GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Slowed by a sore knee, Aaron Rodgers picked up the pace behind center.
Remarkably, the two-time NFL MVP was more effective against the Chicago Bears after returning from what initially looked like a serious injury.
The hobbling quarterback threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter after returning from injury, and the Green Bay Packers overcame a 20-point deficit for a thrilling 24-23 win over the Bears on Sunday night.
Rodgers connected with receiver Randall Cobb for a catch-and-run through the secondary for a 75-yard touchdown and the go-ahead score with 2:13 left in the game.
“You’ve seen it time and time again. That guy’s a warrior,” Cobb said.
Rodgers was hurt in the second quarter after slipping to the turf while under pressure from linebacker Khalil Mack and defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris. The lineman landed on Rodgers, who grabbed the back of his left leg. He had ACL surgery on his left knee in college.
Rodgers was carted back to the locker room. Doctors determined he did not suffer a major injury and cleared him to return in the second half.
The Packers had to make a slight adjustment with their normally mobile quarterback limited to the pocket.
“Got to get the ball out. Can’t be moving around a whole lot back there,” Rodgers said. “And we did a good job mixing things up in the second half with some of our quicker-hitter stuff and actually some of our more vertical stuff, too.”
Rodgers also had touchdown passes to Geronimo Allison (39 yards) and Davante Adams (12 yards) in completing the rally from a 20-0 deficit with 9:14 to go in the third quarter.
Rodgers finished 20 of 30 for 286 yards, including 17 of 23 for 273 yards in the second half.
“Obviously, that’s a tough one for us. It stings,” coach Matt Nagy said after his Bears debut.
MACK ATTACK: A Chicago defense featuring newly acquired star linebacker Khalil Mack dominated until the third quarter. Mack had a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown against backup quarterback DeShone Kizer in the second. He had a strip-sack that led to another turnover. He had pressure in the backfield on a play in which Rodgers hurt his left knee.
This from a player who missed the entire preseason. The Bears acquired Mack last week in a trade with the Oakland Raiders.
“I prepared all offseason for the first game of the season and I wanted to … make an impact,” Mack said. “But you want to win these games. That’s the only thing on my mind. I hate losing.”
FAST START: An offensive-minded coach, Nagy had the aggressive Bears’ offense pushing the Packers around the field in the first half. Mitchell Trubisky was 23 of 35 for 171 yards. He also ran for 32 yards on seven carries, including a 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. It turned out to be the only offensive touchdown the Bears would score all night. The Packers’ defense, in new coordinator Mike Pettine’s first game, held the Bears to two field goals in the second half.
“You know we talked about finishing and we didn’t do that,” Nagy said.
COMEBACK COMPLETE: Nick Perry sacked the Bears’ Mitchell Trubisky on fourth-and-10 with 58 seconds to complete the comeback. It was memorable start to the Packers’ 100th season. Sunday marked the first time in franchise history that the Packers won after trailing by 17-plus points entering the fourth quarter, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
MORE RODGERS: Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he was prepared to go with Kizer to start the second half until getting the word from the team doctor in the tunnel.
“His performance speaks for itself,” McCarthy said.
Rodgers said he knee was swollen after the game. The Packers plan to run more tests on their QB on Monday, though Rodgers seems very optimistic to about his availability for next week’s game against Minnesota.
“No, I’m planning on playing,” Rodgers said.
OTHER DEBUTS: Chicago’s Allen Robinson had four catches for 61 yards on seven targets in his debut as the Bears’ top receiver. … TE Jimmy Graham had two catches for eight yards on four targets after joining the Packers as a free agent in the offseason from the Seattle Seahawks.