After the Green Bay Packers lost late against the Cincinnati Bengals, some of the NFL experts started to question whether Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has the clutch factor. Other quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Eli Manning have been known for their numerous comeback drives to give their teams the victory. Many of those NFL experts have documented that Rodgers has only 5 wins when the game is within four points. In my opinion, those stats don’t tell the whole story.
In many of the games where the Packers have lost have lost in the final minutes, it has not been because of Rodgers’ ability to lead a comeback, but rather the defense not holding its ground and letting the opposing team score. For example, take a look at the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers. Late in the game, Rodgers led the Packers offense down the field to give the Packers a 28-24 lead. On the 49ers next drive, all the defense had to do was stop Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers offense and the game would more than likely be over. Instead, the 49ers drove right down the field, scored the go ahead touchdown, and seized the momentum.
The defense also had a chance to stop the 49ers with three minutes left on a fourth and two at the Packers’ 36 yard line. If they would have made a stop, the Packers would have gotten the ball back with plenty of time to get the ball at least into field goal position. But, the defense failed to make the stop and the 49ers were able to run the clock down and kick a field goal with 26 seconds left. With the limited time left, Rodgers did lead the Packers offense into 49er territory, but was sacked on a Hail Mary attempt.
In the season finale against the Minnesota Vikings, the Packers had the ball late and were down by seven. Rodgers orchestrated a masterful drive that guided the offense 78 yards and tied the game with a touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson. The Vikings got the ball, converted a third and long, and won the game on a field goal. Rodgers can’t be blamed for that loss.
Aside from the defensive struggles, another reason Rodgers’ comeback stats are low is because the Packers have rarely played in close games since he has become the starter. When the Packers have gotten ahead, the team usually stays ahead. There have been a few exceptions, for example the 49ers game, but usually the Packers don’t give up late leads.
In those five games that Rodgers has led comebacks, some of those have come during the biggest of games. In 2011, the Packers were 11 and 0 and were tied with the New York Giants, and had to drive the ball 80 yards in 56 seconds. Rodgers threw a few great passes and led the Packers into field goal range, where Mason Crosby won the game. In the biggest game of them all, Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers, with the Packers up by three and fewer than seven minutes left, Rodgers connected with Greg Jennings on a third and ten to help the Packers win their fourth Lombardi Trophy.
So, while many people can doubt whether Rodgers can lead a comeback, they need to take a deeper look at the stats. Sometimes the numbers are not what they seem to be.