Green Bay's bread and butter
September, 27, 2009
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
|Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images|
|Packers receiver Donald Driver made a one-handed grab to set up a touchdown against the Rams.|
ST. LOUIS -- A few hours before kickoff Sunday, Green Bay’s young quarterback pulled a veteran move on one of the Packers’ oldest players. Aaron Rodgers was flipping through the Rams’ official game program when he came across a seemingly innocuous “What to Watch” feature.
“Aaron Rodgers comes up to me before the game and asks me if I’ve read the program,” Packers receiver Donald Driver said. “I said no, I didn’t read it. He said, ‘You might want to check out page 59.’”
Hmmm. At 34, Driver has probably heard every motivational tool imaginable. He embraced this one, however, and even convinced a few of us locker room lingerers to look it up for ourselves. So I did. And here’s what it says:
Driver is nothing if not steady and has posted at least 1,000 receiving yards in five straight seasons. While Driver has lost a little bit of juice, he’s still more than capable of making plays and keeping the chains moving.
Hardly bulletin-board stuff, right? And based on the first two games of the season, it wasn’t far from the truth. Call it Rodgers’ first completion of the day.
The passage put Driver into a pregame rage that, he said, prompted a spectacular one-handed reception in the second quarter of the Packers’ 36-17 victory over the Rams. The play boosted the Packers’ offense from some early doldrums and, more importantly, reminded everyone that after an offseason of talk about defense and special teams, the core of this team is its downfield passing game.
“My mind was a little more focused today to go out and prove that just because I’m 34, that doesn’t mean I’m old,” Driver said. “Maybe that’s old in dog years. But that’s not old in human years. … My thing is people talk about me all the time, that I’m getting old and this and that. But I tell people I have God on my side.”
The Packers were holding a tenuous 9-0 lead Sunday when Rodgers spotted Driver streaking down the left sideline. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher had Driver’s right arm pinned to his side, resulting in a pass interference call. Driver, however, still managed to grab the ball with his left hand and pinned it to his helmet as he fell to the ground. The play was the first of three deep completions for Rodgers, which not surprisingly set up the Packers’ first three touchdowns. Receiver Greg Jennings caught a 50-yard pass on the next drive and later pulled in a 53-yarder in the fourth quarter as the Packers pulled away.
Unofficially, I had the Packers with six deep shots in the game.
“If they want to press coverage with receivers like Donald and Greg Jennings, we’re going to take shots,” said Rogers. (It should be noted Rodgers got adequate time to throw after a shaky two-sack first quarter.)
The connections represented significant progress from the Packers’ first two games this season, when Driver and Jennings combined for only one reception longer than 26 yards. That might work fine for some teams, and coach Mike McCarthy seemed mostly pleased about balanced playcalling that left the Packers with 23 pass plays and 26 rushes from tailback Ryan Grant. But I’ve always thought the Packers are built to capitalize on the chemistry between Rodgers, Jennings and Driver.
I wouldn't call the Packers a sharp team Sunday, and cornerback Charles Woodson took it one step further by saying; "You’ve got to be realistic about it. St. Louis, in my opinion, is not a very good team. We didn’t seem to be much better than they were." But the Packers covered for it Sunday because they still have the capacity for the great equalizer.
“Big plays equal points in this league,” McCarthy said in a nice bottom line. “And I think that was very evident today.”
What surprised me was that Driver faced single, press coverage on his long reception -- as did Jennings on his first. Jennings said he couldn’t remember more than a handful of similar situations during the game, but why the Rams thought their cornerbacks could stay with either player for even two or three plays is beyond me.
“When you get 1-on-1 coverage, it’s almost disrespectful,” Jennings said. “That means you should make a play. The ones that we got, we took advantage of.”
Disrespecting the Packers’ receivers? You almost never see that. Except maybe here. Oh, and on page 59.