Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense turned in a breakout performance in the first half of Sunday’s game at Lambeau Field against the New Orleans Saints. Rodgers threw for three touchdowns and the Packers held a 21-14 lead at halftime.
Rodgers marched the Packers 62 yards in seven plays on the Packers’ second possession of the game. The big plays in the drive were passes of 15 and 18 yards to wide receiver Jordy Nelson. From the Saints 12 yard line, Rodgers scrambled away from the rush and to his left, stumbled and then righted himself to throw against his body and to wide receiver James Jones for the game’s first score.
New Orleans retaliated with a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Quarterback Drew Brees tied Johnny Unitas’ consecutive-games touchdown-pass record (47) with a 20-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Marques Colston. It appeared Colston pushed off in the end zone to make the grab, but a penalty flag was not thrown on the play.
Tied at 7-7, Rodgers roared back with a ball-control, 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. The big play in the drive was a 20-yard completion to tight end Jermichael Finley, who broke a tackle after making the catch. Following completions of eight yards to Finley and nine yards to Greg Jennings, Rodgers found Jennings in the middle of the end zone for nine yards and a touchdown.
The Packers’ third scoring drive, 92 yards, was kick-started by a John Kuhn fake-punt run on fourth down deep in Packers territory, a gutsy call by Coach Mike McCarthy. Rodgers and the offense came back onto the field and moved steadily down the field. On third and five from the Saints 14, Rodgers flipped a touchdown pass to Jones, who made an easy grab over the middle with 4:50 to play in the half.
The Saints did a good job of cutting the deficit and expiring what was left of the first-half clock, by executing a 65-yard touchdown drive. Brees used all of his weapons and the field in the drive. From the six-yard line, Brees threw in the left flat to Darren Sproles, who covered the remaining few yards to cut the Packers’ lead to 21-14.
Rodgers’ offensive line provided ample time for him to throw. On the touchdown pass to Jennings, Rodgers arm-pumped several times and looked right and left before finding Jennings open.
Running back Cedric Benson rushed 11 times for 51 yards, and the Packers achieved the kind of run-pass balance in the first half that helped them rally in the second half in Seattle.
The Saints are to receive the second-half kickoff.
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