Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers only needs one leg, as long as he has that arm.
Rodgers was clearly not himself after leaving with a left leg injury in the first half, but did the things we’re so accustomed to seeing him do over the years in the Packers’ 24-23 win over the Bears.
Coming back from a 20-0 deficit would have been impressive if well. But Rodgers clearly wasn’t, after he was carted to the locker room in the second quarter after being folded awkwardly on a sack. He was not able to put his full weight on his left leg in the second half, which would impact the mechanics of mortal quarterbacks.
But that would imply mortality.
Rodgers was 17-of-23 for 249 yards and three touchdowns in the second half.
Whether he’s able to continue playing with what appears to be a legitimate injury — or to what extent it bothers him — remains to be seen. But at this point, only a fool would bet against him.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. Yes, Khalil Mack is very good at football. But he has a lot of help, in addition to a lot of money.
With the benefit of a quarterback on a cheap rookie contract, the Bears have been able to stack up assets on defense, an investment which should pay off for years to come.
That begins with making Mack the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, and he’s already earning that money, with a sack, a forced fumble which he recovered and an interception return for a touchdown in the first half.
When he came over in the preseason trade with the Raiders, Mack became the fifth player chosen in the first round on the Bears defense (along with Leonard Floyd, Roquan Smith, Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara), and defensive linemen Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks, and Jonathan Bullard were chosen in the second, third and third rounds respectively. Hicks was signed to a contract extension last September, and the bevy of draft picks and financial flexibility gives the Bears a core of players they should be able to work with for years to come.
It might not always be as dramatic as it was when they were pitching a first-half shutout, but there’s substantial reason for optimism in Chicago, a town that knows a little something about talented defenses.
The best thing that happened for the Bears’ second-year quarterback was Mack and that Bears defense.
While better play-calling and better offensive personnel will certainly help, a reduced burden of expectations might be the best thing for the development of a quarterback.
Trubisky wasn’t given much of a chance last year, when he had no receivers to speak of and a coach who wasn’t the friendliest for any quarterback, much less a rookie. Now he has some targets and a better game plan, to go with what was an already good offensive line and a diverse running game.
Trubisky might not be able to put up numbers like Jared Goff did for the Rams last year. But with the Bears’ defense, he may not have to.
3. Bears first-rounder Roquan Smith missed his entire rookie training camp and preseason, but he wasted no time at all once he got into a regular season game.
The linebacker from Georgia recorded a sack on his very first snap as a pro, cleaning up Packers quarterback DeShone Kizer after Mack pressured him out of the pocket.
Smith has been bothered lately by a hamstring injury, which kept him from getting any playing time in the preseason. And it took veteran Danny Trevathan leaving the game with a back injury to get Smith out there, as a full-time role isn’t prudent until he’s had time to acclimate.
But it’s also apparent he has the chance to be another impact player on a young team, as he was the kind of sideline-to-sideline linebacker who can change a defense.
4. There was plenty of speculation in Green Bay this offseason about wide receiver Randall Cobb‘s future. And with his age (28), injury issues (ankle), contract ($8.6 million in the final year of his deal), and their own track record, that’s reasonable.
But it seems like they’ve found their next young wideout on the assembly line in Geronimo Allison.
He stuck around as an undrafted rookie from Illinois in 2016, and as other options fell away (including Jordy Nelson this offseason), he has taken a more prominent role.
The 39-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter was a sign he’s emerging as the playmaker opposite Davante Adams, a player Rodgers seems to trust.
5. Around 9:30 p.m. ET, two of your resident geniuses here at PFT were ready to ask for a do-over.
At least since the other one was the boss, there’s probably some security in numbers.
But Rodgers leaving the field shows how quickly things can change, and that for most teams, all the planning in the world can’t help you avoid bad luck.
The Packers may or may not be any better off with Kizer than they were with Brett Hundley last year if Rodgers misses time, but that’s the case with most teams. Nick Foles and the Eagles will remain the exception, but that kind of depth is rare and a number of contenders (the Rams and the Panthers, among others) would be just as out of luck and planning for the future if their starting quarterback went down.