Aaron Rodgers joined Hall-of-Famer Bart Starr and Brett Favre in leading the Green Bay Packers to the Super Bowl title, earning his own place in National Football League history along the way.
Rodgers, the Most Valuable Player in the Packers’ 31-25 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, completed 24 of 39 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns in the game. He joined Kurt Warner as the only quarterback with more than 1,000 yards and nine touchdown passes in a single postseason.
“It’s what you dream about as a kid,” Rodgers said after the game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Coach Mike McCarthy said the offensive game plan centered on his quarterback. The Packers’ 13 rushing attempts tied a record set by the St. Louis Rams for fewest by a winning team.
“We put this game on his shoulders,” McCarthy said. “He went out there and had total command of the offense.”
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl winner, completed 25 of 40 passes, with two touchdowns and two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown. Pittsburgh Coach Mike Tomlin said Rodgers played like a champion.
“He didn’t fold under the pressure,” Tomlin said. “I thought we hit him some early. We got to him as the game went on. He showed his mettle and continued to stand in there and throw the football and throw it accurately. I tip my hat to him for that.”
It’s been a long road for the 27-year-old Rodgers, who was touted as a potential No. 1 draft pick before falling to the Packers with the 24th selection. He spent three years backing up Favre, a three-time NFL most-valuable player who led Green Bay to a Super Bowl title after the 1996 season and who, in that time, never missed a game.
General Manager Ted Thompson said the experience helped the younger quarterback mature, giving him time to “watch, listen and learn.”
“People are going to write stories about him 10 years from now,” Thompson said. “He’s pretty special. Even though he’s done so much, he’s still just kind of getting started.”
Thompson decided that Rodgers’s time had arrived in 2008. When Favre announced his retirement, changed his mind and tried to return to the team, the Packers traded one of the league’s most popular and successful players to the New York Jets.
Rodgers beat the Minnesota Vikings on opening day that season, marking the first time since 1992 that someone other than Favre started at quarterback for the Packers.
“The situation he stepped into, replacing an icon, not many people could have stood up to that and performed the way he has,” Packers President Mark Murphy said after the game.
Backing From Packers
Rodgers said he always felt like the organization believed in him.
“I told Ted back in 2005 that he wouldn’t be sorry with this pick,” Rodgers said. “I told him in 08 that I was going to repay their trust and get us this opportunity.”
When the moment came, Rodgers proved he deserved it. On his first scoring drive, he completed five consecutive passes to lead Green Bay 80 yards, finding receiver Jordy Nelson for a 29-yard completion that ended with a dive into the end zone.
Rodgers threw another touchdown pass in the second quarter that sliced 21 yards between two defenders and hit receiver Greg Jennings on the goal line.
In the second half, the Steelers closed the deficit to three points as the Packers offense slowed.
“We never really got our momentum back until the fourth quarter,” Rodgers said. “In a game like this, with the long TV time outs, you lose your sweat. You lose your feel. You don’t have those back-to-back plays, back-to-back possessions where you are still feeling like you are loose.”
In the fourth quarter, he found that momentum again. With the Packers holding a 28-25 lead, Rodgers brought the offense 75 yards in 10 plays, completing four out of five passes and taking 5:27 off the clock. He again connected with Jennings, with a 31-yard throw on a third-and-10 play, before finding James Jones for 21 yards, putting the team in position for a field goal, the last score of the game.
Afterwards, a reporter shouted to Rodgers that Favre, who hold numerous records, never won the Super Bowl most-valuable player award. Rodgers grinned.
“Is that a question?” he said.