There's an old adage that you have to crawl before you can walk and the 2006 edition of the Green Bay Packers might just be the perfect example of that theory.
In only their second game of the Mike McCarthy era, the Green and Gold showed considerable improvement from last week's 17-3 loss to the San Diego Chargers.
There were plenty of highlights to go around, but perhaps the most impressive feat of the night belonged to a first team offense that seemingly fired on all cylinders in the Green Bay Packers 38-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Not surprisingly, Brett Favre led the charge, completing 16 of his 22 passes on the night for 134 yards and two touchdowns in an impressive showing by the home team.
Of course, number four had help and it all started up front with a revamped offensive line that featured new right guard Tony Moll, a fifth round selection out of Nevada.
Also to no one's surprise, Donald Driver continued to be Favre's go to guy, hauling in seven catches for 91 yards, good enough for a 13-yard average. The eighth-pro was at his finest on the Packers most impressive scoring drive of the evening, (13 plays, 70 yards, 7:00 time of possession) when he caught three Favre passes for 41 yards.
According to Driver, it was just another day at the office for him and his quarterback.
"What can you say?" Driver asked. "I'm not surprised. He (Favre) keeps himself in such good shape. He's ready to go."
Favre, who is entering his 16th season, admitted that even for an old pro like him, it's comforting to see improvement from game to game, even if it is only the preseason.
"We drove the ball really well," he said. "We had some good drives; that was a good feeling, compared to San Diego, where we couldn't get a lot going. We still have a ways to go, but we made some strides this week.
It seemed like we got a few bounces tonight that we didn't have last year, like on the touchdown to Bubba (Franks). I wish we were a little more consistent in the running game, but it'll come."
The rushing attack was indeed up and down, but backup Arliss Beach, an undrafted free agent out of Kentucky, acquitted himself rather nicely. The 5-10, 219 pound back finished with 50 yards on nine carries, including a nifty 19-yard run.
According to Favre, the running game will come in due time, especially with an offensive line that is getting better and more comfortable by the day with the zone blocking scheme.
"We added a few more wrinkles to keep the defense a little more off balanced," Favre said. "We're still not there yet, but we're definitely moving in the right direction."
The emergence of Greg Jennings also gave the Packers offense a boost, particularly in the second half. But then again, the wide receiver drafted in the second round out of Western Michigan has been turning heads all training camp long.
This time, instead of Favre at the helm, it was Aaron Rodgers who hit Jennings on a slant pattern that he turned into an 85-yard touchdown play. All told, Jennings had 115 yards on three receptions and Rodgers, despite only attempting three passes, finished with two touchdowns, the other going to tight end Zac Alcorn in the fourth quarter.
While the offense clearly shined, the defense was no slouch either. In fact, the defensive unit produced nearly as many spectacular plays as the offense, including a 44-yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Jason Horton in the second quarter to give the Packers a 24-10 lead.
Horton, who missed part of the 2005 season with a shoulder injury, made a great play on a tipped ball and raced down the sideline high stepping into the end zone on what turned out to be the first of three turnovers for the Packers defense.
"It was great timing as a team," Horton said. "I almost didn't get it, but I tipped it with my left hand and it was just the right place at the right time, that's the best way to put it."
Aaron Kampman, who has been a mainstay on the Packers defense, was pleased with the unit's ability to bounce back from the San Diego game.
"We held our own, Kampman said. "We can still keep improving, but we're definitely on our way toward being ready for the regular season.
I just think we came out and hit them in the mouth a little more than we did against the Chargers. It was more of a team effort."
A "team effort" might just be the best way to sum up the Packers night. Three interceptions by the defense (rookies Tyrone Culver and Johnny Jolly had the others) and four touchdown passes by the offense made for quite a performance in front of a Lambeau Field crowd of 69,845 people.
And if Saturday night was any indication, it looks like a young Packers squad under the direction of a new leader in McCarthy will be running on the fast track to success in no time.