GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers didn't get the relief he was hoping for with his banged-up toe but the Packers quarterback still looked every bit the part of an NFL MVP making a serious run at a repeat on Sunday night against the Chicago Bears.
Whatever pain he was dealing with, Rodgers was his same surgical self in completing 29-of-37 passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns (141.1 passer rating) during the 45-30 win over the Bears.
It was the seventh time in his career Rodgers had four or more touchdowns with no interceptions against Chicago, the most in NFL history against a single opponent.
Second place? Rodgers' six vs. the Minnesota Vikings.
It wasn't easy, though. While Rodgers and the Packers battled back from a slow start to score on four straight possessions between the second and third quarters, the league's reigning MVP did so with apparent discomfort in the fractured toe he's dealt with for the past month.
"It feels worse," Rodgers said. "I don't know what kind of setback that I had tonight but we'll look at it tomorrow (Monday). Definitely took a step back tonight."
Rodgers sought a few different opinions on the toe during the team's Week 13 bye but remained hopeful it would heal on its own. He felt good enough to practice in a limited capacity on Friday, his first on-field participation in nearly a month.
Yet, Rodgers continues to play some of his best football. Despite practicing just twice since his return from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Nov. 13, Rodgers has completed 103-of-152 (67.8%) for 1,325 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception in his last four starts (114.1 passer rating).
Chicago generated some early pressure on Rodgers, getting two of its three sacks in the opening quarter, but Green Bay's offense found its rhythm thanks to a steady run game (21 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown) and Rodgers getting multiple receivers involved.
He completed at least three passes to six targets, with All-Pro receiver Davante Adams (10 catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns) and Allen Lazard (89 total yards and a TD) leading the way. Veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis also had his most catches (four) and receiving yards (51) in a Packers uniform.
To Rodgers' credit, no one even seemed to notice his discomfort. While he left the field to a chorus of "M-V-P" chants, Rodgers jokingly pointed out how he was walking, not running, up the tunnel.
"For him to be able to do what he's been doing … I think it's just a testament, his talents, but I think it just shows you how talented he is above the neck as well," said Lazard of Rodgers.
"I think that pays dividends when it comes to that position, obviously. Yeah, he's a special guy and so thankful to have him in our locker room as a friend. He's done a great job as a leader."
Sunday's win over the Bears did carry a lot of significance to the future Hall of Famer. With his touchdown to Adams with 4 minutes, 33 seconds left, Rodgers moved ahead of Brett Favre for most TD passes against Chicago (61 in 27 games) in NFL history.
It was also Rodgers' 23rd win over the Bears (including playoffs), moving one ahead of Favre for most wins by a Packers quarterback over their oldest rival.
"That does mean a lot to me, it really does," Rodgers said. "To follow Brett and know how successful he was over his and how many big games he played in against them, it's a sweet rivalry. It's one that is very special to me and I knew I was three (TDs) from tying, four from breaking so I'm definitely going to hang on to that ball. That ball is an important one."
More on Lazard: After a physically taxing and mentally grueling stretch of 12 straight games to start the 2021 season, Lazard returned from the bye week feeling refreshed.
With veteran Randall Cobb going on injured reserve Saturday with a core injury, Lazard saw more work in the slot against Chicago and he responded with perhaps his best game of the year with six catches for 75 yards and a touchdown.
Lazard missed a game last month with a shoulder injury but said that mostly was behind him heading into Green Bay's matchup with the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 28. To him, the team's Week 13 bye represented a chance to heal up, mentally.
"For me, the biggest thing was just a mental reset," said Lazard, who also had one carry for 14 yards. "Just being mentally drained out from the grind the NFL is. The fact that we played 12 games – a whole college football season – and then we get a bye and now we still have to play four more games before we even get to go play for the trophy."
Lambeau Field hosted a Sunday night matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears on Dec. 12, 2021.
Kelly gets the call: The Packers suffered yet another setback on the offensive line with right tackle Billy Turner leaving in the second quarter with a knee injury. Heading into Sunday, Turner and right guard Royce Newman were the only Packers players who had yet to miss a snap this season.
Stepping in for Turner and finishing the game was ninth-year veteran Dennis Kelly. Despite Kelly starting 17 games (including playoffs) for Tennessee last season, Sunday was actually the first time he'd taken an offensive snap for Green Bay all year.
Kelly picked up one holding penalty but otherwise contributed to an O-line that plowed the way to a 439-yard day for the offense and gave Rodgers a workable pocket to throw from.
"Big D-Bak did a great job stepping in," joked Rodgers, referencing Kelly's resemblance to All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari. "I love Dennis. I think he's got a real steady personality and he's a pro's pro, so I was happy to have him out there.
"It's tough to go the entire season I'm sure and not play and then, boom, you're thrust into a game, an important situation, down in the game and you're going to have to play a half-plus of football and deal with the conditioning of that … doing it over and over and long drives, I'm just really proud of him."
The Packers are hoping to get Bakhtiari back at some point, but so far have lost Pro Bowl guard Elgton Jenkins and rookie center Josh Myers to knee injuries.