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Mike Vandermause column: Rodgers shows 'grit' on off day

Nov. 4, 2012
 
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, left recovers a fumble by running back James Starks during the second quarter of Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field. Dan Powers/Gannett Wisconsin Media
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, left recovers a fumble by running back James Starks during the second quarter of Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field. Dan Powers/Gannett Wisconsin Media

It says something about Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers that he threw four touchdown passes on Sunday and was disappointed with his performance.

“It was bad,” Rodgers said of the way he threw the ball in the Packers’ 31-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field. “I wasn’t on today. I didn’t make a lot of good throws. We’ve got to do a better job there.”

It also says something about Rodgers that his most impressive play of the game occurred when he didn’t have the ball in his hands.

Without concern for his well-being, Rodgers dived into a pile of players in the second quarter to recover a James Starks fumble deep in Packers territory. It prevented the Cardinals from seizing the momentum and kept alive a 75-yard touchdown drive that gave the Packers a commanding 14-point lead.

It was one of those plays that coaches love to watch and hate to watch.

“It scared the hell out of me, frankly,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of the fumble recovery. “When I saw him dive in there, I just thought the worst. I think it tells you about him as a football player, which I obviously have great respect for that. He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played, but I get paid to worry and I was worrying. That was a heck of a play by Aaron.”

Not every NFL quarterback would have been so willing to mix it up in the middle of a violent scrum for a loose football, something not lost on Rodgers’ teammates.

“We kind of made a couple statements on the sidelines, saying if that was some other big-time elite quarterbacks, they wouldn’t have jumped in the pile like that,” Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said.

“It says something to your team if your star quarterback is willing to lay it all out on the line. Then everybody else (has) got to have that mindset. … It was a statement made.”

Packers players watched in awe, and perhaps with a bit of trepidation, as their quarterback was sending a message for all to see that he was willing to sell out for a much-needed victory heading into the bye week.

“That just shows you the work ethic and the leader of our team,” safety Morgan Burnett said. “You can’t help but love that. It makes you want to follow him and be like that.”

Rodgers said it was his first career fumble recovery and “probably my best play of the game, unfortunately.”

He's thrilled the Packers won their fourth straight game and improved to 6-3 but will beat himself up over some missed opportunities.

“I need to play better in the second half of the season,” Rodgers said. “You can’t have the kind of missed throws that I had today and expect to be able to win consistently.”

It marked just the fourth time in his career as a starter that he completed fewer than 50 percent of his throws (14 of 30). But his passer rating was a respectable 96.9, and most quarterbacks would be thrilled with four touchdown passes. Rodgers also had a 25-yard scramble in the first quarter on an 84-yard touchdown drive.

But he will be remembered most on this day for the way he fearlessly chased after a bouncing ball.

“It’s huge,” guard Josh Sitton said. “That’s something you love to see out of your quarterback, his passion for the game. That’s just grit, man. You love seeing a guy go make a play like that. … He’s a tough dude.”

mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

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