Substance Over Style Is Super Start

Aaron Rodgers wasn't at his best — "terrible" was his word — and the defense couldn't handle Michael Vick, but a win is a win. That's no small feat on the road and against a formidable opponent, and that's a good sign for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

Fourteen years ago, the Green Bay Packers lived up to their early Super Bowl hype. After three weeks, the rampaging Packers were 3-0, with victories over Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and San Diego by a combined 115-26.

Sunday's 27-20 victory at Philadelphia lacked those kind of style points but was filled with positive indicators for this year's Packers.

First, no matter how good you are, a win on the road shouldn't be taken for granted. The Eagles are coming off of back-to-back 6-2 seasons at home, and the home team is 11-3 this week heading into Monday's doubleheader. Furthermore, only nine teams had a winning road record last season. Eight of those teams made the playoffs.

So, for whatever dominance Sunday's outcome might have lacked, a road win is absolutely critical. Not to mention kind of cool, since this was the 50th anniversary of the Eagles' championship game victory over the Packers and it had been 48 years since Green Bay returned from Philadelphia with a win.

"I just head that in the locker room. Mike said that and it's awesome. It's great for the franchise," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "I've been a part of two ugly losses here that were not a whole lot of fun. This is a great sports city. They love their football, their basketball, their baseball with the Phillies, their hockey with the Flyers. I mean, these fans love sports and understand when to cheer. They're a great crowd and this is a tough, hostile environment. So, it's nice to get a win here."

"We feel good about a win, period," cornerback Charles Woodson said. "To come in and win against a team that is a tough team was big for us."

Beyond that, the Packers scored 27 points against an upper-echelon defense that had more than four months to scheme for this game. Extrapolate that over 16 games, and the Packers would score 432 points — good for fifth-most in franchise history.

Not bad considering Rodgers didn't look like Rodgers.

"I played terrible," Rodgers said. "It was probably about as bad as I could play, so that's a good thing. It's got to get better. I missed a lot of throws that I make in my sleep, so I'm disappointed about that. But I think we made just enough plays to win. The defense did a great job in the first half. Special teams did a great job. Jordy Nelson on the returns was fabulous. Unfortunately, I made too many dumb mistakes and didn't play as well as I know I'm capable of playing."

Rodgers, who figures to end this season with the lowest career interception percentage in NFL history, had just his fifth multiple-interception game. His first three passes were poorly thrown and his eighth pass was forced into coverage for an interception.

He got it rolling in the second and third quarters, leading the offense to two field goals and three touchdowns over six drives. But with chances to either run some clock or add to the score, the Packers went three-and-out, three-and-out (interception) and five-and-out, with a combined run-off of 4:03.

While the running game was productive, with 4.5 yards per carry until Rodgers ran out the clock by taking a knee on three consecutive plays, veteran offensive tackles Mark Tauscher (two sacks) and Chad Clifton (one sack) gave up three sacks.

Defensively, the Packers were terrific. It won't look great in the league rankings, with the Eagles rolling up 321 yards, but much of the damage was done once Michael Vick took over the offense. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers admitted to not preparing enough for Vick beyond the gimmicky wildcat. With a week to prepare for Vick's playground style, the defense certainly would have been better prepared. Facing the type of quarterbacking style they'll face on a weekly basis, Kevin Kolb was limited to 5-of-10 passing for 24 yards, with a long completion of 6 yards.

That's good news for a pass defense that entered this season as the presumed weak link on the team.

The other weak link was supposed to be the special teams, but instead, the Packers routed Bobby April's esteemed kicking units. Nelson capitalized on tremendous blocking, and the coverage units smothered the Eagles' big-play returners. Mason Crosby, a big question mark after three below-average seasons in terms of accuracy, made both field goal attempts, and punter Tim Masthay passed his first test.

Put it together, and the Packers survived a subpar performance by Rodgers, a sprained ankle that sidelined (and will sideline) Ryan Grant, a minus-one in turnovers and preparing for one offensive style but facing another.

In 1996, the Packers dropped two straight games when their receiving corps was slammed by injuries. This year's team handled its first dose of adversity.

"I don't want to talk Super Bowl with you right now," Woodson said. "It's a big game, it's the first game, we were tested on offense and on defense, and there's a lot of things we wish we could have back, but that's what you have the following week for. After the first game, they don't get any easier. For us, we feel good, we got a big win (in) our first test of the regular season. And we look to move forward."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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