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Aaron Rodgers’ MVP-caliber play lifts Green Bay to 38-28 victory
By CHRIS HAVEL
Opponents struggle for solutions. Coaches and teammates search for superlatives.
Meantime, Aaron Rodgers does what he does, which is to say he keeps playing quarterback at an otherworldly level.
Kansas City’s frequently formidable defense took its best shot Monday night during the Chiefs’ nationally televised visit to Rodgers’ neighborhood. The Chiefs came up woefully short. The Packers and their MVP quarterback rolled to a 38-28 victory in front of a wet and wild crowd at Lambeau Field.
“Aaron is a phenomenal player … and playing great football,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters. “I’ll just keep saying it.”
Rodgers slowly but surely took apart the Chiefs’ defense by throwing for 333 yards and five touchdowns. He used his footwork and quick release to buy time and then unload before Kansas City’s pass rush could get within shouting distance. And when the Chiefs – desperately seeking any edge – tried to time the snap Rodgers’ hard count caused them to jump offside. That allowed Rodgers, who completed 24 of 35 passes, to take advantage of the continuing free play.
Rodgers hit James Jones for 52 yards on one such instance to set up a Randall Cobb touchdown catch, his third of the game. McCarthy, like many in the media and most fans, marvels at Rodgers’ uncanny awareness. If the defense has 12 men on the field, Rodgers will know it and call for the snap. If the defense jumps offside, he’ll execute the play – often for big results.
“His ability to really process information is as good as I’ve ever been around,” McCarthy said.
While Rodgers played like his usually dazzling self, the Packers’ defense continued to ascend and the special teams’ units rated an edge over Kansas City’s.
With an active and aggressive Clay Matthews lining up all over the joint, the Packers’ defensive front owned the line of scrimmage. B.J. Raji played well while Mike Daniels was outstanding. This easily was Daniels’ best game of the young season and an important step on two fronts: The defense needs Daniels to be occasionally dominant, and Daniels needs to play that way to earn a healthy contract extension.
The Packers also got good mileage out of rushing four outside linebackers once they built a sizeable lead. Julius Peppers, Nick Perry, Mike Neal and Matthews – along with Jayrone Elliott – put consistent pressure on the Chiefs’ Alex Smith, who had precious little time to make big plays downfield.
On the defense’s back end, Sam Shields was exceptional and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix also was active.
Others who played well:
- Inside linebacker Nate Palmer continues to impress with his sure tackling, awareness and ability to defend the pass. Palmer isn’t merely filling in for the injured Sam Barrington. He is staking a permanent claim to the job.
- Eddie Lacy showed toughness (shock) by playing through an ankle injury and doing so effectively. Lacy and James Starks provided a solid 1-2 punch, while No. 3 back Alonzo Harris ran hard and played well on special teams.
- While the New York Giants work out free agent receivers, the Packers’ James Jones works out opposing defenses. Jones, who was cut by the Giants at preseason’s end, caught seven passes for 139 yards and a touchdown
- Randall Cobb hauled in three touchdowns en route to a 7-for-91 performance. His quickness, sure hands and chemistry with Rodgers are invaluable
- Rookie Ty Montgomery caught a 4-yard touchdown pass and continued to be strong in the kick-return game.
Several Packers who had less-than-stellar performances but will learn from them:
- Second-year receiver Jeff Janis appeared to receive an A-1 tongue lashing from Rodgers. Janis failed to get set in time before the snap (presumably because he wasn’t sure where to line up) and Rodgers let him have it.
Janis, to his credit, responded by making a jarring hit during a special teams play.
- Casey Hayward struggled in coverage but continued to battle all night and showed mental toughness by keeping his head up.
- Second-year receiver Davante Adams showed poor judgment by believing he could play on a sore ankle. Adams survived just one series, leaving the Packers’ 45-man active game day roster one short. Fortunately, Cobb and Jones picked up the slack in the passing game and Harris played well on special teams.
If a player isn’t sure he can go for four quarters, he does his team a disservice by not being totally honest with himself, his coaches and his team physicians.
On the other hand, the Packers won and Adams – who shouldn’t be faulted for his want-to – has learned a valuable lesson.
Now, it’s on to San Francisco where Colin Kaepernick, who is coming off a four-interception showing, gets to tackle a Packers defense that is playing well.
A 4-0 start would be the perfect finish to the Packers’ first quarter of what’s shaping up to be a truly special season.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.