Driver shines brightest of them all

The Packers, led by underrated Donald Driver, a veteran quarterback, a rookie coach and an aggressive pass rush join forces to pillage the Vikings,'s Steve Lawrence writes.

That Donald Driver is pretty good. That old guy, Brett Favre, ain't too bad, either. And that defense, they might forget to cover people now and again, but, boy, they sure can put a hurting on the quarterback. And Mike McCarthy, he might not be Vince Lombardi, but he sure isn't Brad Childress, either.

The Packers won their fourth game of the season on Sunday, and for the first time, it came against a team with more than one win. To be sure, the Packers are a flawed team that will be lucky to win more than six games, but if you don't think McCarthy and Ted Thompson have the team pointed in the right direction, then you clearly have spent your Sunday afternoons snoozing on the couch rather than watching your beloved green and gold.

First of all, there's the incomparable Driver, who simply is one of the best wide receivers in football, even if nobody outside of Green Bay or Minnesota has noticed. He's not that big and he's not that fast, but he plays big and he plays fast, especially against the hated Vikings, which should further endear him to Packers fans.

In last season's loss at the Dome, he caught eight passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. In the 2004 win at the Dome, he caught 11 balls for 162 yards and the tying touchdown with less than 4 minutes left.

He pillaged the Vikes again on Sunday. When everyone in the joint knew he was getting the ball, he converted three third downs to set up the Packers' first score of the game. Then there was that 82-yard touchdown pass near the end of the first half. It helped Driver post a career-high 192 receiving yards, gave the Packers the lead for good and swung the momentum after they had given away an early 10-0 lead.

Maybe if he tucked a Sharpie in his sock or proposed to a cheerleader after he scored, he'd get the acclaim he deserves. That's OK, though, because watching Favre hoist Driver atop his shoulders is entertainment enough.

Then there's Favre, who volunteered to tear down the Metrodome, then practically burned the joint to the ground with a spotless performance that shows the old codger shouldn't be scheduling any retirement press conferences just yet. Right when you think he's no longer able to win a game without the aid of a superior running game, he goes out and does just that against a pretty good defense, going 24 of 42 after hitting one of his first six passes. He threw for 347 yards, two touchdowns and, most importantly, no interceptions. All with footwork in the pocket that would make Fred Astaire jealous.

And how about McCarthy, who was called a bum for his foolish first-and-goal play call last week but clearly got the better of fellow rookie coach Childress?

I present to you, Exhibit A: The Packers' running game wasn't working, but McCarthy kept firing away, just enough to keep the Vikings on their toes. Childress, meantime, was busy requesting replay challenges on plays that even the most fervent of Vikings fans would say were correctly called in the Packers' favor.

Exhibit B: Pinned at the 3-yard line late in the first half, practically every coach in the league would play for halftime. Not McCarthy, who went aggressive instead — this should no longer be a surprise — and it paid off with a three-play, 97-yard touchdown drive. After the ensuing kickoff, Childress and the Vikes played for halftime.

Exhibit C: There's a big reason why Favre practically never gets hit, and that's because McCarthy puts a premium on protecting the second-oldest quarterback in the league. Childress, meantime, allowed the oldest quarterback in the league to get knocked around.

And finally, there's that defense. Remember the Jets' "New York Sack Exchange," back in the day of Mark Gastineau and Joe Klecko et al? These Packers need a catchy nickname too. Maybe they should change the term quarterback sack to Quarter-Pack Sack.

The Packers entered the game ranked third in the league in QB takedowns, an impressive figure considering the league's leaders, Seattle and San Diego, had the benefit of padding their stats against an Oakland offensive line that acts as if it learned pass-blocking skills during an abbreviated stay at the New York Pantomime School.

The Vikings were able to prevent Aaron Kampman from knocking the stone-footed Brad Johnson silly, but the Packers' linebackers combined for three sacks and prevented Johnson from ever getting too comfy in the pocket.

So there you have it. The Packers beat the hated Vikings, and for one Sunday at least, all is right with the world.

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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