GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers was back under center and the Packers got back to winning — a welcome return to normal for Green Bay after a tumultuous couple of weeks.
The reigning MVP can thank the Packers’ defense for doing much of the heavy lifting.
A.J. Dillon rushed for two fourth-quarter touchdowns and Green Bay beat the Seattle Seahawks 17-0 on Sunday as Rodgers returned after missing a game with COVID-19. Seattle was shut out for the first time in a decade.
A week after his positive test caused him to sit out a 13-7 loss at Kansas City, Rodgers went 23 of 37 for 292 yards and threw an interception in the end zone in the third quarter as the Packers won for the eighth time in their last nine games.
“Good to be back with the guys, good to be back at home, good to be on the field, really,” Rodgers said during a postgame press conference that was held via Zoom, allowing him to be unmasked without violating league protocols. “The most emotions from the whole night was probably walking off the field after the game. It definitely got me a little misty.”
Rodgers didn’t practice all week and was cleared to play Saturday under the NFL’s protocols for unvaccinated players.
The three-time MVP said before the season he was “immunized.” After his positive test, he detailed in an incendiary radio interview his reasons for seeking alternatives to vaccination and his skepticism about the shots’ effectiveness. Rodgers later apologized for the misleading statement about his vaccination status.
“There’s always going to be criticism in this world,” Rodgers said in his first comments to reporters since the controversy emerged. “I don’t define myself by the criticism, but I understand it’s a part of this because this issue is definitely polarizing.”
Although Rodgers was hardly at his best, his return made this much clear: With him, the Packers (8-2) are among the best teams in the NFC and a Super Bowl contender.
“I felt pretty good for the most part,” he said. “I feel like I played fairly solid. Obviously I had the one bad decision in the red zone and probably missed a couple of throws.”
Seattle’s Russell Wilson also struggled in his return after missing three games with an injury to the middle finger on his throwing hand that required surgery. He went 20 of 40 for 161 yards with two interceptions.
The Seahawks (3-6) wasted two scoring chances when Kevin King and Adrian Amos picked off Wilson passes in the end zone.
“It’s a big opportunity that we missed out on,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Just disappointing, because this was a real shot. We could feel it and we knew it.”
Green Bay recorded its first shutout since a 22-0 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 30, 2018. The Seahawks hadn’t been shut out since falling 24-0 to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 18, 2011, the year before Wilson’s arrival in Seattle.
“First and foremost, it’s hard to shut out anybody,” Amos said. “But then when you’ve got a guy that can extend (plays), who has the pedigree, everything that he has done, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and everything, that’s a tough task.”
Green Bay’s 3-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter matched the second-lowest score through three quarters of any NFL game since 2008. Dallas and Philadelphia were scoreless through the third quarter of a 2017 game that Dallas eventually won 6-0.
With 2020 Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones sidelined by a knee injury in the second half, Dillon carried the Packers’ rushing attack down the stretch to put the game out of reach. Packers coach Matt LaFleur had no further details about Jones’ injury after the game.
“Yeah, when he first exited the game, he looked at me and said, ‘Get the job done, finish it off!’” Dillon said. “That’s like my big brother on this team, I love him to death, so for him to believe in me, that trust, was great. Like I said, I wanted to finish it off for him and the team, and we got it done as a team.”
On a third-and-goal play from the 3, Dillon ran into Bobby Wagner around the line of scrimmage but essentially carried the six-time All-Pro linebacker into the end zone for his first touchdown run of the season. That extended Green Bay’s lead to 10-0 with 10:37 left.
Dillon also scored on a 2-yard run with 2 minutes left, setting up that TD with a 50-yard reception. He finished with 21 carries for 66 yards and two catches for 62 yards.