Next challenge awaits Rodgers

The first-year starting quarterback, who expects to face a fired-up Detroit defense on Sunday, impressed Lions coach Rod Marinelli with his Week 1 performance against Minnesota.

Hank Williams talks about a "Monday night party" in his time-tested anthem to "Monday Night Football."

Because Aaron Rodgers' triumphant starting debut came on a Monday night, however, he didn't get much of a chance to celebrate his first NFL victory as a starter. Not with a short week looming for Sunday's game at Detroit.

"Really just that night, to be honest," the Packers' new starting quarterback said Friday when asked how long he savored the victory. "Woke up the next morning, came in and worked out, watched the Minnesota film, put it to bed, and started watching the Detroit film."

The next "first" in Rodgers' career comes Sunday at Ford Field, where Rodgers seeks his first road victory and tries to propel the Packers to 2-0 with a win over the Lions.

On paper, everything is set up for Rodgers to have a strong day. The Lions were ripped at Atlanta 34-21 last week. While the run defense was the problem, Detroit coach Rod Marinelli has replaced two starters in the secondary. Detroit, however, always is a tough place to play, as evidenced by Brett Favre's 7-9 record there, and Rodgers and the rest of the Packers expect to be walking into a hornets' nest.

"The biggest thing I think we face in this game is not even schematic," Rodgers said. "It's the pride that I feel like the Lions are going to bring to this game, because of the game they played last week. I'm sure they're disappointed with the way they played. We're expecting their best shot this week. We feel like they're going to play really well, so we're going to have to play at a high level."

Rodgers' efficient 18-for-22, no-turnover performance in a nationally televised showcase against Minnesota wasn't lost on Marinelli.

"The thing just keeps ticking up there," he said.

Marinelli wasn't surprised by Rodgers' performance, even though it was his first start since college.

"When you have instincts, you always have instincts and awareness," Marinelli said. "I think that starts to separate players. Some guys can go out and throw a ball through a wall and look pretty good at the Combine, but there's a certain thing you like about him — the instincts and the awareness. You can see on film the awareness that he has."

Some members of the Vikings' defense went so far as to say facing Rodgers was a bigger challenge than facing Favre because of Rodgers' athleticism. Rodgers and McCarthy said this week they prefer Rodgers to be a scrambling quarterback rather than a running quarterback.

"It's another dimension to our offense that can help us out," Rodgers said. "The line, I think, appreciates it. If things break down, I feel like I can make plays outside the pocket. Now, I am a pass-first when I get outside the pocket kind of guy. I'd like to throw it first. Running is just a second option. I think you're very dangerous when you get outside the pocket with your eyes still down the field because you have a run-pass option."

Amazingly, the Vikings were ill-prepared for Rodgers' movement, which he turned into big plays through the air and with his feet. The Lions no doubt will be better prepared for the rollouts, bootlegs and scrambles that Rodgers used so well in neutralizing the Vikings' pass rush. It's the combination of mobility, accuracy and intelligence that made Marinelli a believer.

"I think he's really good. I thought that last year after watching that Dallas game," Marinelli said. "He seems to have a great feel with the ball, great touch. The ball comes out quick. And then he's really got great legs. I mean, the guy can really run. He's got a feel for it. And he's strong, so he's a tough guy to rush. Escape-ability, that worries you. And obviously, you can see he's really smart. This guy's going to be a heck of a quarterback in this league for a long time."

Rodgers knows Monday's victory was just the first step in what he hopes will be a long, successful career here. While he seems oblivious to the pressure, he knows all too well the scrutiny he's under after the offseason fiasco surrounding Favre. The next step comes Sunday, in a dome against a hungry division rival.

"The offseason and the hangout time and the locker-room time, getting to show the guys your personality, only goes so far," Rodgers said. "They want to see a guy at the quarterback position that's playing consistently and making plays. I was able to do some of those things on Monday night and we got the win. That's the first step. Guys, especially the veteran guys, will get behind you if they see the consistency on Sundays and Mondays."

Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com


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