Division playoff round at Atlanta: Rodgers moves closer to exorcising Favre’s ghost « Ol' Bag of Donuts

Division playoff round at Atlanta: Rodgers moves closer to exorcising Favre's ghost

First, let’s get this out of the way: Brett Favre never did anything in a playoff game along the lines of what Aaron Rodgers did last night. Not even close.

From a passer rating standpoint, Favre’s best playoff game in a Packers uniform was the team’s divisional playoff win over Seattle in 2007, when he posted a 137.6 rating. That’s a hair better than Rodgers’ 136.8 rating in the Packers’ 48-21 win over the Falcons, but Favre was 18-for-23 for 173 yards in that game. Frankly, he didn’t have to do much; Ryan Grant ran for 201 yards. Contrast that with Rodgers’ masterpiece last night: 31-for-36, 366 yards, three touchdowns and a rushing score, all with a virtually non-existent running game. The two aren’t in the same league.

But the most important takeaway from last night is this: With the win, the Packers are one step away from the Super Bowl, and two away from winning it. And Rodgers, in just his third year as a starter, is 120 minutes of football from completely separating his legacy from Favre’s.

As much as Packers fans have thrown their support behind Favre’s successor, the separation was never going to be fully complete until Rodgers enjoyed playoff success. And heading into this postseason tournament, the perception of Rodgers — fueled largely by a flippant national media — was that he had been a failure, as though throwing for 423 yards and losing his only playoff game because of a defense that gave up 45 points constituted failure.

The performance Rodgers turned in last night, though, was nothing short of a masterpiece, a singularly virtuosic display of brilliance that ranks among the best performances by a quarterback in NFL postseason history. With the weight of the Packers’ offense almost solely on his shoulders, Rodgers was flawless in a way Favre had almost never been. He didn’t force passes. He extended plays with his feet in an even more lethal way that Favre could do in his prime. He converted third downs, and he looked in complete control of the offense, calling a handful of shrewd audibles at the line of scrimmage.

It was, as much as anything he’s done in his three years as Favre’s successor, a statement he is capable of writing his own story in Green Bay. That story will always begin with Favre, but how it ends is an entirely different story.

Let’s dream for a second: Assume the Packers beat the Bears next week, and go on to win the Super Bowl. That would mean Rodgers would have a Super Bowl title at the same age as Favre, with three less years of experience as a starter. He already has more seasons with a 100+ passer rating than Favre had in his entire career, and he’d be coming back with a loaded roster refreshed with the return of multiple impact players.

Think about that for a second. There’s never been a succession quite like this in NFL history. The closest thing is Steve Young and Joe Montana in San Francisco, and Young had already proven he could play when Montana first got injured and then was dispatched to Kansas City. And that says nothing about the Favre-return sideshow that could have shaken Rodgers from Day One.

All this for a quarterback who was, as recently as last Sunday, still dealing with a purported monkey on his back. Rodgers still isn’t winning — or even being seriously considered — for MVP awards, and he missed the Pro Bowl this year despite leading the NFC in passer rating. Those things will come in time, though, especially if Rodgers can take the final two steps away from Favre in the next three weeks.

Now, all this is premature, of course; the Packers will get all they can handle next week from the Bears, a team Rodgers has never quite solved. And if they win, they’ll face a buzz-saw defense in the Jets or Steelers in the Super Bowl.

But even if the Packers don’t win next week, Rodgers has at least shown he has the mettle to lift his game to a championship level when it matters most. For my money, he’s without doubt the best quarterback still playing. And if he can keep it up for two more weeks, he will have completed the most shocking exorcism of the ghost of a legend in NFL history.

–Gene Bosling

8 comments to Division playoff round at Atlanta: Rodgers moves closer to exorcising Favre’s ghost

  • Nate-in-WY

    Think about this coincidence; this year’s retro uniforms were of the 1929 Championship Team, a year in which we played the Bears three (3) times! Guess what? We’re playing the Bears for a third time! Now, the difference is in ‘29 we won all three (3) games and so far this season the series is split. Food for thought.

    We’ve finally solved Philly, so let’s get with it and solve Chicago.

    Go Packers!

  • Jim

    “Favre’s ghost” only exists in the minds of imbeciles who can’t let it go.

    As much as Packers fans have thrown their support behind Favre’s successor, the separation was never going to be fully complete until Rodgers enjoyed playoff success.

    To real Packer fans – that is to say, fans of the Green Bay Packers the football team – the separation was fully complete when Rodgers ran out of the tunnel for his first NFL start against the Vikings in 2008. Are we to suppose that Texans fans can’t count Schaub as “their” quarterback until he enjoys playoff success? What about Falcons fans? Matt Ryan surely won’t be embraced as the successor to Mike Vick until he enjoys playoff success, right?

    This post is a slap in the face to real Packers fans. “Shucks, I guess I have to finally embrace Rodgers now that he has won in the playoffs.” Go have a slumber party with Ed Werder and stay up all night talking about how dreamy your darling Favre is.

  • Lucas

    My theory about this season is that it’s been all about turning the page on the last chapter of Packer history. Here we go: This has been the year that Rodgers has absolutely exploded, while Favre completely imploded, to the extent that (it’s rumored) he just filed his official retirement papers with the NFLPA. Rodgers now has to be mentioned in the same breath as Manning, Brees, and Brady, and every other team looks to us with complete envy.
    In the playoffs, who was the first quarterback we had to face? Mike Vick. The man who spearheaded the first Packer home playoff loss. Who was the second team we had to face? The Falcons, the TEAM that won that Lambeau playoff game, all the way back when. And now, for the first time in a LONG time, the Bears and Packers are among the superior teams, playing each other in the semis. The most storied rivalry in all of football, the winner of whom will go on to the Super Bowl (and, in my opinion, win. The Packers have the firepower, while the Bears are lucky, and as Napoleon once said, “I’d rather be lucky than good.”). If the Pack win this game, I think that’s an utterly crushing win, the kind we talk glowingly about for years to come, and the Bears curse til the end of time, and vice versa.
    I’d love to hear what you guys have to think. I’m certain you could write a lot more eloquently along these lines.

  • Jim

    “Favre’s ghost” only exists in the minds of imbeciles who can’t let it go.

    As much as Packers fans have thrown their support behind Favre’s successor, the separation was never going to be fully complete until Rodgers enjoyed playoff success.

    To real Packer fans – that is to say, fans of the Green Bay Packers the football team – the separation was fully complete when Rodgers ran out of the tunnel for his first NFL start against the Vikings in 2008. Are we to suppose that Texans fans can’t count Schaub as “their” quarterback until he enjoys playoff success? What about Falcons fans? Matt Ryan surely won’t be embraced as the successor to Mike Vick until he enjoys playoff success, right?

    This post is a slap in the face to real Packers fans. “Shucks, I guess I have to finally embrace Rodgers now that he has won in the playoffs.”

  • JimR_in_DC

    Favre who?

  • 4gbp

    When will you haters understand that 137.6 is better than 136.8???

  • JimR_in_DC

    I’m looking forward to Rodgers stepping out of the long shadow of Bart Starr.

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