CLEVELAND (AP) — On Green Bay’s first offensive series, quarterback Aaron Rodgers got his helmet ripped off and punched in the face.
Article continues below ...
The Cleveland Browns hardly touched him again.
The Packers were the bullies.
“One of the linemen came over and said, ‘Who was it? We got your back,'” Rodgers said. “That means a lot to me and that means a lot to our team.”
Rodgers threw three touchdown passes, Ryan Grant rushed for 148 yards and the Packers warmed up for Brett Favre’s first visit back to Lambeau Field next week with a 31-3 laugher Sunday over the Browns, who got over the flu but can’t shake other problems.
It would have been understandable if the Packers (4-2) had overlooked an inferior opponent with their eyes on Favre’s hyped return to Wisconsin with the Minnesota Vikings. But Rodgers and his teammates took care of business against the pathetic Browns (1-6), who have scored just four offensive touchdowns and 72 points all season.
Rodgers, who steps a little further out of Favre’s immense shadow with each win, spent the afternoon focused on the Browns — not Brett. So when did he allow himself to consider the rematch with the Vikings and No. 4, who beat the Packers 30-23 on Oct. 5 in Minneapolis?
“Just now,” Rodgers said with a smile.
He finished 15 of 20 for 246 yards and the three TDs — a 71-yarder to Donald Driver and 41-yarder to tight end/linebacker Spencer Havner in the first half, and a 5-yarder to James Jones to cap a 99-yard drive in the fourth quarter after the Packers defense stopped Cleveland at the 1.
Despite being without injured starting left tackle Chad Clifton, Green Bay’s offensive line did not give up a sack after allowing a league-high 25 coming in and blow open huge holes for Grant. Rodgers’ white No. 12 jersey had no grass stains. He had plenty of time to throw and picked apart Cleveland’s secondary.
In the first quarter, Browns linebacker David Bowens had tried to rough up Rodgers by yanking off his helmet during a tackle.
Rodgers didn’t name Bowens, but said “96” when asked about the incident, which he called “kind of a dirty play.”
Bowens said he was just playing hard.
“I was just trying to grab anything I had,” he said. “It wasn’t malicious, I was just trying to get a stop. I apologized to him for it. He can call it what he wants to call it, but the refs didn’t call it. I’d treat him different if he was passing the ball, that’s different. But if he’s running the ball, he’s a running back. It’s called football.”
Right now, the Browns aren’t playing football.
They were outclassed again, dominated by the Packers, who outgained them 460-139 and seemed to know their every move.
Leading 7-3, Rodgers hooked up with Driver on a simple play the Packers practiced all week. Watching tape of Cleveland’s loss at Pittsburgh, they noticed the Browns blitzed their safety in certain packages. So when Rodgers saw Abram Elam coming, he threw to the open spot and hit Driver in stride. The Packers’ wide receiver shook off two tackling attempts by Wright and high-stepped into the end zone.
Rodgers said Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop did a better job in practice showing the defensive look that the Browns did in the game.
“We went long count and I was sitting there thinking, ‘I hope that guy comes because if he comes it’ll be a big play,'” Rodgers said. “I threw it quick and he looked quick and the rest was Driver being Driver.”
Unlike Rodgers, Browns quarterback Derek Anderson was under duress for four quarters. He completed 12 of 29 passes for 99 yards — just 44 after the first quarter. The Browns had 1st-and-goal at the 1 the fourth, but failed to score on two running plays and two incompletions.
By game’s end, Browns Stadium was mostly empty and the only noise was coming from Green Bay fans chanting “Let’s go Pack.”
“We aren’t good right now,” Anderson said. “That’s it. Period. We haven’t executed. We haven’t done the right things to win ballgames. We haven’t run the ball effectively, thrown it where we needed to. We haven’t protected up front like we need to and caught it when we need to.”
Ending a tumultuous week with a lopsided loss was not what Browns coach Eric Mangini had in mind.
“It’s a very disappointing performance across the board,” Mangini said. “I don’t think we played very well. I don’t think we coached very well. I thought we were making progress in a lot of areas. I don’t think we showed that today — at all.”
NOTES: Packers TE Jermichael Finley injured his left knee after a catch in the first quarter and did not return. WR Brett Swain also sustained a knee injury. The team said both would undergo further tests Monday. … Cribbs (7,214) moved into 18th place in career return yards, passing Bruce Harper (7,191).