Rodgers routs Denver with an all-round performance for Packers
GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN // Aaron Rodgers still likes to remind people that he is more athletic than he sometimes gets credit for.
So even on a day when he threw for a career-high 408 yards and tied a career best with four touchdown passes, Rodgers was perhaps most pleased with his two rushing touchdowns in the Green Bay Packers' 49-23 rout of the Denver Broncos.
"I enjoy those times, to try to make it look semi-athletic," Rodgers said.
Rodgers had perhaps the biggest day of his career, Charles Woodson ran an interception back for a touchdown and the Packers (4-0) remain unbeaten. Green Bay and their resurgent NFC North rivals Detroit are the only undefeated teams left in the NFL.
Green Bay is rolling right now, but Mike McCarthy, the Packers coach, said there is always room for improvement.
"Trust me, we don't have it all figured out as a football team," McCarthy said. "We're 4-0, but we're very in tune with what we need to improve as a team."
Perhaps, but things are looking more dire in Denver.
Eric Decker caught a pair of touchdowns from Kyle Orton for Denver (1-3). Orton threw for 273 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Tim Tebow, the backup quarterback, made a brief and uneventful appearance for the Broncos early, but coach John Fox chose not to give Tebow more work when the game got out of control in the fourth quarter.
"I thought our offence was very impressive, other than the turnovers," Fox said. "It wasn't all the quarterback [Kyle Orton]. It was all of us."
Rodgers' 408 yards passing was a regular-season career high; he threw for 423 yards in the Packers' play-off loss to Arizona in January 2010. Rodgers was replaced by backup Matt Flynn late in the fourth quarter.
"Aaron Rodgers obviously is playing extremely well," McCarthy said. "I can't say enough. He is a special player."
Packers veteran wide receiver Donald Driver left in the second quarter with an apparent left knee injury, but returned in the second half — then caught a touchdown from Rodgers in the fourth quarter.
"I just wanted to play," Driver said. "I felt like if it wasn't something that was broken, I feel like I could still play. Doc decided he wanted to sit me down, but he knows I'm hard-headed. I told him that I was going to play, and he gave me the OK."
When Driver went down, Greg Jennings feared the worst at first.
"Let me tell you, he's the ultimate gladiator," Jennings said. "He almost had us in tears because you see a guy who pours in everything week in, week out, every practice, doesn't miss a practice, and then you see him take a hit like that and you see him grabbing his knee and it's like, 'Oh, my gosh, please God, let this not be it.' Fortunately for us and for him, he was able to bounce back."
The Packers took a 21-3 lead on Rodgers' 11-yard touchdown scramble early in the second quarter, but the Broncos briefly got back in the game as Orton threw a pair of second-quarter touchdowns to Decker.
Rodgers then shut the door just before half time, throwing a 17-yard touchdown to Jennings with 24 seconds left in the second quarter. The Packers took a 28-17 lead.
Driver got a big cheer from the crowd when he jogged out of the tunnel to start the second half, and the Packers went back to work.
Rodgers converted a third-and-13 situation with an 18-yard completion to James Jones, then went on to march the Packers to the Denver eight-yard line. Rodgers took off running and was tackled as he stretched the ball to the goal-line, where officials ruled him just short.
McCarthy called for a replay review, and the play was ruled a touchdown. Green Bay took a 35-17 lead with 8:26 left in the third quarter.
Orton put together another drive as the Broncos tried to keep up, and appeared to find tight end Daniel Fells for a long gain near the goal-line. But Fells fumbled the ball and Packers safety Morgan Burnett recovered.
Rodgers then hit Randall Cobb for a 61-yard completion as the rookie spun away from a pair of Broncos defenders, and the Packers finished the drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jones to put Green Bay ahead 42-17.
Woodson's 30-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter was the 11th of his career, tying him with Darren Sharper for second on the NFL's all-time list — and leaving him just one shy of the record held by Rod Woodson.
"No question, and I'm almost there," Woodson said. "I plan on getting it this year. We'll see."
Published: October 3, 2011 04:00 AM