Aaron Rodgers was great.
His receivers were great.
James Starks was great, too.
You know all of that.
So how about the offensive line, which made it all happen?
The unit overcame a dreadful start. On the first series, center Evan Dietrich-Smith was flagged for holding, and Dietrich-Smith and right tackle Don Barclay gave up sacks. On the second series, just about everyone charged with protecting Aaron Rodgers acted like a kitchen colander in allowing another sack and Barclay was called for a false start.
From then on, however, the offensive line had one its best performances in a long, long time.
Rodgers faced pressure on just one more snap — when a safety came untouched off the edge on the opening possession of the third quarter.
"Yeah, we had four sacks, but really two of them were because of missed assignments," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said on Monday. "We had two early against good rushers. If four looks like a big number, it is a big number. It reflects negatively on the line when it shouldn't because half of them wasn't because of them. You have to think when you run a play everybody is going to do what they're supposed to do."
The short passing game helped provide some security, as did a running game that devastated the Redskins. Washington ranked fifth in the league in run defense last season but was helpless in stopping James Starks, who came off the bench to record for the Packers' first 100-yard game since Oct. 10, 2010. Green Bay continually gashed the Redskins with outside zones. The Packers averaged 7.6 yards per carry on runs to the left, including Starks' 32-yard touchdown that was fueled by blocks from left guard Josh Sitton, left tackle David Bakhtiari and tight end Andrew Quarless, who had lined up at fullback.
"We talked about all week just running and staying moving as a line," Sitton said. "Even if you get outleveraged, just keep running, keep moving. That's something we talk about all the time. Even if you don't have a perfect block, if you keep running and keep moving, good things will happen."
With Starks, Rodgers and the receivers on a roll, the Packers rolled up the second-most yards in franchise history.
"When we run the ball and we're that effective, it really opens up the whole playbook for us," guard T.J. Lang said after the game. "It gives you a lot of big-play opportunities down the field, and Aaron's a guy who's going to take advantage of those matchups. We had a very effective run game and it opened up a lot of things in the secondary."
Rodgers was hit early but not late. Matthew Stockman/Getty
It was a tale of two halves for the defense.
In the first half, Washington finished with zero points, zero third-down conversions and just five first downs. Throw in the first two possessions of the third quarter, and Washington still had zero points, zero third-down conversions and six first downs.
The next 16 minutes did nothing to change the outcome but it did change how the defense is viewed from a statistical standpoint. Washington's next three possessions went eight plays for 83 yards and a touchdown, 12 plays for 80 yards and a touchdown and six plays for 45 yards and another touchdown.
So, Washington finished with 20 points and 422 yards — including 314 through the air.
"It's just unnecessary production when you look at the tape," coach Mike McCarthy said. "To play at the level we performed at for a large part of the game and then to give that up, it's something that probably looks worse on the stat sheet than the reality of the football game. You have to look at that. It's still tape and you've got to compete and that's why you play four quarters, and that's why you finish. That's something that we can learn from, that victory. That was a sound victory for our football team but there's definitely things that we need to take away from that game, and that's what I'm excited about it. I think our football team has a lot of growth."
The third-down defense evaporated after the dominant start. Washington's touchdowns came on third-and-goal from the 6, fourth-and-goal from the 3 and third-and-6 from the 9. On Washington's second touchdown drive, it converted a third-and-11 to keep the possession alive.
"You've got to keep your foot on the gas and not let up and relax because, in this league, these games change around so quickly, as you saw," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "I felt really good about the way we were playing. We went into the locker room, they'd only run 24 plays. I thought that we had a good combination of pressure and coverage going but I certainly didn't like some of the plays they made in those last three series."
Interestingly, the Packers played mostly vanilla against 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in Week 1. Of his 45 dropbacks, the Packers blitzed 15 times — 33.3 percent, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Against Washington's Robert Griffin III, the Packers blitzed on 23 of 44 dropbacks — 52.3 percent.
"I think we played more like ourselves," Capers said. "When we pressured (Kaepernick) in the playoffs, it didn't pay dividends because the quarterback came out for the big runs. We just felt like we needed to get back to being aggressive and we liked the way it worked. We pressured a lot on third down, and third down was the best thing that we did. I always say when you're playing those offenses, you can't give them a chance to convert those third downs and line up and have another series. It was important in the game."
Between the modified kickoff rules, which make returns few and far between, and the early stage of the season, the numbers tend to get skewed.
Still, only two teams are averaging less per kickoff return than Green Bay's 12.5-yard average. If you take out Randall Cobb's 10-yard runback, when the Packers were expecting an onside kick, the average climbs to 13.5. Only three teams average less than that.
"We've had three plays," special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. "Two of them, the ball was kicked away from where we had the play called. One of them, we missed a block on. The production is unacceptable. We need to have a good week this week and we'll need to have some productive returns."
Slocum said Jeremy Ross will remain the primary kickoff returner. Again, the sheer lack of returns make this an apples-to-avocados comparison. but Ross' 13.5-yard average pales in comparison to Cobb's 25.4 in 2012 and 27.7 in 2011.
In theory, the unit will get better as the season progresses. On the opening return on Sunday, the Packers had a mix-and-match of veterans Jamari Lattimore, Robert Francois, Ryan Taylor and John Kuhn and rookies Micah Hyde, Chris Banjo and Andy Mulumba. Second-year players Jarrett Boykin and Greg Van Roten don't have a wealth of special-teams experience, either.
"With more play time, more experience, you'd like to think that you'd have less poor impact plays," Slocum said. "I think it's a result of little continuity with the units working together. But I don't think that's an excuse. We've always had to play with a young guy here or there. They have to get the job done."
— Of Rodgers' 42 passing attempts, 27 of them were thrown less than 10 yards down the field, with nine behind the line of scrimmage and 18 from 0 to 9 yards. Through two games, Rodgers ranks 21st in average pass length (7.48 yards) but second in yards per attempt (10.29 yards). That's because Rodgers is getting an average of 7.87 yards after the catch, the third-highest figure in the league.
— More firsts from Rodgers, via the Elias Sports Bureau: Rodgers threw for the fifth-most yards without an interception in regular-season history. Plus, Rodgers has thrown at least three touchdown passes in five consecutive regular-season games. He also did that in 2011. Only Peyton Manning (2004 and 2012) and Tom Brady (a 10-game streak in 2007) have had a pair of five-game streaks in NFL history.
"It was OK," Clements joked. "No, it was outstanding. He's fun to watch in general, and when he has a day like he had yesterday, it's a lot of fun. He's very accurate, he changes a lot of plays to get us in good plays; he does that in the run game as well. He was sharp mentally and physically and was able to get us going and keep us going."
— Up next is Cincinnati, which rebounded from last week's loss at Chicago by beating rival Pittsburgh on Monday night. "There's obviously things you can see on TV now that you probably didn't see three or four years ago," McCarthy said. "The audio is enhanced. There's things that you definitely can pick up off TV. I never used to watch the TV copy just until the last year or so. There's things that we'll cut up from the TV copy and make it part of our coaches copy video tape. I'll be watching closely."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.