- Kevin Seifert, NFL Nation
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The worst opening sentences of any sports story I've ever read went this way:
Somebody call 911.
[Random player] is on fire.
Somebody call 911.
AARON RODGERS IS ON FIRE AND THERE ARE FLAMES COMING OUT OF HIS ARM AND OH MY GOD IT CAN'T BE STOPPED!
OK, that's out of my system now.
If anyone has any doubts about what Rodgers and the Packers could do this season, I hope you at least watched the first half of Thursday night's 59-24 romp over the Colts. Rodgers overcame some early inaccuracy to lead a surgical two-minute drill just before halftime, a 78-yard procession over 1 minute and 22 seconds that reinforced his near-elite status in this league.
I know it was only a preseason game, but if you were watching, you saw the Colts' first-team defense getting in his face and knocking him down multiple times. But Rodgers completed all seven of his passes on the drive, including three ropes to tight end Jermichael Finley that covered 40 yards and a 3-yard flip to receiver James Jones for a touchdown.
After missing on eight of his first 22 passes, Rodgers finished 21 of 29 for 195 yards. The effort actually lowered his preseason passer rating to a still-sick 142.3. In just over four quarters of play this preseason, Rodgers has completed 41 of 53 passes for 470 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Packers led the Colts 28-17 at halftime, after which both teams began sitting their starters. All in all, it was a pretty impressive night for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. You can see a winning formula developing before your eyes: An offense that averages 56 points per game and a defense that gives up some yards but also makes some big plays.
(Joking on the 56 points. For the most part.)
Let's hit five random observations before calling it a night. You have to read until the end to find out the last time the Packers scored so many points in a preseason game.
1. You are excused for getting jittery after the Colts ran up 17 points on their first four possessions. Their first two plays were Joseph Addai's 49-yard run and an 18-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Manning to Pierre Garcon. On the former, defensive tackle B.J. Raji got moved way out of position, and on the latter, safety Nick Collins appeared to be barking instructions to rookie Morgan Burnett when Manning quick-snapped the ball.
Thereafter, however, the defense settled down as coordinator Dom Capers appeared to go exclusively with nickel and dime packages. The Colts' next three possessions ended in two punts and an interception by Burnett, who surprised Manning with a veteran decision to jump a short route. I don't see how Burnett is not the Packers' Week 1 starter at strong safety.
2. I've picked on Raji a bit lately, but he did make a nice play to tackle receiver Reggie Wayne on a screen for a 4-yard loss. Because of Capers' scheme choices, Raji spent almost the entire night as a defensive tackle rather than playing on the nose. That alignment also led to extensive first-team playing time for rookie defensive lineman Michael Neal, who started in Jenkins' place.
3. Running back Brandon Jackson ran hard after replacing Ryan Grant in the second quarter, but Jackson's red-zone fumble in the second quarter isn't going to motivate coaches to give him similar opportunities during the regular season. Grant was removed after eight carries but no injury was reported.
4. When evaluating Rodgers' night, keep in mind that receiver Greg Jennings was deactivated as precautionary measure because of back spasms. In his place, Donald Driver caught five passes, including a touchdown. Jones, meanwhile, had four receptions and the touchdown.
5a. The Packers scored two special teams touchdowns. Consider it a confidence booster, if nothing else, for a group that had spent the summer trying to get its footing. Korey Hall recovered a muffed punt return in the end zone during the second quarter, and Jason Chery returned a punt 75 yards for a score in the fourth quarter.
5. Trivia answer: The 59 points were the Packers' highest preseason total since defeating your Cedar Rapids Crush 75-0 in 1938.