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Vic Ketchman

Vic Ketchman is a veteran of 40 NFL seasons and has covered the Steelers and Jaguars prior to coming to Green Bay.

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If only they had practiced more

Posted Sep 8, 2011

Even after having thrown for 312 yards and three touchdowns in his first full-game action since the MVP award in last February’s Super Bowl, Aaron Rodgers still had enough energy left to take a couple of playful shots at the media.

“What would’ve happened if we had offseason workouts? Would we have scored more points than that?” Rodgers deadpanned to begin his postgame press conference, after having led the Packers to a 42-34 win over the New Orleans Saints in what was, yet, another eye-popping performance by the young quarterback.

All across the country on Friday, football fans will ask the question: Is Rodgers the best quarterback in the game today?

Yeah, but what if he had organized players-only workouts during the lockout? How much better would he have been?

Oh, yeah, Rodgers had this one planned. All he wanted was the opportunity to take a few shots, and the opportunity presented itself after the Packers defense turned back the Saints at the one-yard line on the final play of the game to preserve the win.

In case you tuned out football during the lockout, the Packers were broadly criticized for not organizing players-only workouts, as several teams professed to have done. The most publicized of those players-only workouts were those of the Saints, as organized by quarterback Drew Brees. Rodgers, specifically, was taken to task by media, some of whom are former players, for not taking the lead in organizing workouts for the Packers, as Brees did for the Saints.

Thursday night was payback time. Clearly, those players-only workouts were overrated, as the Packers went out to leads of 14-0 and 21-7 in the first quarter, and held a 15-point lead with 5:35 to play, when the Saints began their comeback. Rodgers and the Packers reduced the Saints to playing catch up all night, and the Saints never caught up.

“I thought Aaron was outstanding. He had a big night. That’s the way Aaron plays. He sets the standard and he’s off to a great start,” Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said.

McCarthy put together a game plan for Thursday’s NFL season-opener that no doubt delighted TV, fans, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and anybody else that likes points, points, points. You say you like defense? Well, there will be other games; this one wasn’t your kind of game.

The Packers and Saints, possessors of two of the most prolific offenses in the game, totaled 876 yards of offense, and that doesn’t include Darren Sproles’ 72-yard punt-return for a touchdown or Randall Cobb’s 108-yard kickoff-return for a touchdown.

McCarthy had this one pegged just right.

“We felt we had to get the game as high tempo as possible. It was a heavyweight fight and we had to get in as many punches as possible,” McCarthy said.

Rodgers got in 15 punches alone in the first quarter, and landed 14 of them right on the Saints’ kisser. Three of the 14 that landed were knockout punches.

The Packers were so aggressive offensively to start the game that it almost seemed as though they had been hypnotized to believe they were down by three touchdowns. Yeah, the coach likes to attack. Of course, the coach has Rodgers for his quarterback; that changes everything.

“When you play Gregg Williams,” McCarthy said, referring to the Saints defensive coordinator, “he’s going to attack you. You have to watch yourself; you can get too strategic. I’m of the opinion that the offense attacks the defense.”

The Packers won with offense on Thursday. They raced out to a big lead and counter-punched the rest of the night. Don’t be fooled by the final score or the yardage; the Packers dominated, right down to a nearly six-minute time of possession advantage.

“We had some problems defensively, but that’s a very good offense,” McCarthy said. “It’s about winning. We won the game. Quality of play is an area we have to improve on.”

The game came down to one play from the Packers’ one-yard line.

“I was saying to myself they have to throw here,” Rodgers said. “As hot as Drew was, you had to put it in his hands again. I’m glad they ran it.”

Maybe they practiced that play in players-only workouts. Huh?

“That stuff does not have a major impact on the game,” Rodgers said. “Offensively, we scored 35 points and we’re where we need to be.”

Where are they? By the looks of it, the Packers offense is in the same groove they were in when they won six in a row to finish last season. Clearly, that was an offense on Thursday night that did not appear to be lacking for practice.

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