Will the real Aaron Rodgers please stand up, please stand up?
Or is this the new Rodgers?
From Rob Demovsky, ESPN.com
~MINNEAPOLIS — When the shock of his three-fumble, one-interception performance against the Minnesota Vikings wears off — and that might take a while, given some of the things Aaron Rodgers did — there’s a bigger issue that needs to be addressed.
When was the last time the Green Bay Packers quarterback thoroughly dominated a game?
It certainly wasn’t Sunday night, when the offense stumbled through another erratic performance in a 17-14 loss to the Vikings in the first game at Minnesota’s U.S. Bank Stadium. We know it wasn’t the week before, when the defense saved the day in a season-opening win at Jacksonville.
At some point soon, the Packers need Rodgers to play like a two-time MVP. Regardless of the circumstances around him — whether playcalling, game planning, receivers, running backs or offensive line — Rodgers left U.S. Bank Stadium saddled with his 14th straight game under 100 in the passer-rating department. This from a quarterback who began this season as the NFL’s all-time passer-rating leader (104.1).
His most recent such game came in Week 6 of the past season, in an efficient, two-touchdown, no-interception win over the San Diego Chargers, and his most recent truly dominant stretch of football came in the second half of the Week 9 game last season at Carolina, even though that game ended in defeat. Playing what he described as “school-yard ball” after falling behind big that day, Rodgers nearly rallied the Packers with four touchdowns and 369 yards. Rodgers hasn’t posted a 300-yard passing day since the week after the Carolina game, and that came in an ugly home loss to the Detroit Lions, who come to Lambeau Field on Sunday.
“Well, we’re not going to overreact,” Rodgers said after he went 20-of-36 for 213 yards with one touchdown, one interception, three fumbles (one lost), five sacks and a 70.7 passer rating. “It’s been two weeks. We’ve been not quite finding our rhythm yet, but we’ve got some guys working in that haven’t worked together a whole lot. So we’re going to trust the process and believe we can get this thing turned around.”
Jordy Nelson‘s absence was blamed, in part, for the offense’s slipping to 23rd in the NFL last season. Nelson is back and has touchdown catches in each of his first two games, yet the offense still can’t find its rhythm. Receivers aren’t open enough. Rodgers doesn’t appear to trust his protection, and the running backs failed on a couple short-yardage attempts: Eddie Lacy on first-and-goal from the 1 and James Starks on coach Mike McCarthy’s questionable fourth-and-2 decision.
“Frankly, I think we’re in Week 2 of the season,” McCarthy said after Sunday’s loss. “We won these type of games last year, and this is early NFL season football. We weren’t very clean tonight. There’s a lot of sloppy play out there, and that’s, frankly, what we’re going to focus on. We’re going to focus on ourselves. We know we can perform better.”
McCarthy refuted the idea that there is a carryover from the past season.
“This is a new season,” McCarthy said. “It’s two games. Our rhythm in the passing game was not what we would have liked it to have been tonight. That always starts with me — anything that goes on offense. We’ll go back, and we’ll look at it. We’ve got two weeks of live action to evaluate and move forward. We will improve.”
Who could have imagined that Sam Bradford, in his first start for the Vikings, would outduel Rodgers? But it was Bradford who looked more comfortable in his offense.
Rodgers completed just 27.3 percent of his passes thrown more than 10 yards downfield, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and he averaged just 6.0 yards per attempt with no touchdowns and one interception on such throws. Rodgers also struggled against pressure, as he completed just 33.3 percent of his passes against the blitz while throwing an interception and taking two sacks. When it was over, there were few concrete explanations for what happened.
“Well, it’s Week 2. There’s always a lot of work to be done,” Rodgers said. “I think we’re close at times. We just need to figure out what that identity is, and that’s created throughout the season. But we’re trying some different things and had some success with some two-tight end stuff at times. We just didn’t have enough success on third down and then turned the ball over too many times.”
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