Friday, September 9, 2011

No Super Bowl Hangover In Mr. Rodgers' Neighborhood


It is a conceit of our generation that he's supposed to be the symbolic savior in a town where football is deeply worshipped and he has delivered, arousing the Lambeau faithful to provoke a celebration in the stands. Aaron Rodgers is an American figure to the Cheeseheads, if not in the entire state of Wisconsin -- in the land of country fairs and cheese factories.

It's another tale to be told, a ritual each season, an inspirational onset in a prestigious venue that spiritually was transformed into Mr. Rodgers' Neighborhood in Green Bay. One still can recall the celebration of revival in Titletown, a rebirth for one of the grandest eras in Packers history, much of it centering Rodgers' poise, maturity and leadership -- which all led to the Packers first Super Bowl victory and the wildest celebration outside of Lambeau Field in 13 seasons.

It ignited more than just a tailgate party, and drew the sweetest block party in the streets of Green Bay, giving the country folks something worthwhile. He's not homespun as a person, as a sports figure or as a town idol, but Rodgers is an artistic and skilled athlete who dilated his stardom.

His early success is noticed by a lone Super Bowl victory, exhortations of aspiration for arguably the NFL's most revered franchise, lionized dearly for becoming the identity of the small-town in Wisconsin, for becoming the symbol of the community and for possessing marquee players. He looks like the kind of humbled athlete you can predict on every series of plays.

His focus is kind of alarming and, more than ever, his passing and mobility is effective in the red zone, normally pushing the ball into the end zone with his stellar abilities in passing or even his nimble footwork that allows Rodgers to sprint into the end zone untouched.

The storyline of the Packers, the romantic tale of a priceless gunslinger and the season-opener 42-34 victory over the New Orleans Saints, ultimately, is that Rodgers guided the defending champs as there is nonetheless hopefulness of the Packers potentially winning back-to-back titles, a rarity Green Bay could consummate with all the talent surrounding Rodgers, whose transcendent emergence last season proved to be serviceable.

But he's not only a beneficiary, he's also the face of the Packers, and he's a factor on a quest to potentially repeat greatness in an age that winning back-to-back titles seem implausible and unrealistic. Not long before kickoff, Bart Starr, a Packers legend stood on the field and carried the team flag as fans in the stands were thrilled and erupted when he emerged from the tunnel onto the Lambeau turf.

With all due respect, the Cheesehead supporters were thankful to embrace the all-time great, but are even more graceful for the heroics and inspiring play by Rodgers. The ancient ritual in the league is known as the Packers and, as we all know, Rodgers is playing in the shadows of many legends and the organization demands high standards from its star quarterback.

The night for Rodgers, after a 27-for-35, 312-yard, three touchdown performance, was sensational and unbelievably one of his best performances of his prosperous career for which he could be defined as simply the most exceptional passer in the game. It is the latest rite, a heartfelt moment in Packers history, so astounding it won't ever be denied and will always be indelible eternally, particularly in a town where football signifies sanity and sentiment.

It was quite another moment, the season-opener no doubt -- as there seems to be no Super Bowl hangovers after Green Bay captured its first win -- and it was Rodgers once again having an impact on the outcome of the Packers showdown against the Saints in prime time. It's now the Packers entering another season in pursuit of defending a title -- and with Rodgers' strong delivery -- Rodgers is confident and emotionally stronger.

It's a reality to honestly believe in the Packers' monstrous defense, sturdy and physically built to relieve much pressure off Rodgers, along with the creativity and brilliance from defensive coordinator Dom Capers designing his crafty schemes defensively. By definition, Rodgers is the ultimate NFL magnet, featuring a delivery in his arsenal and much precision which is incomparable and appeal to Packers fans, accustomed to applauding legends and visualizing celebrations in Titletown U.S.A.

It was the first game after an ugly off-season labor dispute, and as we waited patiently for months to witness football again, Rodgers gave the enthusiastic audience an aerial performance. It was a Thursday night showdown that minimized the anger and grudges toward the NFL, a once greedy and pompous enterprise for mostly fighting over money and the new labor deal.

In Green Bay, locating a sense of humility is an annual practice, a normal behavior in a widespread culture. It is a place of NFL roots, an atmosphere where fans tailgate outside of Lambeau Field in the frigid climate, and where a venue is truly honored after the team's first ever coaching legend. If there is a street named after Vince Lombardi, then we can only think that it's possible for Rodgers to someday be given a street named after him.

Rodgers Avenue is quite fitting.

In a time when Rodgers is sitting on the crest of two Super Bowl championships in a row, as the Packers are clearly suitable and fundamentally sound to win back-to-back titles, it's not commonplace to witness a franchise repeat triumph in consecutive seasons. The Patriots won back-to-back. The 49ers came before the Brady Bunch, though, dating back to the '80s era when Joe Montana dominated and when Jerry Rice secured a measure of success that fabricated one of the best dynasties in sports.

This time, it was the Packers and Rodgers, a dramatic shootout of a game, infatuating the country that we embrace and that delights us. There's no denying it, but the beauty of sports is football, a country hypnotized by the drama of America's popular gem. And once again, for what it is, Rodgers was intriguing and very fun to watch as he walked off the field victorious.

This was specifically about Rodgers and his blistering offense, lifting the Packers to a signature win by the advantages of the dangerous rush attack of running back Ryan Grant. In this particular game, buoyed by Rodgers after the first quarter when he completed 14 of 15 passes, the Packers were untouchable and unbeaten. It was too much for the Saints to handle. The only incomplete pass came on an intentional throw-away with an ideal passer rating of 158.3, and by the end of the night, he had thrown the ball to 10 Packers, nearly matching Drew Brees in a breathtaking quarterback duel.

By the time the game ended, he was even more brilliant, finishing 32 for 49 passing with 419 yards and three touchdowns. Yet Brees was flawless, the Saints also had a reliable special teams with the addition of Darren Sproles, who runs fast and had 204 total yards and a touchdown on only eight touches. The story of the night was Packers rookie Randall Cobb, a receiver from Kentucky selected in the second round, scoring on a 32-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter, and then returning a kickoff in the third quarter for an NFL record-tying 108-yard touchdown.

The final moments of a potential comeback had fallen short with the game ending when rookie running back Mark Ingram tried to push the ball into the end zone, but was just a foot short from potentially sending the thriller into overtime when he was denied by safety Morgan Burnett and Clay Matthews.

It was fun to watch the dimensional offense that seems poised and impressive for another postseason run as the deepest team in the league surrounded by Grant, who had nine carries for 40 yards -- or even tight Jermichael Finley, a pair of components who can victimize any opponent the Packers encounter.

It proves, perhaps more than ever, that the Packers are invulnerable and dangerous on defense, without even suffering from a hangover, not affected by a Super Bowl hangover but ready to pursue glory again. If the Packers don't frighten the league, then the league is naive or just too insecure to admit the truth. This is practically because of Rodgers after finding receivers brilliantly, after throwing perfectly and timely and after mastering a craft of throwing passes.

There might be the Packers celebrating good times in Mr. Rodgers' Neighborhood again, along with a belt celebration, too.