All well in Packer ‘neighborhood’ with Rodgers at helm vs. Vikings
Posted: Tuesday, September 9, 2008 3:42 pm
By: By CHRIS JENKINS, AP Sports Writer
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Dancing to avoid pass-rush pressure on third-and-goal, the leader of the Pack zinged an off-balance rocket through airtight coverage to his fullback for a touchdown.
It was the kind of throw No. 4 had made time after time.
Turns out No. 12 can do it, too.
And Aaron Rodgers added a few things Brett Favre rarely did in his final few years in Green Bay on Monday night, scrambling for first downs and plunging into the end zone on a quarterback sneak to clinch a 24-19 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
Given all the drama of Favor’s unretirement saga at the beginning of training camp, Rodgers was relieved to get his first regular-season start out of the way. Still, he seemed to be enjoying life as the starter.
“Tonight, knowing I was going to get the first snap was pretty special,” Rodgers said. “And running out of the tunnel to the electric atmosphere that we had, it was a pretty special night.”
And what about that “Lambeau Leap” he performed after scoring on the QB sneak in the fourth quarter?
“I’ve been dreaming about that for four years, to be honest,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers — who spent most of the past three seasons backing up Favre after the Packers drafted him in the first round in 2005 — passed his first real test Monday, going 18-of-22 for 178 yards with passing and rushing touchdowns.
He got help from punt returner Will Blackmon, safety Atari Bigby and running back Ryan Grant to claim the Packers’ fifth straight victory in a bitter division rivalry — one that became even more intense when the Packers accused the Vikings of tampering with the then-retired Favre in the offseason, a charge that was dismissed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell but hardly forgotten by either side.
Rodgers didn’t put on the feast-or-famine show that became Favre’s trademark.
But he was effective. And, at times, pretty darn entertaining.
Most important, he walked off the field a winner for a team and fan base that had been cheering the same starting quarterback since 1992 and watched in disbelief as an ugly divorce between Favre and the Packers played out in camp.
Now Favre is playing for the New York Jets and Rodgers seems to have won over the fans — at least for this week. The Vikings’ own quarterback questions, however, remain unanswered.
Tarvaris Jackson, who hadn’t played since after injuring his knee in an Aug. 16 preseason game against Baltimore, was 2-of-7 for 16 yards in a rough first half.
He seemed to find his rhythm in the second half, directing two fourth-quarter scoring drives. But he was intercepted by Bigby to end the Vikings’ hopes of a comeback.
“It was just too wide open for me not to complete that pass, point-blank,” said Jackson, who finished 16-of-35 for 178 yards with a touchdown and an interception. “I just knew we were going to win.”
And it wasn’t much of a debut for new Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who didn’t sack Rodgers or even register a tackle.
“This is one of like the least productive games I’ve ever had in my life,” Allen said. “And I’m not going to let that happen again.”
Now, the Vikings will have to wait until Nov. 9 for another shot at beating the Packers this season.
“I’m sick of losing to them,” said running back Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown. “Any team, but especially Green Bay.”
Allen thought the Vikings missed an opportunity after getting to Rodgers and the Packers early.
“We were shutting him down,” Allen said. “And then they hit a couple of big plays and they got a momentum swing.”
Rodgers shrugged off a shaky, penalty-filled start to heave a 56-yard pass to Greg Jennings on the first play of the Packers’ third possession to set up first-and-goal.
The Packers stalled on the goal line, but Rodgers found fullback Korey Hall for a touchdown on third-and-goal to give the Packers a 7-3 lead in the second quarter.
Later, with the Packers leading 10-6 in the third quarter, Blackmon’s 76-yard punt return extended the Packers’ lead to 11 going into the fourth quarter.
But Jackson answered with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice on fourth-and-1. A two-point conversion attempt failed, and the Packers led by five.
Grant then broke free for a 57-yard run and came up just shy of the goal line. Rodgers was stuffed on his first attempt at a quarterback sneak but plunged into the end zone on the second try.
Jackson then led the Vikings on an 11-play drive that ended with a three-yard touchdown run by Peterson, cutting the Packers’ lead to 24-19 with 2:39 remaining.
An onside kick attempt bounced out of bounds but the Vikings forced the Packers to punt, giving the ball back to Minnesota at its own 31 with 1:51 remaining. With the Vikings driving near midfield with under a minute remaining, Bigby stepped in front of Jackson’s pass for an interception to put the game away.
Jackson blamed himself, but Vikings coach Brad Childress said there was plenty of blame to go around.
“We put ourselves in a position to come back up the field and win, and unfortunately the only turnover of the game ended it,” Childress said. “I think it’s all about for us developing consistency. We really lost this thing as a team.”
Notes: Rice’s touchdown catch with 14:12 left in the fourth quarter ended a long offensive scoring drought for the Vikings at Lambeau Field. Their last offensive touchdown came with 46 seconds remaining in the third quarter of the teams’ 2005 meeting — a span of more than 12 quarters. … Green Bay’s five-game winning streak is the longest in the Packers-Vikings series since the Packers won five straight in the 1983-85 seasons. … Minnesota’s Cedric Griffin blocked a 33-yard field goal attempt to end the first half.