Team football was on display during the Packers' first-quarter touchdown drive in Monday night's 20-17 loss against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lambeau Field.
First was Brandon Jackson's powerful 22-yard run, in which the second-string halfback with the calves the diameter of a run-of-the-mill century-old California redwood, powered his way out of tackle attempts by hotshot first-round pick Keith Rivers and 272-pound Robert Geathers.
Next was a reception by Donald Driver that was a far-from-ordinary 11-yard gain. After running through a tackle attempt by linebacker Daryl Blackstock, Driver finished the run by autographing safety Marvin White's sternum with his forearm.
And finally, there was Rodgers' first Lambeau Field touchdown throw as Green Bay's starting quarterback, a 30-yarder to James Jones in which a pair of Bengals defenders bounced off of Jones like they were racquetballs. They knocked Jones' helmet to the ground, but that only allowed the second-year pro to show off his pearly whites as he trotted the final 15 yards into the end zone.
Oh, and what was masquerading as the Packers' starting defense — four starters, including the starting cornerbacks and defensive tackles, were on the sideline — yielded 13 yards on nine plays in three three-and-out possessions in the first quarter.
All in all, no Super Bowls were won, but the 69,675 in attendance and the millions of fans curious to get the first glimpse of the post-Favre Packers on ESPN learned life — and football — will continue without No. 4.
It's easy to forget Favre wasn't playing 1-on-11 the last 16 years. He didn't always have the finest of supporting casts on offense, but he wasn't playing with me, you and a couple of the regulars from Joe's Pub down the street, either. Last year's crew of receivers was the NFL's best, and that group will be Rodgers' best friend this season.
Judging by the Packers' first-half touchdown possession, that supporting cast is ready to show the rest of the NFL they weren't riding Favre's coat tails last season. The ageless Driver isn't about to disappear, even though good-buddy Favre is in the Big Apple. Greg Jennings, out Monday with a sore knee, is coming off of a breakout season. Jones is a year more seasoned. Ruvell Martin has the size and chemistry with Rodgers to become a big weapon. Donald Lee is an underrated tight end, and rookie receiver Jordy Nelson has immense talent.
Nick Barnett got 60 minutes worth of work in only a quarter, and it's a good sign reserve defensive backs Tramon Williams and Jarrett Bush weren't picked apart by the precise Palmer. Perhaps more important, fill-in starters Michael Montgomery and Colin Cole weren't pushed around by the Bengals' massive starting offensive line.
Was it a perfect effort? Of course not. Rodgers was sacked twice, once because he held the ball too long. Driver's dropped pass ruined a potential big play, and Chris Francies' bobble cost Rodgers an interception. The special teams contributed three penalties, and Jon Ryan had two horrendous punts and two touchbacks. The defense was pushed around in the second quarter.
Still, there was more than enough for the most embittered Favre supporter to think these 2008 Packers will be worth watching. No. 4 is gone, but there will be 53 players hungry to introduce themselves to the nation once the regular season kicks off.
Bill Huber writes for Packer Report. E-mail him at email@example.com