After a ho-hum start to the NFL playoffs, with each of the first six games decided by double digits, we all needed a classic. We needed that game. We needed the sporting event where our collective hearts were pounding out of our chests. We needed the sizzle, the drama, the epic finish. We needed that "you gotta love sports" competition.
We needed Aaron Rodgers.
I'm still buzzing over the Packers' thrilling 34-31 win over the top-seeded Cowboys in Dallas. Rodgers offered up another dynamic showing, with 356 yards passing and two touchdowns (against one pick). And given what I'm about to say, some of you might call me a prisoner of the moment. Maybe I'm being a bit hyperbolic. Perhaps I'm in this gridiron-meets-hardwood headspace because I'm still thinking about Tyler Dunne's fantastic Bleacher Report feature in which Le'Veon Bell compares himself to Steph Curry. Maybe I'm letting playoff excitement get the best of me. Or maybe I'm just ahead of the curve. Here's the feeling I just can't shake after a fabulous Sunday of playoff football:
Rodgers is The Guy. He defies logic, makes jaw-dropping, iconic plays and does things that other quarterbacks can only dream of doing.
Now before you remind me that Jordan won six rings and Rodgers currently owns just one, allow me to tell you that's not the point. The point is: Wow! The point is these cats do their thing better than anyone else in the history of their respective sports.
Rodgers' first half in Dallas was a clinic, as the QB sliced and diced the NFC's No. 1 seed like it wasn't even there. Racking up 191 passing yards in the game's opening 30 minutes, Rodgers executed a number of spectacular throws -- including this touchdown strike to Richard Rodgers and this back-foot beauty to Davante Adams -- and sent the Pack into the break with a 21-13 lead. Oh, and Rodgers was doing this without his No. 1 receiver and Linus blanket, Jordy Nelson, who was out with injured ribs. I feel compelled to prominently mention that because it gets lost in the shuffle, especially after this game's exhilarating finish.
The Cowboys came all the way back from what was once a 21-3 deficit because they are a great team with dynamic players. Ezekiel Elliott is a star -- and why he wasn't fed the ball even more, I'll never know. Dak Prescott shook off a sluggish start to play a great game. (If you called for Tony Romo at any point on Sunday, just hang it up.) Dez Bryant scored his first two playoff touchdowns ever, and Jason Witten hit paydirt for the first time in his postseason career, as well.
But when Dan Bailey blasted a 52-yard field goal to tie the game at 31 apiece with 35 seconds left, the Cowboys had left too much time on the clock. You knew it. It was too much time for Rodgers -- like giving Jordan another possession to drill a game-winner. Why had Jason Garrett ordered Dak Prescott to spike the ball and kill the clock on the first down before the field goal? It made no sense. Not when Football Jordan was on the other sideline, waiting for any possible opportunity. You just don't give these guys an extra chance. Ask the Cavs. Or the Jazz. Or the Knicks or Suns. Or, well, anyone.
The game was tied. But the game was over. You knew it. Thirty-five seconds is an eternity for No. 12.
On the third play of that final drive, Cowboys safety Jeff Heath got a clean shot at Rodgers from the blind side and aboslutely rocked the quarterback. Coming off the edge on a blitz, Heath caught Rodgers completely by surprise and drove through the QB's back. You just assumed the ball would come loose, because that's how football works. Quarterback drops back ... quarterback doesn't see blizter coming at him with a full head of steam ... quarterback takes a violent blow and fumbles the football. That's just the plight of a vulnerable quarterback without eyes in the back of the head. That's how it goes for just about everyone.
Not Rodgers. Not Jordan.
Rodgers somehow held onto the football and quickly hopped up to take a timeout. Two plays later, the Packers faced a third-and-20 from their own 32-yard line with just 12 seconds remaining. Overtime was inevitable. Until it wasn't. Cool, calm and Jordan-esque, Rodgers took the snap and immediately spun out of the pocket, turning his back on the play in the process. As he continued rolling to his left, Rodgers spotted tight end Jared Cook uncovering down the field. In a play that only he can make, Rodgers partially squared up and flicked a laser 40 yards down the field. The throw was pinpoint, and Cook made a ridiculous catch, somehow clutching the ball and getting both feet in bounds.
With a long completion to put the Packers in field goal range with just three ticks left on the clock, this was football at its most majestic -- and apparently, at its most improvisational. After the game, Randall Cobb told MMQB's Robert Klemko that Rodgers made up the final play call on the fly, telling each receiver what to do, like kids playing in the school yard, drawing up plays in the dirt. Amazing. Yet, vintage Rodgers.
And so, Green Bay's magical run continues. Remember, two months ago, the Packers were 4-6, having dropped four straight games. Then Rodgers famously uttered, "I feel like we can run the table, I really do." And that's exactly what they've done, piling up eight straight wins.
Last month on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," Rodgers said his "run the table" pronouncement was "a leap of faith in the believability in the championship culture under Mike McCarthy." It shows. That's the Rodgers effect. And if/when the Packers run the table through the playoffs, it will go down in history as one of the greatest runs in sports history by an icon.
On CBS Sports Network's "NFL Monday QB," I'm always thrilled to talk to a bunch of former quarterbacks who accomplished quite a lot in their respective football careers -- guys like Rich Gannon, Trent Green, Steve Beuerlein and Phil Simms. And it's always amazing to hear those guys absolutely rave above Rodgers' game, wearing huge smiles while rapping about the greatness of this two-time MVP. It was Simms who told me last week on SiriusXM Radio that Rodgers was "the greatest thrower of the football" in NFL history.
After the game, Garrett told ESPN's Ed Werder that Rodgers "will go down as one of the three greatest to ever lace them up." If Rodgers and Mike McCarthy get another ring, their legacies both jump up another level.
Squarely in his prime at age 33, Rodgers is already better than Brett Favre. Packers fans know that. Rodgers does things that other quarterbacks couldn't dream of.
It's Aaron Rodgers' world, and we are all just living in it.
Just like Mike.
Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.