With playoff bid foiled, Rodgers done for the year

The best-laid plans of mice, men and rehabbing quarterbacks often go astray, as a disappointed Aaron Rodgers learned last Sunday.

The Green Bay Packers quarterback reflected on the reality he endured, compared to the glory he’d envisioned while sitting in a hospital bed two months ago. Then he went back on injured reserve.

“It’s not the fairy tale that we were hoping for as I lay in that surgery bed eight weeks ago, thinking about this moment,” Rodgers said.

The glass slipper didn’t fit this time, the genie granted no wishes and Red Riding Hood got mauled by panthers – who threw in a blind-side head-butt for good measure. After losing to Carolina 31-24, the Packers are out of the playoffs for the first time since 2008, reduced to a spoiler role in their last two games against Minnesota and Detroit.

Ultimately, it turned out that the Packers’ hopes for a Super Bowl were indeed snuffed out on Oct. 15, when Rodgers went out with a broken collarbone. There was too much ground to make up by the time he got back, and there was some rust on him when he did.

As feared, the crisp execution that earmarked last year’s season-ending winning streak wasn’t there in Rodgers’ first game after the layoff. During their 8-1 closing run last season he threw 24 touchdown passes and two interceptions. In last Sunday’s loss he had three TDs and three picks – his most interceptions in one game since 2009.

There would be few things more satisfying than throwing a wrench into the Vikings’ home field push for the playoffs. Those purple oafs started this whole mess. At the same time, there would be nothing more regrettable than Rodgers getting hurt again by another overzealous Viking defender claiming he was only finishing the play.

Of far greater importance than a couple of vanity wins, as the seven-week stretch without Rodgers demonstrated, is his full return to peak condition. His going back on IR was the smart move.

Equally, if not more concerning, is the neurological well-being of Davante Adams. The Packers wide receiver suffered his second concussion of the year and third in two years on a blind side helmet-to-helmet shot by Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis during an interception return.

Davis got a penalty and later a two-game suspension, but after his running head blast on Adams he was allowed to continue playing, while the Packers’ hottest receiver was finished for the day.

That’s how it went for the Packers last Sunday, with the close calls all seeming to go the other way.

The most objectionable of those came in the third quarter on a 9-yard pass in back of the end zone to Damiere Byrd that was first ruled incomplete. Byrd juggled the ball while falling backward to the ground, where he finally hauled it in, with half his body inbounds and half across the end line.

The broadcast booth echoed the idea that the challenge was frivolous and wasteful, given the initial call of incomplete pass and Byrd’s half-in, half-out fall to the end zone.

On replay it was determined, however, that Byrd had irrefutably satisfied the league’s byzantine conditions for possessing the ball after a forward pass, and that full possession had occurred while an atom from his left hind-quarter grazed the turf in bounds before any atoms on his right hind-quarter had landed out. Such precise mapping of the human body normally would require a computerized tomography scan. Hats off to the eagle-eyes of the replay booth who caught it all with a standard video camera.

So, the curtain slowly falls on the Packers’ 2017 season of unfulfilled promise. The purists’ dream of a Super Bowl featuring Rodgers vs. Tom Brady — whose New England Patriots will be the ones making the record-tying ninth straight trip to the postseason — is on hold again.

On the Rodgers-Brady comparisons, it may be useful at this point to note that throughout their careers they have played a combined 400 professional games — 149 for Rodgers and 251 for Brady — but they’ve only faced each other once. Rodgers and the Packers won that one.

Seems like a better ending than, “Wait ‘til next year.”

Veteran sportswriter Gary Seymour’s column appears weekly in the Leader. He can be contacted at sports@wolfrivermedia.com.