Yesterday's Cardinals-Packers match-up was a duel between two of the NFL's best quarterbacks, albeit at the opposite ends of their career. Kurt Warner is in the process of putting the finishing touches on what should now be considered without a doubt a Hall of Fame career. He already has a Super Bowl ring and if yesterday was any indication, he could be well be on his way to another.
As great as Warner was yesterday and it was one of the great postseason performance of all time, I was just as impressed with Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers, making his first career playoff start, threw an interception on his first pass. He finished the first quarter with a total of two yards. Trailing 31-10 midway through the third quarter the game looked like it was beyond the reach of any comeback attempt the Packers could mount.
After looking like a deer in the headlights until that point, Rodgers led an inspired comeback, tying the game at 45 and just missing what would have been a game-winning strike on the first play from scrimmage in overtime. Two plays later Rodgers was hit, fumbled the ball and the Cardinals' Karlos Dansby caught the ball off a bounce and ran it in to win the game for the Cardinals.
Rodgers made mistakes in the game no doubt, but when you finish the game 28/42 for 422 yards, 4 TD and 1 INT in your first career playoff start, it's hard to call it a failure.
Rodgers showed poise, got out of the pocket when he felt pressure to give himself extra time and his receivers opportunities to get open and make plays. More than anything Rodgers inspired confidence among his teammates with his play when the game looked finished and was the catalyst for the Packers in their "close but no cigar" comeback bid.
The hardest thing in sports is replacing a franchise quarterback. I have to look no further than the Bills who haven't been able to find a replacement for Hall of Famer Jim Kelly since his retirement in 1996. Since then the franchise has been mired in mediocrity. With Green Bay letting Brett Favre go two seasons ago and pinning their hopes for the future on Rodgers there was the possibility for a similar decline in their fortunes.
Whatever doubts that remained about Rodgers as a quarterback or a leader after two impressive years behind center, Packers fans can breathe easier after Rodgers' impressive performance yesterday. With Rodgers behind center for the next decade, Green Bay has ensured itself of being a constant threat in the NFC.