MINNEAPOLIS – Mike McCarthy couldn’t do much more than state the obvious.
“This was a hard day,” the Packers head coach said.
Indeed it was. The Packers not only lost two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a broken right collarbone in the first quarter, but they lost to NFC North rival Minnesota, 23-10, at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
The Packers and Vikings are now tied atop the division with 4-2 records, but all thoughts now are on just where Green Bay’s season will go with Rodgers out indefinitely.
The team announced he might miss the rest of the season after landing on his throwing shoulder following an out-of-the-pocket hit from Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr after releasing a pass.
McCarthy had no update on Rodgers and no timeline for a possible return. His definitive message was centered on how the Packers will move forward.
“Brett Hundley is my quarterback, Joe Callahan is the backup,” McCarthy said. “That’s the direction. That’s my focus. That’s where we are as a football club.”
Minnesota’s defense was as dynamic as always, making life tough on Hundley, who was getting the first meaningful regular-season action of his young career.
With the Packers also losing three starting offensive linemen to injuries – left guard Lane Taylor (knee/ankle), right tackle Bryan Bulaga (concussion) and left tackle David Bahktiari (hamstring) – Hundley struggled to get into any kind of rhythm and flow.
Hundley did take advantage of two turnovers by Green Bay’s defense to put up the 10 points. A long fumble return by Clay Matthews set up a TD pass to Davante Adams that tied the score at 7 in the second quarter, and a deflected interception by Damarious Randall led to a field goal to get Green Bay within 14-10. But the offensive highlights ended there.
The Vikings sacked Hundley four times, pressuring him relentlessly. Safety Harrison Smith had 1½ of the sacks on blitzes and also made a spectacular one-handed, diving interception.
“We knew that was coming,” Hundley said. “They didn’t do anything different. They stuck to their defensive plan. Me, Aaron, it didn’t matter.”
Minnesota intercepted Hundley three times in all. His first pass on third-and-short was deflected and picked off, setting up Minnesota’s first touchdown on a screen pass to running back Jerick McKinnon. The last pick came with 15 seconds left in the red zone as the Packers were trying to get a touchdown to set up an onside kick for one final possession.
That knocked his passer rating down to just 39.6 at game’s end. He was 18-of-33 for 157 yards and the one touchdown.
“I thought Brett went in there and battled,” McCarthy said. “He had to play in some uphill spots. I need to do a better job as a play-caller putting him in positions to be successful.”
Running against the Vikings was a tough slog, as rookie Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery, back from his rib injury, combined for 71 rushing yards on 23 carries.
Defensively, the highlights didn’t go much beyond the turnovers. The Packers missed a ton of tackles, letting some potential third-down stops slip away.
Minnesota backup QB Case Keenum, making his fourth start of the year, managed just a 78.7 passer rating (24-of-38, 239 yards, one TD, one INT), but he put together three long drives for a touchdown and two field goals to put the Vikings up for good.
A 42-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Josh Hawkins started the go-ahead TD drive in the second quarter, and McKinnon scored both Minnesota touchdowns with a combined 99 yards from scrimmage (69 rushing, 30 receiving).
“This is a tough loss, but this is a team loss,” McCarthy said. “Losing Aaron Rodgers speaks for itself. In my opinion, he’s the best player in football, but this is the ultimate team game. We need to be better with the 11 on the field that we have, and ultimately that’s my responsibility.”
McCarthy was also miffed at himself for unsuccessfully challenging a 20-yard sideline catch by Vikings receiver Adam Thielen (nine catches, 97 yards) on third down in the second quarter.
Correct on an earlier challenge, the Packers were wrong on this one, so it was their last challenge of the game, and therefore McCarthy couldn’t challenge a third-down catch by McKinnon on the opening drive of the second half that may have been scooped off the turf. The Vikings got a field goal on that drive.
In any event, the postgame mood for the Packers was obviously somber, but McCarthy wasn’t singing a “woe-is-us” number.
Injuries are all over the NFL, and the Packers may have lost the one player they could least afford to lose, but McCarthy’s focus is all on what’s ahead.
“Tough, tough day today, but we’re 4-2,” he said, noting a hot New Orleans team visits Lambeau Field next week.
“We’re going to rally around this thing and we’re going to have a game plan to beat the Saints. I have confidence in Brett Hundley, and more importantly how it all fits together. We’re going to look at our matchups and go get it.”
Complete game coverage: