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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, April 17, 2014

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In Sports Commentary

Aaron Rodgers hasn't played since he faced the Chicagoc Bears on Nov. 4. (PHOTO: Jim Biever / Green Bay Packers)

In Sports Commentary

Seneca Wallace was the first quarterback up once Aaron Rodgers was knocked out. (PHOTO: Jim Biever / Green Bay Packers)

In Sports Commentary

Scott Tolzien then took over once Seneca Wallace was injured. (PHOTO: Jim Biever / Green Bay Packers)

In Sports Commentary

Finally, Matt Flynn was brough back when Scott Tolzien was deemed ineffective. (PHOTO: Jim Biever / Green Bay Packers)

Rodgers' return will make all the difference for Packers

Eight days ago, Aaron Rodgers stood in front of his locker inside Lambeau Field and "entertained" the usual media horde for about 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Every question was about his collarbone, if he was going to have another scan, if he had a "sense" that he might play against the Pittsburgh Steelers, if he was frustrated, and who the made the decisions regarding his return to action.

He answered a few questions, specifically about how he felt during his limited participation in practice, but either refused to answer the others or deflected them back to head coach Mike McCarthy.

In my two years covering the team, I've heard some of the most inane questions asked of No. 12; I've heard him be asked the same question three different times in those scrums, and he's always handled it well and with humor.

Last Thursday was the most irritated and annoyed I'd ever seen Rodgers, which made it no surprise that he was ruled out for the game against Pittsburgh a day later by McCarthy.

It's also why it was no surprise the Packers wasted as little time as possible this week to make it known he would return to the field for the first time since being injured against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 4.

Through this process, it was refreshing to see that a player didn't have more clout in an organization than its head coach or general manager. Perhaps this was an instance where not having a singular owner was beneficial (just look at Robert Griffin IIII and what happened to the Washington franchise the last year-plus).

Rodgers was clearly annoyed, perhaps angry, that he wasn't being allowed back on the field when he thought he was ready, and while I'm surprised a few extra days mattered, the Packers feel he is ready now.

And what a difference it will make.

The Packers offense managed to score just 50 points in the 14 quarters Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien directed before Matt Flynn was brought in for the second half against the Minnesota Vikings.

Flynn didn't start off too great either, scoring 47 points in his first 13 quarters of action. Then, there was the second half comeback against the Cowboys (34 second half points) and the 31 put up last week against Pittsburgh.

Those last two games inflated the backup scoring average to just over 20 points per game.

In Rodgers' full seven games, the Packers averaged over 30 points.

That is one heck of a difference that one man can make.

The following comparison might not be apples-to-apples, but Rodgers' the seven full games and the one drive he directed against Chicago on Nov. 4, the Packers offense put together 19 scoring drives of 70 yards or more, and 29 drives of 50 yards or more.

In the seven full games Packers backups have started and the three scoring drives Wallace directed against Chicago, the troika of Wallace, Tolzien and Flynn have put together 14 drives of 70 yard or more and 19 drives of 50 yards or more.

On the surface, that may seem respectable, or "close" to watch Rodgers did. But it's not.

An additional five scores from 70 yards or more, and an additional 10 from 50 yards or more are a ton of points that have been left on the field for the better part of eight weeks.

It's why Rodgers' return is so important Sunday. The Bears come in as the No. 5 passing offense in all of football and the No. 3 scoring offense at 27.8 points per game – just .1 points behind the Philadelphia Eagles.

Thanks, in large part, to Rodgers' production the first seven weeks, Eddie Lacy and Flynn's explosions the last six quarters, the Packers offense is still ninth in the NFL in scoring (25.6 points per game) and fourth in yards per game, but no one would confuse the outfit that has been run out there since Nov. 4 as a "true" Packers offense.

In fact, I would have had a hard time believing the Packers could keep up with the Bears on Sunday, despite the poor Bears defense.

But now, with Rodgers back the helm, he's good for two more scoring possessions and several long drives that will keep Jay Cutler and the Bears off the field.

It may not seem like a lot, but it's all the difference the Packers need to win the NFC North and return to the playoffs.


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