Early in the third quarter of Sunday night’s Packers-Texans game, Aaron Rodgers scrambled up the middle and dove into the end zone for an 11-yard score.
He stood up to face the Houston fans in the end zone and did an emphatic rendition of his title belt celebration — oblivious to the yellow flag in the backfield that would nullify the score.
The premature celebration was one of Rodgers’ few miscues on a near perfect night in which the Packers reminded the NFL just how good they can be — and that the Texans are no juggernaut.
Rodgers completed 24 of 37 passes for 338 yards and a career-high six touchdowns as Green Bay rolled to a 42-24 win.
“This is a team that has a lot of pride in our locker room,” Rodgers said (via the Associated Press). “I said it this week, there’s not any quit in that locker room. It’s almost better when people are doubting us a little bit, I think. We kind of band together. People tried to pull us apart this week and we stuck together and found our motivation.”
The Packers are now 3-3. They would be 4-2 had that whole Hail Mary/interception thing in Seattle gone their way. Instead they’re third in the NFC North, but with Sunday’s performance, they served notice to the rest of the league that despite key injuries and a suspect defense, they remain a legitimate contender in the NFC.
As for the Texans? Wins over the Dolphins, Jaguars, Broncos, Titans and Jets may look good, but it was never going to be a cakewalk. And while their defense continues to generate pressure and stop the run, Rodgers picked the Houston secondary apart despite not having Greg Jennings in the lineup. More disconcerting, perhaps, was Matt Schaub’s inability to keep pace with the Packers with Arian Foster all but neutralized.
As the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain put it, “what Aaron Rodgers did to the defense and the secondary in particular was so devastating it should have been illegal.”
“One hiccup isn’t going to ruin our whole season,” Texans linebacker Brooks Reid told the Chronicle. “We definitely got humbled, but it wasn’t a good representation of what our defense is capable of.”
That defense, which is without linebacker Brian Cushing for the rest of the season, will be tested once again next week against Baltimore’s ninth-ranked offense.
But the biggest takeaway from Sunday night’s thumping may be the dearth of truly dominant teams in this year’s NFL. Despite an impressive road win in San Francisco, the defending Super Bowl champion Giants are only 4-2 and have losses to the erratic Eagles (3-3) and struggling Cowboys (2-3). The Patriots are just 3-3 with losses to the Cardinals and Seahawks. The Bears are 4-1 but have only win win against
yet to beat a team a team with a winning record (Dallas). And even the unbeaten Falcons narrowly a pair of home defeats to the Panthers and Raiders.
If there’s one lesson from the Packers’ rout, it may be that the 2012 NFL landscape is more wide open than ever.