Rodgers Strong In Starting Debut

After waiting patiently for his chance to be the Packers’ No. 1 quarterback the past three seasons and dealing with plenty of offseason scrutiny, Aaron Rodgers delivered a solid performance in his first start on Monday night. - More Packers-Vikings Game Center

After waiting patiently for his chance to be the Packers' No. 1 quarterback the past three seasons and dealing with plenty of offseason scrutiny, Aaron Rodgers delivered a solid performance in his first start on Monday night.

Rodgers completed 18-of-22 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions (115.5 rating), was not sacked, and added 35 yards on eight carries in the season-opening victory over the Vikings.

His 81.8 completion percentage ranks as the second-best mark in league history by a quarterback (min. 20 attempts) in his first start, behind only former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Rob Johnson's 83.3 percentage (20-of-24) in 1997.

"I thought he managed the game, especially for the distorted and the number of unfavorable down and distances that we had, particularly early in the game with all of the penalties," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "I thought he did a good job of managing the game, not taking chances, playing to the play call, taking what the defense gives you and so forth. So I was pleased with his performance tonight."

Penalties plagued the Green Bay offense early on Monday night, especially on the second series when the Packers were whistled for four infractions, leading at one point to a rare 1st-and-33 from their own 9.

But Rodgers and the offense began to click on the next possession. He connected with wide receiver Greg Jennings for 56 yards down the middle of the field to put the Packers at Minnesota's 6-yard line.

After two Minnesota penalties moved the ball down to the 1, the Packers were unable to punch it in on two Ryan Grant runs. Rodgers also overthrew tight end Donald Lee a few plays earlier in the corner of the end zone on one of the plays the Vikings were penalized on, but on third-and-goal from the 1, he threaded a tight pass under pressure to fullback Korey Hall for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead.

"That was an important pass for me," Rodgers said. "I was pretty ticked at myself about missing Donald Lee wide open a couple plays earlier, but Korey was really the third read in the progression."

Rodgers showed his abilities in the two-minute drill as well right before the half, even though the Packers were unable to generate any points out of the drive as kicker Mason Crosby's field goal as time expired was blocked.

Rodgers began the possession by hitting Jennings for gains of 14 and 17 yards before making a big play with his legs. He scrambled for a 21-yard gain down to the Minnesota 15, one of three runs in the first half that he converted for first downs.

"A scrambling quarterback is important," McCarthy said. "It's a whole another factor for the defense to play to. Sometimes it dictates certain coverages that you are able to see in particular situations on third down.

"Aaron needs to continue to give us that ability to make plays with his feet, and particularly being smart. I talked about it earlier in the week; it's important to be a scrambling quarterback and not a running quarterback, and we'll make sure Aaron stays in tune with that."

While the offense was on the field for only four plays in the third quarter because of two long Minnesota possessions and cornerback Will Blackmon's punt return for a score, Rodgers led them on perhaps the most important drive of the game midway through the fourth quarter.

{sportsad300}After Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson's 23-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Sidney Rice narrowed Green Bay's lead to 17-12, the Packers bounced back with a scoring drive of their own with just over six minutes to play.

Rodgers completed a 13-yard pass to wide receiver Ruvell Martin, and on the next play Grant broke a 57-yard run down to the Minnesota 2. Rodgers finished the drive off with a sneak off left guard to put the Packers up 24-12, and then proceeded to jump in the stands for another debut, this one his first "Lambeau Leap" into the stands.

"I've been dreaming about that for four years to be honest, and I was hoping my first leap would be maybe something a little more flashy, a 10-yard, 15-yard run or something, but at that point in the game I just said, 'What the heck, I'm going to go for it,'" Rodgers said.

"It feels great. You've got to remind yourself it's just one win, but it was a big one. I think the talk this week was a lot about the Vikings, and I don't think enough about the kind of team that we had, so we definitely wanted to play well tonight and I think we did."

Heading into this season, most of the talk regarding the Packers focused on the new starting quarterback for a team that went 13-3 in '07. While it was apparent Rodgers would be under a lot of pressure following in the footsteps of future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, it was elevated even more following Favre's un-retirement and the team maintaining its commitment to Rodgers as the signal-caller.

All of those factors made Rodgers' performance on Monday night that much more impressive.

"It means he's got something special inside of him, and that's really what it comes down to," said defensive end Aaron Kampman, one of Rodgers' closest friends on the team. "I have said it all along, I think the guys on the team believe in it, but in the end what it comes down to is still believing in that special thing in yourself and going out and performing, and he did that tonight.

"I think we learned, especially early in training camp, that we just had to kind of cocoon ourselves and realize that all of the outside stuff really didn't matter. What mattered was what we were going to do on the field, and we went out and executed tonight."

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