Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) smiles as he visits with New York Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara (20) after the game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- OK, it was a silly argument anyway.
How was Aaron Rodgers supposed to prove he could orchestrate a game-winning drive when the Green Bay Packers never trailed in the fourth quarter?
Regardless of where you stood on that subject, which has dogged the Packers quarterback for far too long, Rodgers made the most of a rare opportunity Sunday when he took Green Bay down the field in the final minute of a tie game, setting up a chip-shot field goal by Mason Crosby that gave the Packers a 38-35 victory over the riled-up New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.
Rodgers is too shrewd to even answer critics who say the one hole in his ever-expanding resume is a shortage of fourth-quarter heroics. But Sunday, with a snarling Giants defense in his face, 80,634 New Yorkers screaming for his head and his own receivers cursing their unreliable hands, Rodgers marched the Packers down the field with such ease that it looked like he had been doing it forever.
Performing a successful 2-minute drill under the bright lights in the NFL's largest media market with an undefeated season on the line would be tough duty for any quarterback, let alone one who hasn't been in that position much.
But for Rodgers? Fuhgetaboutit. He needed a mere 58 seconds to take the Packers from their 20-yard line to the Giants 12. He needed only four passes -- all completions -- to assure that the Packers would survive the toughest test of a season that now numbers 12 victories in 12 games.
"If people still think that (about Rodgers), then they donít really know the game of football," defensive end B.J. Raji said. "This guy has unbelievable poise, unbelievable accuracy. His understanding of the game, his ability to elude pressure (are amazing). Thatís a pretty great defensive line and the pressure they were getting on the guy, for him to be able to elude all that and make plays, thatís why heís Aaron."
No, that's why he almost certainly will be the NFL's most valuable player this season. If he hadn't won the award already, Rodgers clinched it by coming to New York and wowing everyone with a performance that illustrated perfectly how important he is to the NFL's reigning champion and best team.
Rodgers threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns against the Giants and the defenseless Packers needed every one of them. Due to a rare interception, his passer rating (106.2) was his worst of the season. Of course, that figure would still lead the league, which is why he has nothing more to prove, especially when it comes to his performance in the clutch.
The only thing Rodgers has lacked in the fourth quarter is opportunity. Including the playoffs, the Packers have won their last 18 games and they haven't trailed during the fourth quarter in any of them. Until Sunday, they hadn't even been tied in the fourth quarter since last season.
But when Rodgers was called upon after the Giants tied the score with 58 seconds left, he didn't flinch.
"The 2-minute drive is something that we practice every week and, really, it was a drive that we needed," coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's something that Aaron Rodgers I think does an excellent job of. We really haven't had that type of situation come up in some time as a team. He did a great job running the drill and managing the clock. ... Just a classic 2-minute drive. I thought it was awesome."
Rodgers, who had been knocked around pretty good by the Giants defense, opened the drive with a rocket that hit tight end Jermichael Finley in stride and went for 24 yards. Then Rodgers adjusted Jordy Nelson's route to a double move while he was at the line and he zipped the ball to the wide receiver for 27 yards. After a pass to fullback John Kuhn lost a yard, Rodgers made sure Crosby would have a gimme by completing an 18-yard pass to wide receiver Greg Jennings.
One fourth-quarter drive doesn't change a reputation, no matter how unwarranted that reputation is, but the confidence Rodgers displayed -- and the confidence his teammates displayed in him -- indicates that winning close games is simply not an issue for him.
"That's what you train for," McCarthy said. "I can't tell you how many times we've done the drill -- 58 seconds, 53 seconds, 49 seconds, one timeout -- and Aaron just went right down the script. That's what you're looking for because you're going to have to complete 2-minute drives to win championships."
A second consecutive NFL championship is what Rodgers and the Packers are after, and winning a tough game like they did Sunday helps the cause.
"I donít mind when weíre up two scores and taking a knee at the end," Rodgers said. "But it gives us confidence that if weíre in a situation like that again we can go down and hopefully have the same result."
Is there anyone left who doubts that?