Aaron Rodgers says fourth-quarter comeback in Chicago was Packers' turning point this season
GREEN BAY – Even before their pivotal game in this season, the Christmas Day win at Miami, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers felt momentum had turned for his team.
Three weeks earlier, the Packers arrived in Chicago with a 4-8 record. They’d lost two straight games. Based on the math, everyone agreed another loss would eliminate them from playoff contention.
The Packers trailed 19-10 as the fourth quarter began in Chicago. They were staring at a long, empty offseason. That’s when the Packers found something, a 21-yard touchdown run from AJ Dillon here, a 46-yard touchdown from Christian Watson there, an 18-0 fourth quarter that delayed elimination for another week.
Looking back, Rodgers said that fourth quarter is what swung the Packers season, leading to Sunday night’s matchup with the Detroit Lions with a chance to clinch an unlikely playoff berth with a win.
“Definitely,” Rodgers said. “Because 19-10 at the end of the third quarter, and we outscored them 18-0 in the fourth. Came up with turnovers in the fourth, scored points, had two scoring drives, and got balls back on a pick. Then Christian went down the sideline to put it away. That was a turning point for us, because 4-9, probably out of it.”
The Packers’ comeback in Chicago – against one of the NFL’s worst teams – started with a blocked field goal from Dean Lowry after Dillon’s touchdown run. If Bears kicker Cairos Santos made the 40-yard attempt, the Packers would have trailed 22-17.
Instead, the Packers responded with a 32-yard field goal from Mason Crosby to take a 20-19 lead, their first of the game. Cornerback Jaire Alexander ended the Bears next drive with an interception against Justin Fields. After Watson’s long touchdown run gave the Packers a 28-19 lead, cornerback Keisean Nixon sealed the game with an interception against Fields.
The Packers defense has been opportunistic since, leading the NFL with nine interceptions in their four-game winning streak. Their pass rush has recovered without Rashan Gary. The offense has looked more in sync than at any point this season.
After Chicago, the Packers had a bye week. Then they had perhaps their easiest opponent this season, a big win against the Los Angeles Rams. They trailed 20-10 in the second quarter at Miami, but by then enough momentum had built to instill confidence the Packers could come back.
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Rodgers said he had a “fool’s hope” entering Chicago his team could make a run. As they prepare for the Lions on Sunday night, there’s nothing foolish about it now.
“So much had to happen,” Rodgers said, “I had to wrap my head around the other scenarios and find a peace in that. I think any time you’re dealing with the unknown, if you can take your mind to the worst-case scenario and put yourself in that position and find peace and contentment and just a general sense that I’m OK, it makes that unknown a lot less scary. I think for any of us that did that and took our mind to the place of, ‘What if we do lose another game and we’re out of this?’ and finding some joy and peace in those moments of frustration, maybe allowed us to play a little bit freer.
“I still go back to the Chicago game and the fourth quarter, which gave us a lot of confidence. Since then, we practiced with a different level of energy, there’s been a lightness in the locker room, and a lot of positive things that give you confidence this team has a chance to make a run.”