It was nearly four years ago – and the parallels of that day to last Sunday are everywhere.
Less than three minutes into the Green Bay Packers’ week 9 game of 2013, Green Bay was at the Chicago 9-yard line on their initial drive. It was 3rd-and-8 and Aaron Rodgers was sacked and injured by Shea McClellin. The Packers settled for a field goal, Seneca Wallace played the remainder of the game at quarterback, and the Packers lost 27-23.
Now let’s fill in some other details. See if you don’t spot the similarities.
Going into the game, the Packers were 5-2 and the Bears were 4-3. The two teams were competing to win the division championship and go to the playoffs. Had the Packers won, they would have enjoyed a two-game lead over their hated rivals. Because the Bears won, Chicago walked off Lambeau Field tied with the Packers, each with a 5-3 record.
Counting that November 4 game, the Bears finished the season by winning four and losing five, for an 8-8 record. Counting that same game, the Packers finished out the season with three wins, five losses, and a tie. With an overall record of 8-7-1, the Packers beat out the Bears for the division title by the slimmest of margins.
Aaron Rodgers got the sweetest revenge that year. He returned for the final game of the regular season – against the Bears in Chicago. The Packers prevailed by a score of 33-28, putting them in the playoffs.
In the first postseason game, however, Green Bay was narrowly eliminated by the 49ers, 23-20. The star of that game was a third-year quarterback who passed for 227 yards and ran for 98 more – Colin Kaepernick.
As for that injury on November 4, it was caused by Shea McClellin, a 6’3” 250-pound linebacker who was in his second year in the league, after being drafted in the first round by the Bears. McClellin moved on to the Patriots in 2016, where he started for them in their Super Bowl win over the Falcons.
Here’s the hit by McClellin.
The video of that hit shows Rodgers’ left elbow spiking into the ground as McClellin exerts his full weight and force onto Rodgers’ right elbow.
Unlike the hit by Anthony Barr, there is no question that McClellin’s hit was legal. Rodgers still held the ball when he was tackled.
Here’s the hit by Anthony Barr on Rodgers.
From Rodgers’ elbow, through his upper arm, and through his two shoulders forms a straight line at the time of impact with the ground. The McClellin visual is a mirror image of the Barr hit, one with the left elbow, and the other the right elbow, impacting the ground.
Anthony Barr, a 256-pound linebacker in his second year in the league, was also a first-round draft selection. The Vikings are now tied with the Packers as the division leader, and are now the favorite to win it and go on to the playoffs.
I’ve listened to several commentators on TV opine whether this was a legal or illegal, clean or dirty, hit. They are all sure of their positions, though they are split about 50/50. Half of them are dead wrong.
I would simply ask those who think the Barr hit was legal: you’re telling me Barr couldn’t have avoided, or lessened, the impact of smashing Rodgers into the ground after making the initial hit? Seriously?
Many commentators suggested the play should or will be reviewed, but I’ve seen no evidence the league is doing that, or plans to.
Let’s give Vikings coach Mike Zimmer the final word: “We’re playing football. It’s unfortunate that he got hurt, but I think everything was above board. We’re not a dirty football team. We’ll never be a dirty football team as long as I’m here. We’re going to play within the rules and sometimes things happen.”
I’m not looking at Zimmer for help here. I’m looking at Roger Goodell, the commish, and as usual he’s nowhere to be found.