It was just Aaron Rodgers being Aaron Rodgers.
The Green Packers quarterback, a leading candidate for the league MVP award, was still nursing a torn left left calf on Sunday that he aggravated in the Packers’ regular-season finale.
The injury limited Rodgers’ mobility outside the pocket. Known for uncanny ability to escape defenders, Rodgers made do in the Packers’ 26-21 NFC divisional playoff win Sunday.
“I just felt like that once we opened things up and he was able to get into some rhythm throws and move around, he played like Aaron Rodgers,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Just an incredible game for Aaron, and I think especially for what he’s been through the last two weeks.”
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Rodgers didn’t practice with the team until Thursday, 11 days after the Packers’ victory over the Detroit Lions.
Rodgers completed 24 of 35 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns. It was his fourth career 300-yard game in the postseason, which passes Brett Favre for the team record.
With the Packers down to the Dallas Cowboys’ 4-yard line, Rodgers started to run, but hit the line of scrimmage and changed his mind. Rodgers, patient as ever, found tight end Andrew Quarless in the end zone.
“I feel like with my mobility, normal mobility, I would just have been able to run that one in,” Rodgers said. “But as I moved forward in the pocket, I realized that I couldn’t do a whole lot. Thankfully, Andrew flashed on me, and I was able to hit him.”
Packers cornerback Sam Shields had a solid day against Cowboys All-Pro wide receiver Dez Bryant.
Bryant only had four targets and pulled in three catches. The one target that was not a catch proved to be the biggest play of the game.
In one-on-one coverage, the 5-foot-11 Shields went up with the 6-foot-2 Bryant, as Bryant high-pointed a Tony Romo pass. When Bryant hit the ground, he bobbled the ball. The play was initially called a completion at the 1, but the Packers quickly challenged the play.
“I had lost the challenge earlier, but based on the time of the game, it was my immediate reaction,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
Shields was certain Bryant hadn’t caught the ball.
“I don’t think it was complete,” Shields said. “The refs made a good call on that. Things go down like that, it’s part of football.”
Shields believes he had great coverage on the play.
“I did, as you can see,” Shields said. “He went up and got off the ground before I did. That’s what good receivers do.”