GREEN BAY, Wis. — The hottest quarterback in football didn’t flinch against one of the hottest defenses in football.
Aaron Rodgers vs. the Giants’ defense proved no match at all in the Packers’ 38-13 trouncing of the Giants in an NFC wild-card game Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Rodgers, who led the Packers to six straight wins at the end of the regular season as they captured the NFC North title and qualified for the playoffs, remained on a torrid streak by throwing four touchdown passes even though his top receiver, Jordy Nelson, missed most of the game with a rib injury.
“I think the last six weeks, the way that we’ve been playing and the way that we’ve been winning, we’ve faced some adversity over those games and we pushed through it and we stuck together and we believed in the plan and made it work,” Rodgers said. “That’s kind of what we just fell back on, that at some point, we’re going to start hitting our stride, and once we do, we’re going to be tough to stop.”
Rodgers hit wide receiver Randall Cobb for three touchdowns, none bigger than the 42-yard Hail Mary with no time left on the clock in the first half. Rodgers threw a high, arcing pass toward the left side of the end zone, and Cobb got behind the entire Giants defense to make the catch and give the Packers a 14-6 halftime lead.
The play was reminiscent of a Hail Mary touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Hakeem Nicks in the playoffs after the 2011 season, when the Giants upset the Packers at Lambeau Field on the way to winning the Super Bowl. It was Rodgers’ third Hail Mary score in the last 13 months.
“That’s three in the last calendar year or so, a little more than that, but it’s fun,” he said. “Every single time, it’s fun. I think we’re starting to believe that any time that ball goes up there, we’ve got a chance. I can throw it pretty good, but it’s got to happen on the other end as well.”
Rodgers can only imagine what the play did to the Giants.
“It’s tough being on the other side, especially with no time on the clock like that,” he said. “You go from a tight 7-6 game to now you’re up by eight, so that was a big play for us.”
Rodgers has thrown 22 touchdown passes and no interceptions — none! — in his last eight games. It’s a remarkable streak that has him in contention for the Most Valuable Player award, and Packers fans shouted “M-V-P!” during the second half.
Others expected to receive MVP votes are Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.
“I don’t keep score,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of Rodgers’ latest streak, “but he’s playing tremendous football. He has spoiled all of us around here for a long time.”
The Packers will face the Cowboys next Sunday in an NFC divisional-round playoff game at AT&T Stadium, and Rodgers knows his team needs to operate at an even higher level to beat Dallas.
“We’ve got to start faster,” he said. “Dallas is a great football team. Dak and Zeke [Elliott] have been playing great all season. They’re not playing like rookies, they’re both in the MVP conversation. We can’t let them run behind that big offensive line, and we’ve got to start fast and make them as one-dimensional as possible.”