Rodgers maintains Packers high-octane offence
GREEN BAY // Another night, another four-touchdown performance for Aaron Rodgers — just about what the Green Bay Packers have come to expect from their star quarterback.
The real surprise came on the other side of the ball: A defence that finally showed it can take charge of a game.
The Packers (9-0) remain the NFL's only undefeated team. And if they now can count on a defence to complement their high-octane offence, they just might be unstoppable.
Rodgers threw for four scores against a fierce Vikings pass rush, Randall Cobb returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown and the Packers defence contained Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings in a 45-7 victory.
"It's [our] best game, because of the margin of victory," Packers coach, Mike McCarthy, said. "And at the end of the day, it's about points."
Green Bay's defence came into the game giving up nearly 300 yards passing per game, second-most in the NFL. Their last time out, the Packers nearly blew a big lead in the fourth quarter at San Diego, holding on for a 45-38 victory.
The Packers finally played to their potential against the division rival Vikings (2-7), holding Christian Ponder, the rookie quarterback, to 190 yards passing with an interception and limiting Peterson to 51 yards and a touchdown.
"Our performance tonight was very disappointing," Vikings coach, Leslie Frazier, said.
The Vikings' defence did its best to rough up Rodgers, sacking him three times and hitting him hard virtually every time he took off running. Jared Allen, the Defensive end, harassed Rodgers at every turn.
The pressure did not force any uncharacteristic mistakes from Rodgers, who was 23 of 30 for 250 yards without an interception. Rodgers threw a pair of touchdown passes to Jordy Nelson, and also found Greg Jennings and John Kuhn for scores.
Allen did not need anybody to recite Rodgers' gaudy stats.
"I don't even know what that means," Allen said. "All I know is he crushed us tonight."
McCarthy put backup quarterback Matt Flynn in the game with 10:30 left in the fourth quarter — and the Vikings could not keep him out of the end zone, either, as he scrambled three yards for a touchdown with 4:27 left.
But it was Cobb, a second-round rookie out of Kentucky, who got it all started for the Packers.
After the Packers' defence forced the Vikings to go three-and-out on their first possession, Cobb fielded a punt from Chris Kluwe and squeezed through a seam in the middle of the field.
Cobb accelerated down the left sideline and danced the final few steps into the end zone, tossing the ball in the air as if he was shooting a basketball before doing a "Lambeau leap" into the stands.
Cobb also had a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the Packers' season opener against the New Orleans Saints.
Rodgers finally got the ball at the 9:55 mark in the first quarter and directed an 11-play, 70-yard drive that included conversions on third-and-eight, to Donald Driver, and third-and-seven, to running back James Starks. Rodgers then finished the drive with a perfect pass to Jennings in the middle of the field for a touchdown, and the Packers led 14-0.
With the Vikings driving near the end of the first quarter, Charles Woodson wrestled a ball away from Visanthe Shiancoe for what initially was ruled an interception. Frazier challenged the call and it was overturned, giving Ryan Longwell a shot at a 47-yard field goal.
But the Vikings committed a penalty, and Longwell came up just short on a 52-yard attempt.
Rodgers then put together another drive, and Rodgers hit tight end Jermichael Finley for 25 yards on a fourth-and-five conversion attempt at the Vikings 34-yard line. Allen sacked Rodgers on first-and-goal, and the Packers ended up settling for a 25-yard field goal by Mason Crosby to take a 17-0 lead with 12:04 left before half time.
Ponder then threw an interception to Packers cornerback Tramon Williams, misfiring on a deep ball after a toss back from Peterson.
Rodgers was sharp on the first possession of the second half, leading an eight-play, 69-yard drive that included a fourth-down conversion to Nelson.
Rodgers found Nelson on the right sideline two plays later, Nelson threw a stiff arm at Vikings cornerback Cedric Griffin and broke free for a touchdown, giving the Packers a commanding 24-0 lead with 10:45 left in the third quarter.
The Packers forced another punt but Cobb fumbled, and the Vikings recovered deep in Packers territory.
Ponder threw to Percy Harvin for 11 yards, then handed to Peterson for a three-yard touchdown up the middle. The Vikings cut the Packers' lead to 24-7 with 8:41 left in the third quarter.
Cobb then made up for his mistake with a long kick-off return to give the ball to the Packers at midfield. Rodgers led yet another precision drive, finishing it off with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Kuhn for a 31-7 lead.
Published: November 15, 2011 04:00 AM