In what has become a common theme in 2010 for Rodgers of dealing with adversity, dropped passes from his receivers and limited firepower on offense, he again delivered a brilliant performance. But this time it was in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium.
In the process helping his team hold off the Steelers 31-25, Rodgers completed 24-of-39 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns. As impressive as that was -- he was only the third quarterback in Super Bowl history to pass for more than 300 yards and three TDs without an interception -- none of it came easy.
Not only did Rodgers face one of the league's perennially top defenses, he had to overcome six dropped passes (unofficially) and the loss of receiver Donald Driver to injury in the second quarter. All of this came while the Steelers were mounting a comeback bid after going down 21-3 in the second quarter.
A lesser quarterback under the most intense spotlight football has to offer might have flinched – especially in his first Super Bowl. But Rodgers never did. He took home Super Bowl MVP honors because he was able to overcome his team's mistakes and calmly handle everything legendary Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau threw at him.
Said Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel of Rodgers: "I have a lot of respect for him. He is the reason they won. He is a phenomenal guy."
The Packers' offense knew the sledding would be tough on the ground against a Steelers run defense that gave up just 62.8 yards per game during the regular season. They were even better in two postseason games at 51.7.
So the Packers, as they have done much of the season in the absence of No. 1 running back Ryan Grant, put the game in Rodgers' hands. They only mixed in the run to keep the Steelers' defense honest and relied on Rodgers to get rid of the ball quickly, utilizing multiple-receiver formations and letting him make decisions at the line of scrimmage.
"With Aaron Rodgers, we put this game on his shoulders," said coach Mike McCarthy. "From an offensive game plan standpoint, he delivered."
Without Grant and tight end Jermichael Finley for most of the season, Rodgers had adapted throughout the year without two of his top weapons. Losing Driver was another big blow. It meant that No. 5 receiver Brett Swain would see his most extensive action of the season as the Packers continued to throw three-, four-, and five-receiver formations at the Steelers.
Aaron Rodgers has the championship belt and trophy.
Mark Humphrey/AP Images
But two four-quarter scoring drives proved to be just enough. After a pivotal Steelers turnover on the first play of the fourth quarter, Rodgers led an eight-play, 55-yard touchdown drive, culminating in an 8-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings. Jordy Nelson made the game's biggest play on the drive, catching a short pass over the middle for a 38-yard gain to convert a third-and-10. On the previous play, he had dropped what looked like a simple catch that he might have taken the distance. He dropped another one earlier in the game, only to offset his miscues with a career-high nine catches for 140 yards.
"That is just like our season," said Rodgers. "A lot of adversity."
Rodgers and Co. would respond later in the game after the Steelers pulled within 28-25. This time they went 70 yards in 10 plays, though only able to convert a 23-yard Mason Crosby field goal.
"I was just disappointed that we didn't finish it off with seven," said Rodgers. "We talked about it with 7 minutes left when we got the ball. ‘Hey, let's take it down and score and we're the champs.' We made a couple of big plays on third down, but unfortunately, I just missed Jordy on that third down on the goal line. You know, a couple of years ago, Ben (Roethlisberger) took them down against Arizona (in the Super Bowl) and won the game. It's a helpless feeling. I was just praying our guys would come up with one more stop."
The defense did. And after that, all Rodgers had to do was take two kneel downs to run the clock out and take his immortal spot in Packers history with Brett Favre and Bart Starr as Super Bowl champion quarterbacks.
"I think people are going to write stories about him 10 years from now; he's pretty special," said Packers general manager Ted Thompson. "Even though he's done so much, he's still just kind of getting started."
Now that is a scary thought.
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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org