No issue here: QB Rodgers sharp in opener

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Associated Press
August 17, 2010
— The Green Bay Packers’ preseason-opening loss to the Cleveland Browns might have given their fans cause for concern in several areas, but the most important player seemed to be in midseason form: quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

While the Packers’ first-string defense struggled against the Browns’ offense on Saturday night, sure-handed running back Ryan Grant lost a fumble the first time he touched the ball and the special teams looked just as shaky as they were last year, Rodgers picked up right where he left off.

Rodgers completed his first nine passes and finished 12 for 13 for 159 yards with no interceptions, no sacks and a touchdown for a passer rating of 143.3 before giving way to backup Matt Flynn after roughly 20 snaps.

It was exactly the kind of performance the Packers have come to expect from Rodgers, who earned his first Pro Bowl berth with an impressive 2009 season.

“I felt pretty good,” Rodgers said. “We’ve got a lot of weapons, though. When you can throw the ball to the kind of guys we can throw it to, it’s going to be just on me to be accurate. I think Mike (McCarthy) allowed me to get in a good flow. We’re always talking about rhythm on offense, and the play-calling I really felt like got us into a good rhythm.”

Rodgers looked particularly sharp against the blitz.

“I think the key for us as always in the pass game is protection,” Rodgers said. “And the guys did a great job I think sorting out the different looks we got and talking through their blitzes, and I was able to change a few plays to get us into a better situation and Greg (Jennings) made a nice catch on that one down the sideline for a touchdown.”

Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan called more blitzes than an offense normally sees in a preseason game—much less an exhibition opener.

By unofficial count, the Browns blitzed on 10 of Rodgers’ 13 pass attempts, and after absorbing a league-high 50 sacks, Rodgers wasn’t sacked once and lit up the Browns’ defense.

“To play against our defense every day in practice and then to come out here and see the amount of pressure we saw, those are good things to help you prepare because I can promise Philadelphia is going to pressure us in Week 1,” McCarthy said. “So there is going to be a lot of good film to learn from.”

One of those blitzes was on Rodgers’ 34-yard completion to Jennings—a play that offensive coordinator Joe Philbin described as the Browns having had a miscommunication. If that was the case, Rodgers took full advantage.

“It just tells me I’m seeing the game the way I want to see it,” Rodgers said of changing the protection on the plays when he saw the blitz was coming. “To be able to check off there, we did a nice job. We picked up the pressure—they were bringing a corner blitz—we checked the protection, Brandon (Jackson) had a nice pickup and Greg ran a nice route to get open and had a nice catch (because) it was an underthrown ball.”

In contrast, the Packers defense intentionally kept things simple with the first group. And while defensive coordinator Dom Capers made it clear that the approach didn’t make it OK that the No. 1 defense let the Browns march 80 yards in 11 plays on the opening possession, he didn’t sound overly concerned about the performance, either.

“If you start having to rely on the blitz too much in preseason, you’ve got problems,” Capers said. “We wanted to play a lot of our base defense and see how we did technique-wise. You’ve got to be able to line up and play your base. Every good defense I’ve been around, your base defense feels sound, you know what it’s for, you know you can’t do certain things on it. That’s what we’ll take a look at. I think we had some good plays but we certainly weren’t as consistent as we’d like to be.”

Rodgers said he doesn’t think the Packers will be forced to outscore opponents in shootouts because the defense will struggle.

“I’m not worried about (the defense). Not at all,” Rodgers said. “They didn’t show anything. They played (a basic defense) all night. We’re going to play a little different, I think, once the regular season starts.”

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