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Rodgers right on target in opener

QB helps Packers put away Vikings

In his first NFL start, Aaron Rodgers ran for one TD and passed for another while completing 18 of 22 attempts for 178 yards. In his first NFL start, Aaron Rodgers ran for one TD and passed for another while completing 18 of 22 attempts for 178 yards. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Associated Press / September 9, 2008
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Dancing to avoid pass-rush pressure on third and goal, the leader of the Pack zinged an off-balance rocket through airtight coverage to his fullback for a touchdown.

It was the kind of throw No. 4 had made time after time.

Turns out No. 12 can do it, too.

And Aaron Rodgers added a few things Brett Favre rarely did in his final few years in Green Bay last night, scrambling for first downs and plunging into the end zone on a quarterback sneak to clinch a 24-19 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field.

Given all the drama of Favre's unretirement saga at the beginning of training camp, Rodgers was relieved to get his first regular-season start out of the way. Still, he seemed to be enjoying life as the starter.

"Tonight, knowing I was going to get the first snap was pretty special," Rodgers said. "And running out of the tunnel to the electric atmosphere that we had, it was a pretty special night."

And what about that "Lambeau Leap" he performed after scoring on the sneak in the fourth quarter?

"I've been dreaming about that for four years, to be honest," Rodgers said.

Rodgers - who spent most of the past three seasons backing up Favre after the Packers drafted him in the first round in 2005 - passed his first real test, going 18 of 22 for 178 yards with passing and rushing touchdowns.

He got help from punt returner Will Blackmon, safety Atari Bigby, and running back Ryan Grant to claim the Packers' fifth straight win in a bitter division rivalry - one that became even more intense when the Packers accused the Vikings of tampering with the then-retired Favre in the offseason, a charge that was dismissed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell but not forgotten by either side.

"I'm happy we won, and that he played well," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I don't really get caught up in all the other things. And it's important for him not to, too."

Rodgers walked off the field a winner for a team and fan base that had been cheering the same starting quarterback since 1992 and watched in disbelief as an ugly divorce between Favre and the Packers played out in camp.

Now Favre is playing (and winning) for the New York Jets and Rodgers seems to have won over the fans - at least for this week. The Vikings' own quarterback questions, however, remain unanswered.

Tarvaris Jackson, who hadn't played since injuring his knee in an Aug. 16 exhibition game against Baltimore, was 2 of 7 for 16 yards in a rough first half.

He seemed to find his rhythm in the second half, directing two fourth-quarter scoring drives. But he was intercepted by Bigby to end the Vikings' hopes of a comeback.

"It was just too wide open for me not to complete that pass, point-blank," said Jackson, who finished 16 of 35 for 178 yards with a touchdown and an interception. "I just knew we were going to win."

And it wasn't much of a debut for new Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who didn't sack Rodgers or even register a tackle.

"This is one of like the least productive games I've ever had in my life," Allen said. "And I'm not going to let that happen again."

"I'm sick of losing to them," said running back Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown. "Any team, but especially Green Bay."

Rodgers shrugged off a shaky, penalty-filled start to heave a 56-yard pass to Greg Jennings on the first play of the Packers' third possession to set up first and goal.

The Packers stalled on the goal line, but Rodgers found fullback Korey Hall for a touchdown on third and goal to give the Packers a 7-3 lead in the second quarter.

Later, with the Packers leading, 10-6, in the third quarter, Blackmon's 76-yard punt return extended the Packers' lead to 11 going into the fourth quarter.

But Jackson answered with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice on fourth and 1. A 2-point conversion attempt failed, and the Packers led by 5.

Grant then broke free for a 57-yard run and came up just shy of the goal line. Rodgers was stuffed on his first attempt at a sneak but plunged into the end zone on the second try.

Jackson then led the Vikings on an 11-play drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by Peterson, cutting the Packers' lead to 24-19 with 2:39 remaining.

An onside kick attempt bounced out of bounds but the Vikings forced the Packers to punt, giving the ball back to Minnesota at its 31 with 1:51 remaining.

With the Vikings driving near midfield with less than a minute remaining, Bigby stepped in front of Jackson's pass for an interception to put the game away.

Broncos 41, Raiders 14 - Jay Cutler threw for 300 yards with long touchdown passes to rookie Eddie Royal and Darrell Jackson that helped visiting Denver beat up on its AFC West rival.

Cutler completed 16 of 24 passes and confidently picked apart Oakland's rebuilt defense in a dominating season-opening performance despite missing suspended big-play receiver Brandon Marshall.

The Raiders lost their sixth straight season opener and only avoided their third straight shutout on "Monday Night Football" when JaMarcus Russell threw two meaningless fourth-quarter touchdown passes.

Royal, a second-round draft pick out of Virginia Tech, caught nine passes for 146 yards.

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