In a little more than one half in the Green Bay Packers' official dress rehearsal for the regular season, Rodgers completed 18 of 22 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. That's a whopping 82 percent completion percentage. He was very Favre-like with "keep" passes and allowing his receivers to accumulate hostile yardage after making a catch. In fact, the first play of the game, a play that Packers fans have seen Favre run numerous times in his Packers career, was a keep pass in which Rodgers rolled to his right and flung a short pass to tight end Tory Humphrey, who rambled for a 35-yard pickup. On the next play, Rodgers hit wide receiver Greg Jennings with a 10-yard pass and Jennings turned it into a 17-yard gain. The Packers were rolling, much like they did last year when they led the league in yards after the catch. The Packers rolled 80 yards for a touchdown, capped by Rodgers nine-yard pass over the middle to Donald Driver for a touchdown.
In Rodgers' disappointing performance against San Francisco six days earlier, he held the ball too long and ignored his checkdown receivers. He was sacked four times in his forgettable homecoming and the first-team offense didn't get into the end zone. Against the Broncos, Rodgers spread the ball around to running backs, tight ends and receivers with great success.
"I really wanted to focus on making good decisions," Rodgers said. "Last week, I didn't take the checkdowns as much as I should have. I wanted to take what the defense gave me. I know it's cliché, but it's the truth. We had on more than one occasion a checkdown go for big yardage. ... I just wanted to get the ball out of my hand quickly and throw for a high percentage today."
Rodgers easily had his best performance of the preseason against the Broncos. He was composed, appeared very confident and seemed to forget all about the disastrous outing against the 49ers when the first-team offense was held to 48 yards. If you felt a little uneasy about Rodgers earlier this week, the quarterback proved Friday night that he is fully capable of leading the offense. Rodgers is ready and it appears that most of the offense is ready to go as well.
"He made some good decisions," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "We caught the ball. The offensive unit played much better."
Rodgers completed 16 of 19 passes for 178 yards in the first half. Of the three incompletions, one pass was dropped, one was thrown away out of bounds and one was thrown deep out of the end zone on the final play from scrimmage in the first half.
When Rodgers wasn't passing the ball, he was sneaking it for first downs, which gives the offense another dimension it didn't have in recent years with the aging Favre. He converted a third-and-one in the first series of the game, a fourth-and-one in the second half and scored third-and-goal in the second half. But like Favre, Rodgers has seemed to understand that it is better to complete the shorter passes more frequently and let the receivers chip in by churning for more yardage than trying to throw medium to deep passes through small windows.
Preseason or not, Rodgers took a very big, critical step in his role as the new leader of the Pack. He made an adjustment with the quick releases and it paid off. He undoubtedly will have to make more adjustments as the season progresses, but he proved that he is flexible and willing to do what it takes to succeed.
Against the Broncos, it was getting the ball out to receivers quicker and he came through.
"Last week, it was as much on myself as it was the communication up front," Rodgers said. "I've got to get the ball out of my hand quickly. I think that's one thing that Brett (Favre) has done incredibly well throughout his career. Last year, we led the league in least amount of sacks allowed and that's a good offensive line paired with a quarterback that gets the ball out of his hands quickly. My focus this week was finding those checkdowns when nothing was open downfield. Tonight, I feel the guys got out for the checkdowns and I was able to get them the ball and make a play."
Let the good times roll.
Todd Korth writes for PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.