DENVER - For the first time this preseason, Aaron Rodgers had the full complement of wide receivers at his disposal and was able spread the ball around in the Packers' victory over the Broncos.
The offense benefited from the return of wide receivers Greg Jennings and Ruvell Martin in Denver. Jennings made his 2008 debut after missing the first two games with a knee injury and Martin was out last week at San Francisco after suffering a slight concussion/jaw contusion in the preseason opener vs. Cincinnati.
"I think we had a good rhythm going, and that's what we came over here to do," Jennings said. "We wanted to set the tone and set the tempo and move the ball down the field and make plays and get scores.
"I think we were able to come out and establish what we wanted to establish. I felt great. Any time you can get out there after not being out there since last year, it's definitely a big boost for myself and my confidence, and just for the team."
Jennings led a balanced receiving corps with four receptions for 42 yards, and got involved quickly as he connected with Rodgers for a 17-yard pickup on the second play of the game.
"It's great having Greg back, and one of the guys who benefits the most is Donald because he really takes a lot of pressure off Donald because a lot of teams roll coverage to Donald when Greg is not in," Rodgers said. "Denver has got a set of great corners (starters Champ Bailey and Dré Bly), but I like our guys as well."
After struggling with a few dropped passes the first two weeks of the preseason, Driver felt some added pressure to get back on track, which he did with two receptions for 33 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown grab on the opening drive of the game.
"I think I criticized myself more than anything else, and I like that, because that makes me play the next week," Driver said. "I had a couple of drops in the first two preseason games, and this week I felt I had to come out and prove to everyone that hey, I can catch the ball.
"I think the biggest thing with us was to come out and start fast. Last week we didn't play well at all. It seemed like we didn't know each other, but today it seemed like we knew each other pretty well. The good thing about it was to get Greg and Ruvell back. It took a lot of pressure off of me and James (Jones). Now we just got back in our same positions and we just played football."
Friday night special
Last week in San Francisco, two of the bright spots in an otherwise dismal loss came from the two 50-plus yard kickoff returns from rookie wide receiver Jordy Nelson and the strong punting of Jon Ryan. Ryan posted another impressive night in Denver, and the team received a spark once again from their return game, this time from cornerback Will Blackmon.
Ryan punted three times for a 60.0-yard average, including a 59-yarder in the first quarter that was downed inside Denver's 1-yard line by cornerback Jarrett Bush. Ryan later added a 72-yard punt that bounced in the end zone for a touchback, and finished the night with a 49.9-yard net average.
Early in the third quarter, Blackmon fielded a Brett Kern punt at the Packers' 17-yard line and took it down the left sideline for 43 yards to the Denver 40. The first-team offense utilized the solid field position on their final drive of the night as Rodgers capped a six-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge to give Green Bay a 20-17 lead.
On Friday night, safety Nick Collins worked as the primary defensive player with the headset in his helmet to receive the calls from the sideline, with backup middle linebacker Desmond Bishop also getting time with the helmet headset against the Broncos.
Starting middle linebacker Nick Barnett will likely be the primary defensive player to have the headset during the season and used it during the first two preseason games, but the Packers wanted to get some other players experience using the technology in a game.
Guard Josh Sitton left the field after injuring his knee on the second drive of the game and did not return. Tony Moll took over for Sitton at the right guard spot with the No. 1 line. Following the game, Head Coach Mike McCarthy said Sitton would be evaluated further on Saturday.
Safeties Atari Bigby (ankle) and Nick Collins (neck) both left the game in the second quarter and did not return, as Aaron Rouse and Tyrone Culver came in for the starting tandem. Bush also saw time at safety in the second half. McCarthy said Bigby's injury was not serious and that Collins twisted his neck, but should be OK as well.
Wide receiver James Jones banged his knee in the third quarter and did not return, but McCarthy the injury was not serious and that Jones could have returned.
Defensive tackle Daniel Muir left the game and battled a groin injury during the week, but McCarthy did not have an update on his status.
Eight players did not suit up for the game due to injury. They were running backs Ryan Grant (hamstring) and DeShawn Wynn (ankle), safety Charlie Peprah (hamstring), linebacker A.J. Hawk (chest), center Scott Wells (trunk), defensive tackles Ryan Pickett (hamstring) and Justin Harrell (back) and defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (knee).