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Rodgers throws 3 early TDs, Packers take 21-7 lead over Saints after 1st quarter
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) ' Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown passes and the Green Bay Packers' title defense got off to a fast start Thursday night, taking a 21-7 lead over the New Orleans Saints after the first quarter.
Rodgers hit three different receivers for touchdowns ' finding Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and rookie Randall Cobb as Green Bay's offense picked up where it left off after a 31-25 win over Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who led New Orleans to a victory in the 2010 Super Bowl, found Robert Meachem for a 31-yard score, but New Orleans couldn't keep pace with Green Bay's no-huddle attack early.
Rodgers, the reigning Super Bowl MVP, went 14 of 15 for 188 yards in the first quarter, picking up where he left off after leading the Packers to four postseason wins for the team's first title since 1997.
Green Bay has won a record 13 NFL championships, including four Super Bowls.
On Thursday, they won the toss, took the ball and immediately started in the no-huddle offense that had been so successful in the preseason.
After Saints linebacker Jonathan Casillas sacked Rodgers for a loss of 8 to bring up third-and-12 at the Packers 35, Rodgers found Donald Driver for a gain of 16, then hit Nelson for a 36-yard gain to set up a back-shoulder toss to Jennings for a 7-yard touchdown.
Saints wide receiver Marques Colston fumbled on a hard hit by Nick Collins on New Orleans' second offensive play, giving the Packers a short field that Rodgers capitalized on with a 36-yard TD drive.
Driver made his 700th career catch, and Nelson caught a 3-yard pass from Rodgers to give Green Bay a 14-0 lead.
Brees cut the lead in half with his throw to Meachem with 3:31 left in the quarter, but Rodgers and the Packers answered once again when Rodgers found Cobb for a 32-yard score that put Green Bay ahead 21-7.
The Saints were already missing three key players.
Defensive end Will Smith was serving the first of his two-game suspension for his 2008 positive test for a banned diuretic, wide receiver Lance Moore remained missing with an injured groin and kicker Garrett Hartley's right hip kept him from the opener.
Before the game, 50,000 filled the streets surrounding Lambeau for the NFL's pregame concert and party, which included national acts Kid Rock, Lady Antebellum and Maroon 5.
It was rocking inside a sold-out and soon-to-be-expanded Lambeau Field, too, where the Packers plan a $130 million renovation to increase capacity by 6,600 by adding seats to south end zone over the next two years.
After fireworks, a flyover and the national anthem, which included fan participation holding up red, white and blue cards, the Packers kept the crowd into it with scores on their first three possessions.