Cancel the "Whatever Happened to…" restrospective on Packer receiver Donald Driver. The fifth-year Packer has been the subject of recent speculation as his numbers have taken a tumble in 2003.
The San Diego defense is now well-aware of Driver's whereabouts and his role as one of Brett Favre's go-to guys.
Driver was a key element in the Packers' 38-21 win over the Chargers Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium, with 112 yards on 8 catches and his second touchdown of the season.
"It wasn't anything other than opportunities that came up in the game," coach Mike Sherman said. "He got open and Brett got the ball to him. Donald had opportunities and he made the most of it."
Driver had 92 yards by halftime. Even without another catch, he had already matched his season-high with 7 catches, and his yardage production topped his last four games combined and marked his best game since his 121-yard effort in a loss last year to Minnesota on Nov. 17, 2002. That was also his last 100-yard game – one of three last season.
The lone catch Driver made in the second half was a beauty. He caught a 20-yard pass from Favre with pin-point precision, maintaining about an inch of green between his second foot and the sideline. The catch set up a 34-yard run by Ahman Green on the next play, and then a spectacular Favre-to-Robert Ferguson touchdown which gave the Packers a comfortable 17-point margin with 3:58 remaining in the game.
Driver's TD capitalized on a Darren Sharper interception late in the first half. After keeping the drive alive with an 18-yard catch on third down, Driver found the end zone for the first time since Green Bay's win over Seattle in Week 5. On first and goal from the SD 7-yard line, Driver made a diving catch on the left side of the end zone, fooling the San Diego secondary as well as the network television crew which had focused on Ferguson on the other side. Replays showcased Driver beating Jerry Wilson, then executing a rolling snare of the first of Favre's four TD passes on the afternoon. Driver's touchdown extended Favre's streak of consecutive games throwing a TD pass to 23 which is new Packer record surpassing Cecil Isbell.
"I don't know if anybody works harder or studies harder than Donald Driver," coach Mike Sherman said.
The smile on Driver's face after the touchdown was the same trademark grin he flashes after every win this season, even though his numbers are way, way down. Last season's campaign saw him catch 70 passes for 1,064 yards. That was enough to earn him a trip to the Pro Bowl and a $11.5 million contract extension.
That means Driver isn't going to sneak up on anyone. He consistently draws double-teams and the attention of opponents' fiercest defensive backs. That has opened the door for fellow receivers Ferguson and Javon Walker, as well as Ahman Green to get more than their share of passes from Favre.
The scenario is a great one – for a true team player. From all indications, that's exactly what Driver is.
"They are stopping me, but my two guys are killing them," Driver said, referring to Ferguson and Walker. "That's what I love about it."