So far, so very good for Rodgers

After two strong performances, the first-year starting quarterback will face bigger challenges in a prime-time showdown against Dallas on Sunday night.

In two games encompassing 60 pass attempts, Aaron Rodgers has shown his considerable inexperience by forcing exactly one pass into coverage.

Rodgers has exceeded the expectations of practically everyone not affiliated with the Packers. With Week 2 complete, he ranks fifth in the NFL with a passer rating of 117.8. His completion percentage of 70.0 ranks eighth. His touchdown-to-interception ratio of four to zero is matched only by the Eagles' Donovan McNabb and the Cardinals' Kurt Warner.

Rodgers was superb again on Sunday at Detroit, completing 24-of-38 passes for 328 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 48-25 victory. The only poor decision he made was when he went deep down the middle for tight end Donald Lee, who was double covered with another defender closing. Other than that, it was another sublime performance physically and mentally for the 2005 first-round pick, though it wasn't flawless.

"It's never as good as you thought it was, and it's never as bad as it feels sometimes on the field," Rodgers said on Monday.

Rodgers said he probably should have thrown a couple more touchdowns, including one near the goal line when he said he called the wrong route adjustment when firing incomplete to Donald Driver and the Packers ahead 21-9.

Coach Mike McCarthy, as he did after the game on Sunday, was critical of another of Rodgers' decisions on Monday: the quarterback's third-down scramble in which he got tackled rather than stepping out of bounds.

"That would be a minus decision, very good. Not a very smart decision," McCarthy said.

Still, it's almost nitpicking to point out a couple of bad decisions out of the 118 snaps Rodgers has taken this season. Not even the computer-like mind of Peyton Manning is right all the time. Rodgers has been anything but a caretaker quarterback, especially against the Lions, when his mobility and marksmanship gave the Packers a huge early lead. In two games, he's dropped back to pass 61 times compared to 57 runs, and many of his passes have been down the field. Plus, he's under no limitations for audibles, so essentially, nothing has changed at quarterback besides the player.

"He's making good decisions and he's being accurate with the football," McCarthy said. "He hasn't taken many chances, and that's all part of good quarterback play. He needs to continue to do that."

In public and probably in meetings with their quarterback, the coaches have delivered understated praise. But behind closed doors – and especially up in general manager Ted Thompson's office – they must be flashing wide grins at the way Rodgers has played these first two weeks. As Rodgers said last week, it's one thing to act with class during a controversy and invite players to your house during the offseason to bond, but it's another thing altogether to deliver on game day.

The pressure of facing a bitter rival in Week 1 and a tough road test in Week 2 will be ratcheted up a couple of notches this week, when Dallas – the preseason favorite to emerge from the NFC – rolls into town. The Cowboys, like the Packers, are 2-0, and while it's far too early to be thinking about such things as home-field advantage, Sunday's game could factor into it if the Packers and Rodgers are indeed for real.

If any quarterback in the NFC is playing better than Rodgers, it's Dallas' Tony Romo, who is a big-play machine with Terrell Owens and Jason Witten at his disposal. In last year's game at Dallas, Brett Favre fell into the trap of trying for the big play on practically every snap. When Rodgers entered in relief of Favre, he did a much better job running the offense.

He'll face a tougher challenge this time, though. Against Minnesota, Rodgers had the benefit of starting with no real game tape for the Vikings to scout. Against Detroit, he had the benefit of facing a horrendous defense.

He won't have either of those luxuries in Sunday night's prime-time matchup. While McNabb shredded the Dallas defense on Monday night, the Cowboys feature a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball. Neither the Vikings nor Lions have a pass rusher – much less two – in the class of Dallas' DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis, who combined for 27 sacks last season. Plus, Dallas features a 3-4 defensive scheme the Packers don't work against often, and the Cowboys have Pro Bowl talent at corner with Terence Newman and Adam Jones.

But Rodgers' strong play has inspired confidence. He's come through the first two weeks, so there's no reason to expect he'll fall on his face against Dallas.

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


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