CHICAGO — Maybe the fan was a figment of his imagination. But Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers swears he saw her somewhere in the front row of Section 128 in the southwest corner of Soldier Field.
Rodgers had just tumbled across the goal line on a pivotal 6-yard touchdown run late in Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.
He was feeling it in that moment. The adrenaline rush from such a crucial run. The momentum of the Packers’ nine-point lead. The familiar thrill of sticking it to the Soldier Field crowd.
As he began to soak in the euphoria, Rodgers said one angry spectator caught his eye.
“All I saw was a woman giving me the double bird,” he said. “So I’m not sure exactly what came out of my mouth next.”
Rodgers let loose. In the middle of a raucous Packers celebration beside the south end zone, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time shouted a truly cold-blooded insult at a horde of fans who would love to know one day what it’s like to have a legendary quarterback of their own.
“I own you!” Rodgers yelled. “All my (bleeping) life! I own you! I still own you!”
The quarterback’s postgame smirk was a little less harsh but probably as cruel.
“Sometimes you black out on the field,” Rodgers explained. “In a good way.”
Added Packers running back Aaron Jones about the jeer that echoed across the NFL: “I love it. What can you say? He’s right.”
Indeed, Rodgers is on point about owning the Bears. Sunday’s 24-14 victory was his 22nd win in 27 tries as a starting quarterback in this rivalry. It was his fifth in a row and improved his record to 11-3 at Soldier Field, leaving him with an ear-to-ear grin.
“I love this rivalry,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun over the years.”
For him maybe.
Who knows what Sunday’s loss means to the Bears season? With 11 games remaining, they are back to straddling the .500 fence, now 3-3 and two games behind the Packers in the NFC North. It might take a whole lot of effort and improvement and good fortune to close that gap before the teams’ next meeting Dec. 12 at Lambeau Field.
What was apparent Sunday has been apparent for far too long: As long as Rodgers is running the show, the Packers remain in full control.
Production-wise, Rodgers has enjoyed far greater outings against the Bears. But as far as calmly handling the game and making clutch plays when clutch plays were needed? Rodgers was, as usual, all over that assignment.
He finished 17-for-23 passing for 195 yards, his fifth-lowest yardage output against the Bears in the complete games he has played. And neither of his touchdown passes were all that remarkable, the first a basic 1-yard shovel toss to Allen Lazard and later a 12-yard checkdown that Jones caught 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
But Rodgers’ late touchdown scramble was equal parts alert and determined. As he got outside the pocket, he knew he had enough of a head start to outrace Khalil Mack to the pylon. He also had noticed immediately after the snap that edge rusher Robert Quinn had dropped into coverage on the opposite side.
So he took off and crossed the goal line before linebacker Alec Ogletree or safety Eddie Jackson could get there.
“I still feel like I can move around a little bit,” Rodgers said.
Three snaps before that, Rodgers had hit his longest completion of the day, a 41-yarder down the right side to Davante Adams. That wasn’t even the play coach Matt LaFleur dialed up either.
“I actually called the quick-game version of that,” LaFleur said. “And he checked it to a double move.”
Earlier on the Packers sideline, Rodgers and Adams discussed the things they were seeing and feeling from the Bears defense. Then on second-and-10 from the Packers 38 with 7:15 remaining, Rodgers looked at Adams and knew that discussion was about to pay off.
Rodgers glanced right and made eye contact. Adams looked back with the subtlest of head nods.
“My whole body started tingling,” Rodgers said. “I just knew it was going to be one of those special plays.”
Adams beat cornerback Jaylon Johnson with a nasty move off the line, and the Bears had little help over the top. With Johnson trailing Adams by a good 5 yards and Jackson unable to rotate fast enough, Rodgers dropped a beautiful ball into Adams’ hands.
“I told (Adams) in the locker room, the thing I will miss 20 years down the line are moments where you make a solid adjustment and look over at the guy, and it’s a stud like (him) and he just (nods),” Rodgers said.
Just full-on ownership, right?
That would have been a 62-yard touchdown had the side of Adams’ right foot not grazed the sideline at the 21-yard line.
But that ultimately didn’t matter after Rodgers took the ball into the end zone a few moments later, then took his competitive fire right at the aggravated mob in Section 128.
“All my (bleeping) life! I own you!”
In 14 seasons as the Packers starter, Rodgers has beaten eight Bears starting quarterbacks, adding Justin Fields to that list Sunday.
He has gotten the better of six defensive coordinators, with Sean Desai failing in his first attempt to topple the Packers.
Rodgers has beaten five Bears head coaches — including Matt Nagy six times in seven attempts.
And he has created endless nightmares for so many defenders who have tried to stop him.
After Sunday’s game, Johnson was the only Bears defensive player to speak to reporters. And that session, according to those who tried to jump in, was abruptly cut off without explanation. So it’s hard to know exactly how the Bears defense was feeling after a performance that was solid but not quite good enough.
Tight end Cole Kmet has played only three games in this rivalry. But as a lifelong Bears fan, he has a pretty good pulse on how Rodgers consistently has torn out Chicago’s collective heart.
“It’s pretty frustrating. He’s just really good,” Kmet said. “They don’t really make a lot of mistakes. And if you’re going to beat a team like that, you’re going to have to be perfect. He’s obviously the leader of all that.”
That was just a new voice on an old topic, echoing a familiar refrain.
After the game, Rodgers acknowledged he spent a chunk of the morning pregame session wondering if this might be his last trip to Soldier Field as the Packers quarterback and reflecting accordingly. But he also felt himself drawing from the positive energy bank he has built up over 14 years of succeeding inside the Bears’ home stadium.
“I do feel like there’s a confidence I take into this place because of all the wins we’ve had,” he said.
Outside the visiting locker room, where he has visited 18 times with the Packers, Rodgers seemed to have a glow about him late Sunday afternoon, a fulfillment regarding the latest chapter he added to a rivalry he cherishes.
“I love playing at Soldier Field,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for the fans. And I’m sure there’s a little bit of respect coming back my way. Not a lot of love, I’m sure. But I’ve had a lot of great moments on this field and a lot of great battles.
“Today was much like those other ones.”
Only this one came with a jeer that will be forever etched into Bears-Packers history.
“I still own you!”