GREEN BAY – A lot about Sunday night was special for Aaron Rodgers.
First and foremost, his performance. In the 28-23 NFC Divisional playoff victory over the Seahawks, Rodgers put a bout of inaccuracy from two weeks ago in Detroit well into the rear-view mirror with a handful of precise, outstanding throws, particularly in the second half.
But afterward, Rodgers was talking even more about his special connection with receiver Davante Adams and the atmosphere inside Lambeau Field, which showed just how much he's savoring another playoff run after a two-year postseason absence.
"I stopped myself in the second quarter tonight … it was just a special moment, seeing the whole stadium waving those white towels," Rodgers said. "I was really, in that moment, just grateful for the opportunity and loving what I do."
No one can help but love seeing the two-time MVP quarterback play like this.
While the 113.7 passer rating was just his sixth-highest in the postseason, and numbers like 16 completions and 243 yards won't blow anybody away, it was the types of throws he made that really stood out.
Softly dropping one into Jimmy Graham's bread basket for 27 yards on third-and-6 early in the third quarter. Sidearming a third-and-10 conversion to Geronimo Allison in the fourth quarter. Hitting Adams in stride for 32 on third-and-8 with just over two minutes left. Then three snaps later, holding the ball as long as he could to allow Graham to come open on a crossing route on third-and-9, and finding him to put the game away while getting drilled in the pocket.
That list isn't exhaustive, but a sampling of the difficult plays Rodgers made look easy, like he's done so many times before. Beginning with Wednesday's practice this week, he sensed he was in for a good night.
"It's one of those feelings. It starts to creep up in warmups, and you feel like you're locked in," he said. "It's fun when it translates to the field."
He was especially sharp when he absolutely had to be, with Head Coach Matt LaFleur lauding his "clutch throws" that produced a 9-of-14 conversion rate on third down, Green Bay's best of the season.
The chemistry with Adams reached another level, and that's what drew the most effusive praise from Rodgers. The 32-yard connection late in the fourth quarter that gave Adams the single-game franchise postseason record for receiving yards was the epitome of being on the same page with his top target.
"He was on one tonight," Rodgers said. "He was really crisp with his route-running, and it was one of those special nights.
"He made a number of very heady plays, and that was one of them. It wasn't exactly the check we were looking for. It was better than the check."
Meaning, Adams adjusted his route in a more effective way than the playbook even calls for, and Rodgers was reading his mind. His "intuition" was fully in tune.
"Tonight reminds me of the connection that Jordy and I had for so many years," Rodgers said, referring to his full decade of work with Jordy Nelson, which is not a comparison he makes lightly. "Some unspoken things we can do without even communicating anything about it. Davante made three or four plays tonight. It was pretty fun."
It even worked out when a Rodgers throw to Adams in the third quarter wasn't quite on target, but Adams was able to reach back for a leaping catch, plant his foot and cut back the other way to outrun two Seattle defenders for a 40-yard TD.
Lambeau Field hosted an NFC Divisional playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks.
No complaints there. Rodgers even got to silence his playful critics in the locker room when he successfully executed a QB sneak on third-and-1 from the Seattle 4-yard line at the two-minute warning of the first half.
Rodgers hadn't run a sneak at all in LaFleur's first season, and not for a rather long time in general. He said a clip reel that had been viewed in the film room showed him succeeding on 16-of-20 in his career, but the efficiency wasn't enough to quash the grief he got about his form.
He not only converted Sunday night, he gained two yards with a strong surge forward, which he said should earn him some "respect."
"These guys like to tease Aaron quite a bit about the lack of quarterback sneaks we've attempted," LaFleur said. "Yeah, it's something we haven't had up (in the game plan) too many times, but we had it up for this game."
A lot of arrows point up about the Packers when Rodgers performs like this, especially at crunch time.
Knowing this was the last home game of the season, Rodgers saluted the fans as he headed up the tunnel. Afterward he thanked them for sticking with the team over the last couple of years, which already seem light years ago in some respects.
By no means does he want the year to be done, but yeah, this was special.
"To be able to walk off that field again victorious," he said, "there's no feeling like it."