Aaron Rodgers' two-minute drill keys Packers' late win

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  • By Nick Shook NFL.com
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Did the league send a memo to road teams this week?

After an abysmal performance by visiting squads in Week 5, the group collectively shoved it in the face of doubters (they're out there somewhere), going 8-4-1 against home teams on Sunday. Big road victories included Dallas' emphatic win at the home of the 12s in Seattle; New England's prove-it triumph against division foe Buffalo; and Baltimore's dominating performance against the lowly Buccaneers.

There were plenty of stars to choose from this week, but alas, we have a limit of three. Here are the very best visitors of Week 6.

Greatest on the Road ...


Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers


Before you take up arms and attempt to hunt me down, allow me to clarify: Joe Flacco had a fantastic game (21 of 29, 306 yards, five touchdowns), most of which he accomplished in the first half, but it's the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There's a reason they're 1-5 and have been carved up by more than one quarterback (see: Thursday Night Football, Week 3).

Meanwhile, in Southern Florida, the Packers found themselves in quite the barn burner. Green Bay had a lead, then lost it, then regained it, then lost it again. But with the Packers trailing by four with 2:04 left to play and Cheeseheads across America wondering, possibly panicking -- are we really about to lose to the Dolphins? -- it was Rodgers to the rescue.

The Green Bay quarterback engineered a textbook two-minute drill, even pulling a trick out of Dan Marino's bag (a play called by who, Marc Sessler?) to set up the Packers with one play, do-or-die, with four seconds left.

Rodgers fired a bullet to the waiting arms of Andrew Quarless in the endzone for a game-winning, 4-yard touchdown completion, sending Dolphins fans home unhappy and capping a resilient performance (24 of 42, 264 yards and three touchdowns) on the part of Rodgers.

Great players make great plays. Rodgers epitomized great on Sunday afternoon.

Also considered ...


DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys


Can we give it to Murray, Tony Romo and the entire Cowboys' offense? No? OK, well, let's offer the consideration to Murray, whose picture you'll likely find next to the definition of "workhorse" in the latest edition of Merriam-Webster's English Dictionary.

Murray is on pace for more than 400 carries on the season -- which, much like fossil fuels, is not sustainable -- but his performance (29 carries, 115 yards, one touchdown) proves that although the NFL is a passing league, a good running game is still the best foundation for a successful offense. Murray is a big, powerful and deceptively fast back who, rather than running away from or around a defender, runs through multiple would-be-tacklers on his way to the endzone.

After a sensational catch by Terrance Williams on third-and-20, Dallas leaned on Murray, who burst through the hole and Richard Sherman for the decisive touchdown.

Take away a couple of special teams miscues on the part of Dallas, and it might not have been as close as it was. Either way, one thing is clear: The Cowboys are a run-first team; Murray is their first and best back; and Dallas is sitting in first place in the NFC East.


Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos


Thomas is scoring touchdowns, breaking records and letting the whole world know just how effortless it really is.

The Denver tight end grabbed two more passes for touchdowns on Sunday in a win over the Jets that was actually somewhat close until Geno Smith torpedoed New York's chances in the fourth quarter in a very Geno-like way.

Again, before you arrive at my doorstep with torches and pitchforks -- Tom Brady had a very good game, his second in as many weeks. But Thomas is on pace to obliterate Randy Moss' single-season receiving touchdown record of 23, and he's leading a stellar class of freakishly talented tight ends that includes Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Cameron, among others.

Playing with Peyton Manning is a decisive advantage -- after all, he's a week away from potentially breaking Brett Favre's record for most career touchdown passes. But one must be in the right place at the right time to catch Manning's tosses, and Thomas has been there not one, not two, but nine times through five games, etching his name in NFL record books forever. He beat Calvin Pryor twice on Sunday. Opposing defenders better start studying his tape more closely.

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