Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was the young gun who shined brightest, but two older guys got a well-deserved moment in the sun on Sunday, as well.
Veterans Charles Woodson and Donald Driver both found the end zone in Green Bay’s 49-23 victory over Denver at Lambeau Field, and their touchdowns were remarkable in different ways.
For Woodson, his pick-six of a Kyle Orton pass late in the first quarter was his 11th interception return for a touchdown in his career. It moved him into a tie for second place in NFL history in that category with Darren Sharper, just one behind Rod Woodson, and don’t think Green Bay’s Woodson doesn’t know it.
“No question,” he said when asked if he thinks about how close he is to first place all-time. “I’m almost there. I plan on getting it this year. We’ll see.”
Coincidentally, Woodson’s 10th INT-TD came in Week 4 last season, but then he didn’t have another one the rest of the year. This one was considerably easier than last year’s diving effort and long run, as he slid in front of receiver Eric Decker and a short route in the flat, and Orton’s throw came right to him.
Woodson said he bobbled it for just a moment, but as soon as he secured it he saw Decker stumbling and knew he had a clear path to the end zone, just 30 yards away.
“You don’t get many like that,” he said. “I was able to just jump up underneath it and the ball was coming. I just had to make the catch at that point. That was the hardest part of it.”
The interception was his third this season and the 50th of his career in regular-season games. Thirty-three of those 50 have come since joining the Packers in 2006, and in that time he has returned an interception for a touchdown at least once each season, the only player in league history to do so six straight years.
With Sunday’s touchdown, Woodson also extended two team records. It was his ninth interception return for a touchdown with the Packers and his 10th defensive touchdown for Green Bay. He already held both records prior to this season.
“It feels good,” he said. “When I think about coming into this league, I came in to be somebody who’ll be remembered after they’re done playing, and I think I’ve been able to do some great things in this game to assure that.
“I’m one step off of Rod. Fifty career picks is a huge deal for me. But I don’t feel like I’m done by far, so hopefully there’s a lot more to come.”
Driver is hoping the same thing, though he admitted he wondered for a moment if it was all coming to an end when he injured his knee on Sunday.
He said he was “leg-swiped” by a Denver defender at the goal line on Rodgers’ first touchdown run early in the second quarter. His leg went numb and he couldn’t move it. Driver was carted off the field and taken to the locker room for x-rays, which turned out to be negative.
“When I went off the field, the first thing I said was, ‘God, please, please, don’t let this be it for me,’” Driver said. “He gave me an opportunity to give it one more shot.”
Not only did everything go fine with the x-rays and examination, but Driver came running back out of the tunnel at halftime to cheers from the Lambeau Field faithful.
“The doc told me to relax and take a shower,” said Driver, who missed time last season with a quadriceps injury, the first injury to sideline him since 2003. “I said I’m not taking a shower. I have to go finish the game.”
Driver punctuated his remarkable return with a touchdown catch midway through the fourth quarter, an 8-yard strike from Rodgers that pushed the Packers’ total to 49 points on the day.
It was Driver’s first touchdown of the season, and his first in a span of 12 games dating back to his highlight-reel, tackle-breaking, 61-yard jaunt against San Francisco last December.
He even did a “Lambeau Leap” to celebrate, though he did it off of one leg, which he said was reminiscent of his days as a high-jumper at Alcorn State more than 13 years ago.
“He’s like the ultimate gladiator,” said fellow receiver Greg Jennings. “He’s going to find a way to get back up and jump in that game and give you everything he has to offer.
“He’s an old-school gladiator. He wouldn’t have fought with any boxing gloves, I’ll tell you that.”
Jennings led a banner day for the receiving corps, with seven catches for 103 yards. Seven players caught at least two passes from Rodgers, four scored touchdowns and three compiled at least 75 yards.
“What he was able to do today, he being Aaron, spreading he ball around, getting everyone involved, it’s a tough task for him,” Jennings said. “It’s a credit to him and all of us working to try to get open to make sure that when our number is called we can make a play.”
Even the older guys, one on each side of the ball. Additional coverage - Packers vs. Broncos