Rodgers’ tackle big
But he’s going to the Super Bowl for the first time in part because he can tackle.
“I don’t get paid to make tackles,” he said after the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears, 21-14, Sunday at Solider Field for the conference title, “but that was one of my best plays of the game.”
A big play for Rodgers, who permanently moved out of Brett Favre’s shadow with his third consecutive playoff victory.
And a bigger play for the Packers, who are going back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1998.
With the Packers ahead,
14-0, and about to put the finishing stake through the Bears with a three-score lead, Rodgers dropped back on third-and-goal from the Chicago 6-yard line.
“I was looking for the open guy and there was nobody open,” said Rodgers.
Instead, he threw the ball right to Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.
“I don’t know if he saw me or not,” Urlacher said.
Urlacher turned up field and likely would’ve scored had Rodgers not brought the linebacker down after a 39-yard return. It would’ve been a seven-point game, and who knows from there?
“It was a terrible throw,” Rodgers said. “Once I threw it, I started sprinting. I was hoping I could catch up to him. When he turned to face me, I had to make a stand. I figured I’d make the tackle or he’d score.
“I wanted to get him down. I’m glad I got him down. It was a real bad play by me. We could have been up by three scores. But it was probably one of my better tackles.”
In the regular-season finale, when the Packers had to beat the Bears at Lambeau Field to make the playoffs, Rodgers threw an interception to Charles Tillman and badly whiffed.
“It’s the joke that’s not so funny in the quarterback room,” Rodgers said.
He also saw Urlacher return a very long touchdown pass against Favre here four years ago and knew what the all-pro linebacker was capable of doing once he got his hands on the football in what could have been a game-turning moment.
“He threw it at me, and he tackled me,” Urlacher said. “That’s what I saw.”
Of course, Rodgers and Packers coach Mike McCarthy could laugh about it later.
“You wouldn’t want it to be in the big-play category, but it was a big play,” McCarthy said.
After turning in maybe the greatest performance by a Green Bay quarterback in a playoff game the week before at top-seeded Atlanta, Rodgers struggled against a very different Chicago defense.
He also threw an interception that bounced off Donald Driver’s instep and right to linebacker Lance Briggs, but the defense bailed out Rodgers on both turnovers.
“Obviously I’d like to have played better today, but we made enough offensive plays to win,” he said.
Rodgers, who suffered two concussions this year and missed six quarters, also took a big hit to the head from Bears’ big-play defensive end Julius Peppers, whom the Packers kept in check for almost the entire game. Peppers drew a 15-year penalty and Rodgers received a split lip.
“It didn’t affect me too much, other than looking a little worn up here,” Rodgers said from the postgame podium.
After the game, Rodgers said left tackle Chad Clifton mentioned to him that Clifton got crossed up on the hit because he thought it was a running play.
As for being a Super Bowl quarterback for the first time in his career, Rodgers was elated at the thought of how far he has come since the job was given to him when Favre was traded in 2008.
“This is the sweetest part,” Rodgers said. “I’ve enjoyed the route I’ve been on since high school.
“It’s taken a little while to sink in. This is what I’ve dreamed of as a kid growing up watching Joe Montana and later Steve Young. It’s amazing that I’m going to be playing in the Super Bowl in two weeks.”
But not to cornerback Charles Woodson, one of two Packers with Super Bowl experience.
“The talk with us is we had no running game,” Woodson said. “We had to rely on our quarterback. He’s as good as they come.”
McCarthy said Rodgers has done everything as a NFL quarterback except one thing now.
“The next rung,” McCarthy said, “is to be a Super Bowl champion.”