Bears fans saluted Aaron Rodgers as they always do Sunday at Soldier Field.
“A lot of middle fingers,” Rodgers said.
And Rodgers saluted them right back, except this time with an actual salute to Bears fans after a successful two-point conversion all but clinched a 28-19 victory.
“You never know when it’s going to be your last time playing at a place,” Rodgers said when asked about the salute to the fans at Soldier Field. “I’ve had a lot of great moments at 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 this stadium. It’s been a lot of fun over the years to go to battle, win or lose.”
It wasn’t a vintage Aaron Rodgers performance. Playing against a short-handed Bears defense with only one starter in the secondary, Rodgers completed 18-of-31 passes for 182 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a pedestrian 85.7 passer rating.
“We got the dub,” Packers running back A.J. Dillon said. “That’s Aaron Rodgers for you.”
Even in leading the Packers from a 19-10 deficit late in the third quarter with 18 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, there were none of the incredible Rodgers moments that have indelibly marked this era of the Bears-Packers rivalry. The Packers did more damage on the ground, rushing 11 times for 103 yards in thee decisive drives, while Rodgers threw for 60 yards — plus a 38-yard gain on a pass interference call on a deep ball to Christian Watson.
“You definitely draw a lot of confidence and good memories off this matchup,” Rodgers said. “We’ve had a tremendous amount of success during my time against them. It’s been a special rivalry that I’ve been a part of — and there were probably a lot of people that felt good at 19-10. So did I.”
As much as Rodgers respects the Bears-Packers rivalry, he doesn’t understand it as well as he thinks. There were probably very few Bears fans who felt good at 19-10. If anything, Rodgers himself has conditioned them to fear the worst.
And he delivered. And even if it was without his signature touch, this latest victory had his fingerprints all over it. It’s no coincidence the Packers executed flawlessly in crunch time with Rodgers in command.
“We put a lot on his plate to make sure we’re in the correct run calls, and he does a great job of handling that,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “He always gives you confidence that we can execute whatever the play is.”
Rodgers’ intuition played a key role. In fact, on Watson’s clinching 46-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep that gave the Packers a 28-19 lead with 1:51 to go, Rodgers was so certain the play would work he had the forethought to ask LaFleur whether Watson should score or maintain possession to burn time.
I expected them to play some man coverage, so at the last second I ran over to the sideline to verify we weren’t in a Rolex situation, where we wanted to not score,” Rodgers said. “And I think Matt was maybe a little surprised by the question.”
LaFleur said score, Watson did, and this game was over.
“This was a different Bears team,” Rodgers said. “Obviously Jaylon [Johnson] is a super-talented player but a lot of young guys are playing outside of that, other than [DeAndre Houston-Carson].
“But they’ve got a talent young quarterback [Justin Fields] who’s got a chance to be around for a long time. A really good running back [David Montgomery]. A stud young receiver. EQ [Equanimeous St. Brown] making plays, so it was a competitive game — but [I] definitely didn’t want to be walking in here [the post-game interview room] losing to the Bears. To win against the Bears is always a little more special.”