Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers waves goodbye to Chicago, unsure if it's the final time

Ryan Wood
Green Bay Press-Gazette
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CHICAGO – In the southwest corner of Soldier Field, Aaron Rodgers held his hand up a little longer, letting his salute linger in the air.

He was surrounded by Green Bay Packers teammates, most of them waving themselves after a 2-point conversion sealed their 28-19 win Sunday against the Chicago Bears. Eight straight wins against their NFC North rival. This one gave them 787 victories since the franchise began in 1921, one more than the Bears.

It’s the first time since then the Bears haven’t had more wins than any other NFL team, giving the Packers good reason to wave as they passed Chicago in the rankings. Rodgers’ felt a little different, a clear homage to his “I own you” comments to Bears fans last season. How much more symbolic it was, whether the four-time MVP quarterback was waving goodbye to a rivalry he’s loved for 15 years, only time will tell.

“You never know,” Rodgers said, “when it’s going to be your last time playing at a place. I’ve had a lot of great moments in this place. As much as the fans don’t really like me, I do have respect for the city of Chicago and their great sports fans here and the stadium. It’s been a lot of fun over the years to go battle, win or lose.”

It’s been almost nothing but wins since Brett Favre arrived in 1992, starting a tradition of beating up on the Bears that Rodgers has continued. Rodgers is now 25-5 against the Bears, remarkable dominance that has not only pushed the Packers ahead of them for most wins for any NFL franchise, but ahead in the rivalry as well. They now hold a 104-94-6 edge in the series.

Aaron Rodgers celebrates after a successful two-point conversion against the Chicago Bears.

Rodgers didn’t have a signature moment on the field Sunday. No fourth-down touchdown to Randall Cobb with the NFC North title on the line like in 2013. No deep shot to set up a game-winning field goal to Jordy Nelson like in 2016. No Super Bowl trip punched like after the 2010 season. His numbers were pedestrian for his standards, though increasingly the norm this season. Rodgers completed just 18-of-31 passes for 182 yards, one touchdown on a fourth-down throw to Christian Watson before halftime, and an 85.7 rating.

He did notch a fourth-quarter comeback, though. Down 19-10, the Packers outscored the Bears 18-0 in the final period. They have done this to the Bears so many times with Rodgers at quarterback, it’s become almost automatic. This is what the Packers are supposed to do now, whether they’re at Lambeau Field or Soldier Field.

“You definitely draw a lot of confidence and good memories off of this matchup,” Rodgers said. “We’ve had a tremendous amount of success during my time against them. I’ve enjoyed playing here. A lot of great memories here over the years.

“There was probably a lot of people that felt good at 19-10. So did I.”

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Rodgers isn’t only feeling good about the score. His thumb is “close to being a non-issue,” he said. The quarterback has taken more snaps under center the past two weeks, able to grip the football with much less pain. The bigger issue Sunday was his ribs.

A week after leaving in the fourth quarter against Philadelphia because of a couple hard shots to his side, Rodgers gutted through one more trip to Chicago. No, it wasn’t pretty. Rodgers’ efficiency has waned this season, and Sunday was no different. But the Packers offensive line kept him upright, allowing no sacks or quarterback hits. A “dream” game for him, he said.

“I thought our O-line was doing a great job," LaFleur said. "And then his ability to extend plays and just have that poise to kind of hang in there and allow those guys to go off schedule and work gives me a lot of confidence."

Rodgers said he’s hopeful neither the thumb nor the ribs will be a problem after the Packers have their bye week. It’s clear he intends to play so long as the team has a mathematical chance to reach the playoffs, a hope Sunday’s win kept alive – no matter how remote. He isn’t shutting down this season. Not with so much uncertainty looming this spring.

"There's got to be," Rodgers said, "a mutual desire on both sides."

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There is no guarantee Rodgers will start another game in this rivalry. As he said Sunday afternoon, both he and the team must have "mutual desire" to continue another season. So the quarterback kept his hand in the air a little longer Sunday afternoon, savoring the history. In that moment, Rodgers didn't know if he'll get another chance to say goodbye to Chicago.

“It means a lot,” Rodgers said. “I think that's part of the legacy. You always want to leave the place you're at better than you found it. Right now, we've flipped the all-time series. We've flipped the all-time wins. I've had a lot of success against them. So I think in a few years, you look back, and you feel pretty good about your contributions to the rivalry."

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