Rodgers and Co. Start With a Bang

There were plenty of bright spots on offense against the Browns, from the No. 1 unit's two touchdowns in two possessions to the production from the running backs.

It took, oh, about 3 minutes for Aaron Rodgers to find his form.

After throwing high to Donald Lee on first down and leading Greg Jennings too far on second down, Rodgers was about to take off through a huge void in the Browns' defensive line. When Donald Driver broke open, Rodgers unleashed one of his vintage long balls. Some 53 yards and one Lambeau Leap later, the Packers were on top 7-0.

"Well, he was looking at my eyes, I think," Rodgers said. "My eyes were to the left trying to hold that safety down the sideline. Just knowing if I did that long enough, I could get the ball down the middle of the field to him. And just knowing I have to take a little bit off of it because it was going to be a hard adjustment for him. It was just Donald being Donald and making a great play."

Rodgers and the No. 1 offense played two possessions and scored two touchdowns, with the second-year starter going 5-of-10 for 102 yards, one touchdown and a sterling passer rating of 119.6. He wasn't touched by the Browns' defense.

While the Packers managed only three points the rest of the game, there are plenty of good things to draw out of Saturday night's 17-0 victory.

Perhaps chief among them was that first-drive touchdown. The Packers accomplished that feat just once all of last season.

"It's a point of emphasis," Rodgers said. "It's preseason, but it's important to start early with success like that."

Another point of emphasis is getting the running game rolling. A chronic problem during the last two seasons has been a running game that seemingly was stuck in mud for the first half of the season. On Saturday, the Packers rushed for 230 yards, and if you subtract the two game-ending kneel-downs, they averaged 5.2 yards per carry. It didn't matter who got the ball, with Tyrell Sutton (91 yards, 5.7-yard average), Kregg Lumpkin (48 yards, 6.0 average), Brandon Jackson (41 yards, 5.1 average) and Ryan Grant (28 yards, 4.7 average) all popping a run of at least 14 yards.

"It's still just the first preseason game, so I don't want to get ahead of ourselves," said Jason Spitz, who started at right guard and also played center. "But it's a good start."

Coach Mike McCarthy also did his best to temper the enthusiasm.

"Sometimes you feel better after a win like this because of the statistics," McCarthy said. "But the facts are on the film. We'll evaluate that in the morning and make sure we go over it with our players."

Sutton, the undrafted rookie from Northwestern, did what he has done throughout training camp: produce. Whether it was bursting to the outside or using spin moves to dodge defenders at the point of attack or powering for first downs on third-and-2 and fourth-and-1, the 5-foot-8 Sutton showed he belongs.

"The way we've been practicing, our tempo, it really showed out there," Sutton said. "Give credit to our offensive linemen. If it wasn't for those guys, we wouldn't have gotten anywhere. Over 200 yards rushing, you can't thank anybody but them."

Still, the coaches will find plenty of things to keep the players on their toes. Managing only 17 points despite posting 392 yards is a disappointment. The offense went 0-for-3 on screen passes. Third-string quarterback Brian Brohm, a second-round pick last year, completed only 3-of-10 passes for 18 yards and two interceptions. His first pass of the preseason, just like last year, was intercepted. Brohm led the offense to three points all of last preseason and matched that figure on Saturday on a drive that started with nine consecutive runs and concluded with a sack and an incompletion.

Then there are the penalties. After a spotless first quarter, the Packers were flagged nine times. Almost all of those were bad penalties such as false starts, illegal man downfield or illegal alignment.

"Pre-snap penalties, there's no excuse for," McCarthy said. "We need to eliminate that from our play. It's the first preseason game. It's a starting point and we've got some things to clean up, and penalties are one of them."

Oh, and one more negative. The offense was so efficient that the Packers only punted once, which did nothing to resolve the team's punting issues.

"That's a good problem, I think. I'm not going to try to punt to evaluate the position," McCarthy joked. "Maybe I should let someone else call the plays."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.


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