Rodgers Bounces Back After Tough Start

GLENDALE, Ariz. - For Aaron Rodgers, his first postseason appearance neither started nor finished the way he would have liked, but in between those two plays, the Packers’ signal caller played a big part in the Packers’ rallying from a 21-point deficit in the second half. - More Packers-Cardinals Game Center

GLENDALE, Ariz. - For Aaron Rodgers, his first postseason appearance neither started nor finished the way he would have liked, but in between those two plays, the Packers' signal caller played a big part in the Packers' rallying from a 21-point deficit in the second half.

Rodgers, who finished the season with a league-low 1.3 interception percentage on just seven interceptions, was picked off on the opening play of the game. His pass intended for tight end Donald Lee was tipped by linebacker Karlos Dansby and intercepted by cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at the Green Bay 34.

"It was a bad decision," Rodgers said. "The tight ends actually ran the same route, so we had a little bit of miscommunication from those guys. I was able to skate to my right, and thought that after Jermichael (Finley) cleared that Donald Lee was going to come back toward me, and we were just on different pages. That was definitely a poor decision on my part."

The Cardinals made the most of the good field position by driving seven plays for a touchdown, and on Green Bay's next series, Rodgers found wide receiver Donald Driver on a hitch on second down, but the veteran wideout was stripped by Dansby and defensive tackle Alan Branch recovered the fumble at the Packers' 22. Two plays later, the Cardinals scored again, and the Packers were down 14-0 less than six minutes into the game.

"(Aaron) kept his composure," Driver said. "He did everything right. I think the first play was a pick and then my fumble. One thing we got to the sideline and said, 'We can't have those if we want to win this game.' Everybody looked at each other and said, 'Let's just make plays and take one play at a time.' We did, but unfortunately we didn't win the game."

The Packers finally got on the board midway through the second quarter as they drove 52 yards on six plays, highlighted by runs of 10 and 20 yards by running back Ryan Grant. Cornerback Michael Adams interfered with Driver in the end zone on a third-down pass, and Rodgers took it in for a 1-yard sneak two plays later. Green Bay added a field goal as time expired in the first half, but trailed 24-10 at the break.

After the Cardinals scored on the opening possession of the second half to go up 31-10, Rodgers and the offense started to find their groove, driving 80 yards on 10 plays in just four minutes. He found Finley over the middle for an 18-yard gain on a 3rd-and-10, and then hooked up with wide receiver Greg Jennings on the right sideline for a 35-yard pickup all the way down to Arizona's 3. On third-and-goal, Jennings reached back with his left hand to make a spectacular touchdown grab with cornerback Bryant McFadden covering him to narrow Arizona's lead to 31-17.

"It was a back-shoulder throw," Jennings said. "I really just stuck my hand out just to try to get a hand on the ball, and I was able to slow the ball down and pull it in."

After the Packers perfectly executed an onside kick that cornerback Brandon Underwood recovered, Rodgers and the offense went right back to work, driving 57 yards for another touchdown in just over three minutes. The key play was Rodgers finding Finley wide open on the left sideline for a 43-yard gain. Even though Driver was called for a hold on the end of the run that pushed the ball back to the 21, Rodgers hooked up with wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who spun away from McFadden, three plays later for a 10-yard touchdown.

The Cardinals extended their lead to 38-24 late in the third quarter, but Rodgers once again led a drive that took very little time off the clock, moving 80 yards in just over three minutes. Rodgers found Driver down the seam for a 20-yard gain, and connected with wide receiver James Jones on 4th-and-5, who spun away from McFadden at Arizona's 25 and took it the rest of the way for the 30-yard touchdown to make it 38-31.

{sportsad300}After the Packers forced an Arizona punt, the quick-strike offense continued. Rodgers hooked up with Finley for a 38-yard pass down the left sideline. He found Driver on the next play, who made a nifty move on safety Adrian Wilson and took it 28 yards down to Arizona's 1. Fullback John Kuhn scored on the next play, and the Packers had tied the game at 38.

Rodgers and the offense answered once more after the Cardinals took a 45-38 lead, driving 71 yards in just over three minutes. Jennings made another great catch, this time on the sideline with McFadden covering, getting both feet in as he fell to the ground for a 22-yard gain. After Rodgers connected with Finley for an 11-yard pickup on 3rd-and-5, he found tight end Spencer Havner for an 11-yard touchdown to tie the game at 45.

"I felt good about it," Rodgers said. "We got on a roll there in the second half. We scored five touchdowns. We were playing well. The guys were protecting. T.J. stepped in (for injured left tackle Chad Clifton) and did a nice job. Jermichael made some real big plays for us, Greg had a big day, Donald made plays, Jordy had a touchdown, James Jones made some big plays, Spence had a touchdown.

"Guys were making plays today and we got in that rhythm and just kept it going. Unfortunately we just came up a little bit short."

Rodgers finished the afternoon with a franchise playoff-record 422 yards and four touchdowns (tying a team playoff record) on 28-of-42 passing, shattering Lynn Dickey's mark of 332 yards set on Jan. 16, 1983, at Dallas. The 422 yards was also tied for No. 6 all-time in NFL playoff history.

All four of Rodgers' touchdown passes came in the second half and 318 of the yards were after halftime, but he couldn't come up with one last play in the extra session.

"I made some good throws, but I started a little slow, we all did on offense," Rodgers said. "You can't turn the ball over and expect to win. We score 45 and lose, we've got to score more points. We could have early on. Personally I just started very slowly and didn't make enough plays early on to get us in good position.

"I'm my biggest critic, so it's going to be tough to get over here, but you've got to move on. You've got to take what you can out of a situation like this. It's disappointing, but you've got to learn from them. Hopefully we can have great participation in the offseason again and get this thing rolling come March."

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