guys a chance. I saw Davante out of the corner of my eye break inside. It wasn't like some special pass, I just kind of laid it up there. Whoever was in the slot took two (defenders) with him and 'Tae' was open."

So the most crucial drive of the game looked dead twice, and Rodgers revived it. If the Packers go on the late-season run they're hoping for, it's worth remembering this sequence.

Miss the throw to Allison and the Giants have the ball at their own 35 down only four points. Don't outwit the defense and first-and-goal from the 1 might have produced just a field goal, leaving it still a one-score game.

"There were a lot of great plays in this game that weren't necessarily the way you draw plays up," LaFleur said. "Our guys able to step up deliver."

Rodgers wasn't on fire all day, though a 125.4 passer rating and four touchdowns in the rain and snow is pretty close to exceptional. He can still "get hot" but the clutch moments were enough in this one.

Rodgers cracked some smiles in his postgame press conference, but he's been pretty upbeat all season. With what he's seen from the Packers, maybe he's been waiting for this time of year.

"It's a lot more fun when you're playing meaningful games in December," he said, comparing how last year it was all for pride and for interim coach Joe Philbin. "This year we're playing for something collectively that's pretty special and this was a step in the right direction.

"It was a game we were expected to win and we expected to win, and to finish that game off in the second half was important."

So was Rodgers finding a little magic.