Knee injury can't keep Aaron Rodgers from comeback


Aaron Rodgers was stopped by a broken collarbone last season, as were Green Bay's playoff chances when it was all said and done.

So he is stoppable. He's not invincible. We're clear on that.

But evidently, he's pretty darn resilient. Sunday night proved that about the Packers quarterback, which is why he's the first recipient of our new weekly Unstoppable Performer honor. Let's get into what made him reach mythical greatness in Week 1.

Unstoppable Performer

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Lambeau Field went fell to a hush when Aaron Rodgers went down with a knee injury in the first half Sunday night.

NBC's cameras broadcast tight shots of Rodgers' gaze into the abyss as he was carted to the locker room. Green Bay's season looked to be over just as it had gotten started.

But then, out came Willis Rodgers.

The quarterback halted what was nearing a blowout, then reversed it, even while playing with the injured knee. Rodgers dropped, faded and fired (sometimes off one leg) all over the field, completing 20 of 30 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns. On his arm, Randall Cobb's YAC gains and Green Bay's defensive stands, the Packers roared back to take a 24-23 win in what is an early faborite for regular-season game of the year.

Rodgers' play was thrilling and truly unbelievable to watch. Taking a look at our fantastic research team's efforts is another trip into the mental spin cycle.

Just look at these numbers and nuggets:

-- Sunday's fourth-quarter comeback is Green Bay's largest since 1940. The next closest deficit overcome by the Packers was 15, overcome twice: in 1989 against the Falcons, and 1951 against the New York Yanks (a team that folded after that season).

-- Rodgers, comeback master, recorded his first career game with three passing touchdowns in the fourth quarter, completing 9 of 12 passes for 212 yards, the three scores and a near-perfect passer rating of 156.3.

The difference between an elite quarterback and the rest is right there, in statistical form. It produced an unlikely win for Green Bay on Sunday, and even impressed the best basketball player on earth.

Also considered ...

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If you polled 100 people before Sunday's game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints, it's safe to say at least 90 would choose the Saints. But what no one outside of Tampa Bay's locker room knew was Fitzmagic was back and for one day, better than ever.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, long thought to have left his relatively short prime in his past, exploded as the unlikely leader of a team that produced 48 points in Week 1. Fitzpatrick completed 21 of 28 passes for a career-high 417 -- yes, seriously -- yards and four touchdowns. His 156.2 passer rating was also a career best. And for a Bucs team that was almost as bad defensively as it was good with the ball, every one of those completions were needed.

Per NFL Research, the combined total of 88 points was the most in a Week 1 game in the Super Bowl era. Two teams haven't exceeded 80 points in a season-opening contest since 1971, when the Cowboys and Bills combined for 86 and the Giants and Packers put 82 on the board.

Fitzpatrick, who hasn't broken 400 yards since 2013, became just the fourth quarterback in NFL history with 400-plus passing yards, four-plus touchdowns and zero interceptions in Week 1. The other three are either in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Phil Simms) or will be when they become eligible for enshrinement (Peyton Manning and Drew Brees).

Missing deep threat DeSean Jackson resurfaced Sunday with a five-catch, 146-yard, two-touchdown performance. Mike Evans caught seven passes for 147 yards and a touchdown. It was an embarassment of offensive riches, achieved largely on the arm (and legs, with Fitzpatrick rushing 12 times for 36 yards and a touchdown) of the veteran from Harvard.

Did you know Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard? Because Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard. And he went beyond consciousness Sunday in New Orleans.

Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

Which play shall we pick? The quick slant that went for a 58-yard touchdown? The 30-yard grab made between two defenders? Or the 91-yard punt return touchdown on his first touch of the season?

That's the beauty of Unstoppable Performances: We can choose all of them.

Hill was a multi-dimensional nightmare against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1, accounting for a career-high 268 all-purpose yards and three total touchdowns. Within those totals were seven catches for 169 yards and two receiving scores, and the aforementioned punt-return touchdown.

Hill is such a draw for fans because his performances are some of the rare instances in which a player on the field is noticeably faster than every other participant. Once he gets out in the open field and it becomes clear those between the lines are in a footrace, it's over. The man nicknamed Cheetah isn't going to be caught, and he rarely was in a dominant performance Sunday.