HOUSTON - Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers did an exceptional job dissecting the Houston Texans' defense with his dazzling combination of poise and precision. The last thing Rodgers needed Sunday night at Reliant Stadium was assistance.
For some curious reason, during the most critical drive of the contest, the Texans felt compelled to render aid. And given the uneven nature of his first five performances this season, Rodgers was quick to accept the Texans' benevolence as he led the Packers to a 42-24 victory.
Rodgers passed for 338 yards and franchise-record-tying six touchdowns to saddle the Texans (5-1) with their first defeat of the season.
"Very good victory for our football team tonight," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I was pleased with the way we came out. When we came out of the tunnel I thought that the energy was excellent from the first snap to the conclusion of the game. Our goal was obviously to come in here and beat a very good football team that's very well coached; talented team in a great environment here in Houston, so we accomplished that."
Although the Packers (3-3) established control with a rousing first half, they sealed their triumph by taking advantage of critical miscues from two of the Texans' defensive leaders.
Outside linebacker Connor Barwin and strong safety Danieal Manning extended the Packers' opening possession of the second half with fourth-down unsportsmanlike penalties. Given a third opportunity to extend a 21-10 halftime lead to three scores, Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson for a 1-yard touchdown pass with 8:16 left in the third quarter.
Despite facing a Packers defense that entered the weekend ranked a pedestrian 16th in the NFL in yards allowed per game (344.2), the Texans were far too sporadic to fashion a consistent offensive attack. They averaged just 3.2 yards per rush and committed three turnovers (two of them Matt Schaub interceptions), making their offense more discombobulated than dynamic. Their collective ineffectiveness set the stage for Rodgers to steal the show.
With fourth-quarter touchdown tosses of 48 yards to Tom Crabtree and 18 yards to James Jones, Rodgers capped his commanding performance and knocked the Texans from the ranks of the unbeaten.
"He's great," Nelson said. "He came out and played well. I know he got banged up a little bit, but not too much. It's just good to see - we know what we can do when we're all doing the right thing. We haven't put a complete game together yet this year, and we came really close tonight.
"It's fun to watch, it's fun to be a part of. Everyone was just doing their part and making plays."
With their last-second, 23-20 home victory over the Raiders earlier Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons (6-0) stand alone as the league's lone unblemished team.
The Packers needed only a modest jolt to get their offense rolling, and Texans rookie receiver DeVier Posey provided the push when he lined up offside as Green Bay punted on its opening offensive series. That five-yard infraction was enough to move the chains and, on the ensuing snap, Rodgers delivered a perfect 41-yard scoring strike to Nelson that torched Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph and presented the Packers a 7-0 lead with 11:39 remaining in the opening quarter.
"We basically gave them 14 points by a couple of special teams penalties," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "Lined up offside and jumped on somebody's back on a field goal (Barwin). The first possession of the second half we are in a 21-10 ballgame, we gave them three possessions. We gave them the ball back jumping on somebody's back on a field goal, and then the personal foul after we had them stopped again. So, that's discipline."
And just like that, Rodgers was ignited. Even while punting to conclude their second possession, the Packers did so only after recording a pair of first downs and surging into Houston territory. The exchange in field position, coupled with another feeble Texans offensive series, enabled Rodgers to lead his offense back on the field near midfield. Six plays and 56 yards later, he connected with Jones for a 6-yard touchdown.
Rodgers passed for 129 yards and two scores while posting a 133.6 passer rating in the opening quarter.
The Texans, meanwhile, mustered a measly 34 total yards in that quarter and desperately needed something to stave off the rout. They responded with a nine-play, 80-yard march, doing so briskly enough that they faced third down only once. However, their biggest gain came courtesy of Packers cornerback Tramon Williams, who was flagged for interfering with receiver Kevin Walter at the 4-yard line.
That 26-yard gain allowed the Texans to surge into the red zone. Two snaps later, Arian Foster nimbly avoided a group of defenders in the backfield and danced in for a 1-yard touchdown that sliced the deficit in half at 14-7 with 10:13 left in the half.
Right on cue, Rodgers responded.
Rodgers completed all four of his pass attempts on the subsequent drive, including a gorgeous 21-yard scoring strike to Nelson on a post slant. Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson was victimized by a questionable pass interference on the preceding play, and Rodgers was quick to make the Texans pay.
The Texans later added a 51-yard Shayne Graham field goal to cut Houston's halftime deficit to 21-10.
"It's very disappointing," Schaub said. "To go out in front of our home crowd on Sunday night and have it turn out the way it did, we didn't play up to our standard, up to our level of expectations that we have around here across the board. That's everybody.
"We're going to have to take a hard look at it and put it behind us."
NOTES: The Packers played the middle game of a three-game road stretch, their first sequence of three consecutive roadies since Weeks 10-12 in 1998. Coincidentally, the Texans are the only other team that will contest three consecutive road games this season, traveling to Detroit, Tennessee and New England in Weeks 12-14. ... The Texans made their first appearance on NBC's "Sunday Night Football," yet their meeting with the Packers marked their second of the series scheduled in prime time. The Packers defeated the Texans 16-13 on ESPN's "Sunday Night Football" on Nov. 21, 2004, at Reliant Stadium. ... Early in the fourth quarter, Texans receiver Andre Johnson eclipsed 10,000 receiving yards, doing so in 128 games to become the sixth-fastest player to reach that plateau.