If the Detroit Lions play defense like they did in their opener, Rodgers may not have too much trouble with an encore.
The Packers try to continue their recent domination of their NFC North rivals when they visit Ford Field on Sunday, with an eye on exploiting a Lions defense that allowed more than 300 rushing yards in Week 1.
Rodgers became the first quarterback other than Brett Favre to start a game for Green Bay since 1992 on Monday night, and had plenty of eyes on him after the Packers dealt Favre to the New York Jets this summer to make good on their commitment to Rodgers.
The first-round pick out of California in 2005 went 18-of-22 for 178 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 35 yards and another score - following that one up with his first Lambeau Leap. He didn’t turn the ball over as the Packers opened their season with a 24-19 win over Minnesota, beginning to answer questions about whether they could duplicate last year’s 13-3 record with a different quarterback at the helm.
“It’s just important for him to focus on playing football, because of the landscape that’s been created here with his opportunity to play quarterback now for the Packers,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’re aware of it. I can’t say it enough. Aaron, really our whole football team, we just need to stay focused on what we can control, and that’s our next opponent.”
It wouldn’t be surprising if they found it easy to control the Lions based on Detroit’s performance at Atlanta on Sunday.
Playing against a rookie quarterback in Matt Ryan and a first-time NFL head coach in Mike Smith, the Lions fell behind 21-0 in the first quarter and eventually gave up a franchise-record 220 yards rushing to the Falcons’ Michael Turner.
Atlanta rolled up 318 yards on the ground, making it look like not much has changed for a Lions defense that gave up a league-worst 27.8 points and 393.6 yards per game last year.
“It happened,” Lions coach Rod Marinelli said, “and it was bad.”
Green Bay has made a habit of exposing Detroit’s defense in recent years, winning five straight and 13 of the last 15 against the Lions. The Packers totaled 71 points in two meetings last season, racking up 481 total yards during a 37-26 win at Ford Field on Thanksgiving Day.
They’re hoping their rushing attack will be at full strength Sunday, even though they’ll be playing on the road after a short week. Ryan Grant had 12 carries for 92 yards against the Vikings, but was dealing with a sore hamstring and may be limited again this weekend.
“It’s just something that we’re being cautious with,” McCarthy said. “It’s unfortunate for him. I know he’s a little frustrated with it, but he was not at full strength.”
Another problem for Green Bay on Monday was penalties. The Packers had 12 infractions that cost them a Week 1-high 118 yards - not a good sign for a team that was penalized for 1,006 yards last season, second-most in the league.
“We were sloppy,” right tackle Mark Tauscher said. “It’s kind of a first game, you’re playing a lot more. I think we weren’t very fundamentally sound, obviously. When you get that many penalties, from a fundamental standpoint, we weren’t as sound as we needed to be.”
Penalties didn’t hamper the Lions in their opener, but they have plenty of other issues. In addition to the defensive woes, they managed just 62 rushing yards of their own and allowed three sacks of Jon Kitna.
Rudi Johnson’s role in the backfield could increase in his second week with the Lions, losers of eight of their last nine games.
“You just have to hang tough,” Marinelli said. “We are what we believe we are and I’ve got a great belief in this team, a very strong belief in this team. We’ll pull together, hang together, and we’re going to come out fighting.”