For a quarterback making his first start on the road, few places offer better opportunities for career advancement at the moment than Detroit.
On the scant evidence of two starts, the Green Bay Packers' investment in Aaron Rodgers looks like a very smart bet. He ushered in the post-Brett Favre era a week ago with a very workmanlike performance in a win at home against division rival Minnesota.
Rodgers didn't make the locals forget his predecessor in that one; it would have been too much to ask. But he managed a passable imitation on at least one play, firing a 1-yard touchdown pass between three defenders to Kory Hall even as a Vikings defender dragged him backward, and ran for 36 yards besides, just five fewer than Favre had the two previous seasons combined.
t the snap count, let alone audibles, and while Rodgers was hardly a rookie - he backed up Favre since Green Bay picked him in the first round of the 2005 draft - Detroit's defensive coordinators at least had an entire game tape at their disposal to study.
You wouldn't have known that, though, by how easily Rodgers slipped into the driver's seat, then smoothly shifted through the gears of his offense while throwing TD passes on three of the Packers' first four drives. He turned it into the confidence-building exercise Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson dreamed about, but didn't dare talk about out loud.
``We just kept pushing the envelope,'' McCarthy said following Green Bay's 48-25 win, ``and I think that speaks volumes about the coaches and everybody involved to have confidence with Aaron to stay aggressive.''
The Green Bay staff only kept its foot on the pedal for most of the opening half, even as Detroit came back from a 21-0 deficit to take the lead midway through the fourth quarter. But before the Packers had to find out whether Rodgers had Favre's knack for comebacks, the Lions returned to form, self-destructing with three straight interceptions, two of which Green Bay defenders returned for scores.
ared the ball with seven different receivers.
``I don't think anyone in our locker room is surprised. We've believed in each other from the start. I think the summer only made our character stronger,'' he said, referring to the drama surrounding Favre's retirement, then unretirement, and eventual move to the New York Jets.
``It's been a big learning process for me, personally, and also a time of growth for everybody on our team. We're tied for the youngest team in the NFL,'' he added, ``but we have a swagger about us.''
McCarthy must have cringed reflexively to hear that, given that this experiment is all of two weeks old. Then again, the Packers were only a missed field goal in overtime from reaching the Super Bowl last season, their defense and running game are championship-caliber, and the rest of the NFC North hasn't gotten any better.
More encouraging still, he's got a strong-armed, mobile quarterback who's watched how it's done from the sidelines for three seasons and whose learning curve should very neatly track the Packers' grand design for the rest of the season.
more points, but only by keeping turnovers low. Rodgers likely won't make as many big plays out of busted ones as Favre did. But he also won't make as many costly mistakes.
After Rodgers led the Packers past Minnesota, linebacker Nick Barnett looked up in the Green Bay stands, saw legions of fans still wearing familiar No. 4 jerseys and said his new quarterback's task wasn't so much replacing a legend as convincing fans that Favre's way wasn't the only way to win.
``It's a hard situation,'' Barnett said. ``Favre's been here for so many years, and I know fans are devoted to him. It's hard to kind of move over to the next era, but hopefully, for the fans who were doubting him, this will move them over.''
Beating the Lions won't - at least not by itself. But as tuneups go, it's hard to imagine a better way for Rodgers to prepare for a visit next week from the Dallas Cowboys. After that, we'll know whether the quarterback will have more to work on than just his swagger.
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at

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