Sixth Sense Means Six Points

Aaron Rodgers, Donald Driver and Greg Jennings made it look easy on Sunday against San Francisco, but only because they've worked so hard in practice and in the meeting rooms to make the subtle, on-the-fly adjustments that often go unseen.

It looked as easy as pitch and catch.

But in reality, it is formed over countless hours of practice, almost as much film work, and a working knowledge between teammates forged over time.

In Sunday's 34-16 victory for the Packers, heady play and a bit of a sixth sense may have been the biggest difference between winning and losing. At the least, it helped the Packers overcome a slow start against one of the NFC's poorer teams, the 49ers (4-8).

The Packers trailed midway through the second quarter when the fun began. A 57-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings woke up the Lambeau Field faithful to give the Packers their first lead at 7-6.

The play was made possible thanks to 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks jumping offside on a hard count by Rodgers, essentially giving the Packers a free play.

"We practice that all the time," said Jennings. "Our defense, in practice, they jump offside and we go deep. … There's not a better time to get them with a big play."

Without even a play called, Jennings took off on the quick snap. Rodgers found him down the left sideline with a perfectly thrown pass over the tight coverage Shawntae Spencer.

"In that situation," described Rodgers, "I usually drop back trying to get as deep as I can first, then glance to see what kind of release my outside guys get. My inside guys kind of know what they're doing, what their landmark is, and the outside (receivers), just kind of seeing how they get off the ball. For some reason or another, I've thrown to James Jones a number of times in those situations. But James looked like he didn't get off as well as he usually does and I was able to put a good throw to Greg and he made a great catch and run."

The touchdown not only gave the Packers their first lead of the game, but it also got Jennings going for a big day. He finished with six catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns. It was his third straight 100-yard receiving game, marking his best such streak since the 2008 season.

As good as Jennings' day was, teammate Donald Driver's might have been even better considering the circumstances. Feeling under the weather with apparent food poisoning from some spicy chicken wings the night before, he hardly showed any ill-effects, especially on one big play that had everyone talking: a 61-yard touchdown on the first drive of the third quarter.

"That was one of the best plays I've ever been a part of," said Rodgers. "It was incredible."

Donald Driver ducks as Andrew Quarless jumps over him to block safety Dashon Goldson. Jeffrey Phelps/AP Images

Driver couldn't wait to get home, hop into bed and see the replays.

"I don't know what happened," he said. "All I know is when I caught it, I just started making moves. Unfortunately, you don't what kind of moves you make until you watch the film. I just know it was a big play. Everybody says it was a great play. After it was all said and done, I was just trying to get into the end zone."

Rodgers made it all happen, though. His call for an adjustment while breaking the huddle got Driver into position wide open down the middle of the field.

"That play was kind of an example of the way things have been going the last few weeks for us on offense," described Rodgers. "We had a penalty. We called the formation to the field (side), which it ended up being to the boundary. It was a long count. I motioned Donald. He didn't really know what he was doing. I didn't really know what was going to happen. I motioned him to the other side of the field, which wasn't in the call and I kind of made a check, to a good check that we talked about on the sidelines ...

"The reason the formation was on the boundary was we had three guys on the left side of the hash and I knew the play that was called wasn't going to work if we stayed there. So, I just kind of looked at Drive and said, ‘Hey, go this way.' He moved over and once their defense aligned, I got us in a situation I thought would be a good situation for us and two guys jumped Greg, Donald was wide open and he made an incredible catch and run."

Catching Rodgers' pass at the 38-yard line, Driver made three 49ers defenders miss tackles, bobbing and weaving his way to the end zone to put the Packers up 21-13 with the extra point.

"We nicknamed him ‘The Kickstand,' said Rodgers. "That's been his nickname around here since I've been around and when he was at about the 20 (yard line), I was kind of thinking, ‘Go down, go down, don't get drilled,' and then when he broke another tackle, I was hoping he'd get in the end zone.

"Donald made one of the most amazing catches and runs I've ever seen."

Coach Mike McCarthy called Driver's touchdown the biggest play of the game. In the process, Driver finished the game with four catches for 73 yards, his best output since the first quarter of the season. He has been overcoming a quad injury since October that has slowed his production and even forced him to miss his first game (Nov. 7 vs. Cowboys) because of injury since 2003.

"I told him that is the guy that I'm used to seeing," said Jennings of the touchdown. "Just a spectacular play. Nobody else makes that play except ‘Drive.' I don't know how he did it, but he did it. And that's what he does better than anyone I know."

With 195 receiving yards combined, Driver and Jennings had their most productive day together this season. Jennings added his second touchdown on yet another play that was more reaction than design. This one was a 1-yard score out of a four-wide receiver formation that had Jennings salivating from the start when he saw cornerback Phillip Adams up in his face.

"He tried to quick jam me, and that's really a no-no honestly," said Jennings.

With one quick move to the inside, Jennings made Adams whiff. Jennings went to the corner and Rodgers took advantage.

"I wanted to see how he got off and he made an incredible move at the line of scrimmage and I couldn't get the ball in there quick enough," said Rodgers.

Rodgers' third TD pass of the day gave the Packers a lead they used to grind out the clock in the fourth quarter. Rodgers finished with 298 passing yards on 21-of-30 accuracy, good for a passer rating of 135.1. It was his fourth straight game with a 110-plus rating.

"We've been doing some good things offensively," said Rodgers. "Personally, I've just been trying to take care of the football and limit my turnovers. I've been pretty efficient throwing the ball. I think that's a direct correlation between the way the offensive line has played for the most part and getting Greg involved. Greg's had really six or seven straight very good weeks for us and he presents too many matchup problems when he's out there. We played a team today where we can move Greg from the left side to the right side to the slot and he's playing against guys he should beat. The fade route to him to put us up 28-16 was an incredible move off the line of scrimmage. I just tried to get the ball to him as quickly as possible because he killed the guy on the line of scrimmage. Greg's playing really well and that helps me out."

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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at

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