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Aaron Rodgers' MVP-Caliber Season Marred by Injury, Playoff Collapse

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2015

Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers lies on the field after being sacked during the second half of the NFL football NFC Championship game against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

The 2014 NFL season has been filled with impressive performances, but perhaps no player performed more consistently and more brilliantly than Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers' regular-season numbers were simply incredible.

He ranked seventh on the season in yards passing with 4,381. His 38 touchdown passes were third most in the NFL. He tossed just five interceptions for the entire year and finished with a remarkable passer rating of 112.2. He was also voted NFL's Most Valuable Player by the Pro Football Writers of America.

Aron Yohannes @AronYohannes

Aaron Rodgers is the first quarterback in NFL history to have a 100+ rating in six straight seasons. #Packers

Unfortunately, impressive numbers and accolades don't bring home a championship. 

Rodgers' late-season calf injury became a significant one and limited him in the regular-season finale and in the playoffs. However, the former Cal standout still managed to do enough to beat the Detroit Lions in Week 17, earning a first-round bye in the process.

A visibly hampered Rodgers also did enough to best the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round of the playoffs. The extra week of rest clearly helped with mobility, but Rodgers (24-of-35 for 316 yards and three touchdowns) had to beat the Cowboys from the pocket.

"It was painful the entire game," Rodgers said of the injury, per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. "It was just something that I knew I was going to have to deal with during the week and in the warm-ups. Nothing really loosened up, it was just dealing with the pain, pain management, and being smart about it." 

That pain—along with the inability to buy time behind the line and burst into open running lanes—ended up costing Rodgers and the Packers a week later. 

Rodgers (19-of-34, 178 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions) had his moments against the Seattle Seahawks in Sunday's NFC Championship Game. However, he never seemed completely comfortable in the pocket and didn't have the legs to make the defense pay when he got outside of it. He finished the game with just one scramble for 12 yards.

Accuracy also appeared to be an issue for Rodgers, who missed a couple of open receivers and tossed a pair of turnovers. Any quarterback will tell you that footwork plays a major role in accuracy. 

The Packers were, of course, going up against one of the best NFL defenses in recent memory (just 15.9 points and 267.1 yards per game allowed). Yet, this is a game that Green Bay should have won.

The defense created five turnovers and allowed the Packers to take a 16-0 lead into halftime. The team also held a 12-point fourth-quarter lead. The problem was that when it was time to go for the dagger-strike, the Packers offense simply couldn't deliver.

It still took a fake field goal, a successful onside kick, a two-point conversion and overtime for the Seahawks to emerge victorious. When it was time to make a play, however, it was Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson who delivered.

The Packers are likely to look back on this game and lament the missed opportunities. A taunting penalty after an interception cost the Packers an easy 1st-and-goal opportunity in the first quarter. The inability to punch it in from the 1-yard line a few plays later cost the team four points.

Conservative play-calling by head coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Tom Clements in the second half led to just six points. The defense collapsed, Brandon Bostick whiffed on an onside kick and the Packers never touched the ball in overtime.

Jason Wilde @jasonjwilde

Rodgers: "When you go back and think about it, at times we weren’t playing as aggressive as we usually are."

The loss definitely isn't Rodgers' fault, though it's hard to think the outcome still might have been different were he 100 percent healthy.

Michael David Smith @MichaelDavSmith

Aaron Rodgers had a passer rating of 55.8, just the second time in four years that Rodgers finished a game with a passer rating under 60.

It is also hard to think that a Super Bowl berth wouldn't have cemented this as one of the best overall seasons by a quarterback ever.

As it is, Rodgers remains in the one-ring club with statistical stars Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, while the much younger Wilson gets an opportunity to chase his second Lombardi Trophy in his third NFL season.