Between the tackles: Brett who? It's Aaron's town now

Aaron Rodgers said he told Packers' GM 'when I became the starter that I would repay their trust.'
Aaron Rodgers said he told Packers' GM 'when I became the starter that I would repay their trust.'
Posted: February 07, 2011

ARLINGTON, Texas - Aaron Rodgers accomplished two very important things last night. He not only earned his first Super Bowl ring with the Packers' 31-25 win over the Steelers at Cowboys Stadium, but also chased away the ghost of Brett Favre.

With his 304-yard, three-touchdown performance against the league's top-rated defense, Green Bay now is Rodgers' town. No more questions about following Favre. No more questions about whether GM Ted Thompson did the right thing 3 years ago when he sent Favre packing and turned over the team's quarterback reins to Rodgers.

"I never felt there was a monkey on my back," said Rodgers, who was named the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XLV. "The organization stood behind me.

"I told Ted in '05 [when he drafted Rodgers in the first round] that he wouldn't be sorry about taking me. And I told him in '08 when I became the starter that I would repay their trust."

He did that in spades last night, completing 24 of 39 passes. He finished the postseason with a 109.8 passer rating that included a .682 completion percentage, 8.3 yards per attempt, nine touchdown passes and just two interceptions.

"We put the game on his shoulders and he delivered," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "He's been so consistent throughout the postseason. He's had total command of the offense.

"We were going to be aggressive tonight. By no means were we going to be conservative."

The Packers played the kind of offensive football that gives Andy Reid goose pimples and makes Eagles fans gnash their teeth. Forty-four pass plays, just 11 run plays.

In the second half, Rodgers threw the ball 23 times. At one point, they called 13 straight pass plays.

Rodgers overcame five drops by his receivers, including three by wideout Jordy Nelson, who still managed to catch nine passes for a career-high 140 yards and one touchdown.

"Jordy was big for us," McCarthy said. "We lost Donald Driver early [to injury], and he answered the call. He dropped one or two. But we're going to throw the ball. You drop one, you get back in the huddle and shake it off. That's what he did."

He dropped a second-and-10 pass from Rodgers early in the fourth quarter, then, on the very next play, he hauled in a perfectly thrown pass from Rodgers on a seam route for a 38-yard completion that set up an 8-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Greg Jennings that gave the Packers an 11-point lead with less than 12 minutes left.

"We felt that as long as we blocked them up, we'd get some shots down the field," Rodgers said. "[Offensive tackles] Chad [Clifton] and Bryan [Bulaga] did a good job on their two linebackers [James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley], which enabled us to throw it."

McCarthy said the Steelers stayed in their base defense much of the game, which was why the Packers threw the ball so much.

"We played matchup with them," McCarthy said.

Rodgers completed 11 of 16 passes in the first half and threw two of his three TD passes, the first a 29-yard throw on the outside to Nelson, who got behind the Steelers' nickel corner, William Gay, and a 21-yard seam pass to Jennings for a score with 2:24 left in the half that gave the Packers a 21-3 lead at the time.

"I missed a couple of throws tonight, but also, I felt like I kind of got into a rhythm there," Rodgers said. "Mike really got the plays flowing. The line did a good job of giving me time and guys made big plays."

With the victory, Rodgers not only chased away the ghost of Favre, but established himself as one of the game's top quarterbacks. No matter what happens from here on in, nobody will be able to say, "Yeah, but he's never won a Super Bowl."

"The guy is a true leader," said Driver, who left the game in the first half with an ankle injury. "He goes out week in and week out and proves people wrong. He proved it once again tonight and he can now say that he is one of the best quarterbacks in this game."

Said Thompson: "I'm very proud of Aaron. I think people are going to write stories about him 10 years from now. He's pretty special. Even though he's done so much, he's still just kind of getting started."

Turning Point

Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall's costly fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter. Trailing by just 21-17, Pittsburgh had a second-and-2 on the Green Bay 33. Mendenhall, who had fumbled just twice in the previous 18 games, got hit by Clay Matthews and Ryan Pickett and the ball squirted out and was recovered by the Packers' Desmond Bishop. The Packers then drove 65 yards on eight plays to go up 28-17.

By the numbers

-- The Packers have scored first in all five of their Super Bowl appearances.

-- The Packers' 14 first-quarter points tied a Super Bowl record shared by six other teams.

-- Packers safety Nick Collins' 37-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter was the 13th interception return for a TD in Super Bowl history. Teams that have recorded one are 11-0.

-- Eleven players scored for the Packers in the postseason, an NFL record.

-- Hines Ward's 8-yard touchdown catch late in the second quarter was the 10th playoff TD reception of his career. He's the sixth player in history to have that many.

-- Ward caught a pass in his 17th straight postseason game, tying Hall of Famer John Stallworth for the club record.

-- Aaron Rodgers became just the second quarterback in history to throw for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns in a postseason. The Cardinals' Kurt Warner did it in 2008.

-- Ben Roethlisberger now has a 10-3 record in postseason starts.

-- Roethlisberger had four interceptions in his last two starts, including two last night.

-- The Packers and Steelers combined for just 36 rushing attempts, a Super Bowl record. The Packers' 13 rushing attempts were the fewest by a winning team in Super Bowl history.

-- The Packers have won 13 NFL championships, including nine in the pre-Super Bowl era.

Thumbs Down

To Steelers linebacker and special-teams player Keyaron Fox for his stupid unnecessary-roughness penalty on the kickoff return after the Packers took a six-point lead with 2 minutes left. The penalty forced the Steelers to start on their own 13-yard line. They ended up turning the ball over on downs.

Did You Notice?

-- The Packers' Sam Shields almost made a costly early mistake when he inadvertently ran into his own punt returner, Tramon Williams as he was fielding a Jeremy Kapinos punt. Williams muffed the punt at the Green Bay 21, but managed to recover it.

-- The Packers had two rushing first downs on their first scoring drive. They would have just two more rushing first downs the rest of the game.

-- Ryan Mundy's illegal-block-in-the-back penalty on the Steelers' kickoff return following the Packers' first touchdown. On the very next play, Ben Roethlisberger threw the first of two interceptions. This one was returned 37 yards by Nick Collins for a touchdown.

-- The inside pressure on Roethlisberger by nose tackle Howard Green that forced Roethlisberger to underthrow the pass that Collins picked off. Green beat left guard Chris Kemoeatu on the play.

-- On the third-down play immediately after Roethlisberger appeared to hurt his left knee late in the first quarter, he ran for an 18-yard gain and a first down.

-- On the Steelers' touchdown drive late in the second quarter, old-timers Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El combined for four catches for 76 yards and the TD.

-- On the Steelers'third-quarter TD drive that got them within four points, all 50 yards on the 5-play drive came on runs.

-- The Steelers, who were down to their final timeout after using two in the third quarter, didn't challenge a questionable 12-yard completion for a first down to James Jones early in the fourth quarter.

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