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Packers' edge: Rodgers, offense at home in a dome

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CHRIS JENKINS
February 5, 2011
— Here's the real inside story of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense: While everybody thinks of them as a cold-weather team from a land of ice fishing and snowmobiles, they're really more at home in a dome.

The retractable roof on Cowboys Stadium will be closed for Sunday's Super Bowl, something Rodgers openly wished for when the Packers landed in North Texas this week. Rodgers knows that when the Packers are out of the elements, it's the opposing defense that starts to get the chills.


"I'm hoping they put the top on," Rodgers said.


The way Green Bay's precise, pass-first offense can move the ball and pile up points when players don't have to worry about wind or sloppy footing, even the Steelers' stingy defense will be scrambling to keep up in Sunday's Super Bowl. Pittsburgh might have big hitters, but it's hard to hit what you can't catch.


Just ask the Atlanta Falcons, who had been nearly unbeatable in the Georgia Dome until they gave up 442 yards in a 48-21 playoff loss to the Packers last month.


"You look at our group of receivers, we do not like playing in cold weather," Donald Driver said. "We do (it), we don't have a choice. If you had to ask a guy, what would he choose, to play inside or outside? I think most guys would play indoors."


Since Mike McCarthy took over as coach in 2006, Green Bay is 11-6 in dome games, including the playoffs. Green Bay has averaged 381.6 yards and 30.6 points in those games.


Rodgers has played 12 dome games including the playoffs, completing 68.6 percent of his passes with 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions.


Linebacker James Harrison said the Steelers are wary of Rodgers under any conditions.


"He's the hottest thing going right now," Harrison said. "His offensive line is doing a great job of protecting him. They're starting to run the ball pretty well. Even when you do get an opportunity to get to him, he evades pressure very well. We're going to have to play an A-plus game to even be competitive with them."


Especially indoors.


Of Rodgers' top five single-game yardage totals, three have come in domes, including 423 yards in the Packers' playoff loss at Arizona last season and 366 yards in the win at Atlanta last month a game in which the Packers didn't punt even once.


"Obviously, everyone saw the game down in Atlanta and saw how we could perform," wide receiver Jordy Nelson said. "We just feel comfortable. I think Aaron feels real comfortable in domes. It's fun. There's no problem with the weather and the environment. It's just a fast track and we enjoy playing on it."


Although rookie James Starks has helped the Packers run the ball better in recent weeks, Green Bay still is known for its passing game. They use up to five wide receivers at a time, trying to spread out and confuse the defense.


"They are a stingy, stingy, stingy run defense," Jennings said of the Steelers. "I'm not going to be naive and say we are going to put up astronomical numbers in the running game. Would we love to do that? Of course, but you have to be understanding and mindful of the opponent you're going up against. You have to offset what they try to do and expose them in places they are vulnerable."


Jennings and his fellow receivers make their living by breaking free for big gains after the catch, and the perfect conditions of an indoor game make them even more dangerous.


"The footing is something that we look at because we are a good team when it comes to getting the ball in our hands and making plays after we make the catch," Jennings said. "We thrive on 'YAC' yards, as we call them, (yards) after the catch ability. When we're able to get on a field that has this type of surface, we are pretty much a good team."


So while the Ice Bowl remains a celebrated part of team lore, such things sometimes are better experienced on TV than in person as many of today's players found out in a frigid NFC championship game loss to the New York Giants at Lambeau Field in January 2008.


"I've watched the Ice Bowl and said, 'Wow,'" Driver said. "You wish you could have played in that. But I played in a game close to the Ice Bowl, and that was terrible!"



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