MINNEAPOLIS – Boy, the Packers sure had their chances.
A failed fourth-and-2 in the red zone, then two turnovers in the fourth quarter when one more first down might have been enough to get in field-goal range both times.
It all added up to a frustrating 17-14 loss to the Vikings on Sunday night in the regular-season opening of new U.S. Bank Stadium.
“We had a chance in the fourth quarter and I turned it over twice,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said immediately after the Packers fell to 1-1 on the young season.
“It’s tough. Good environment, good opponent. We didn’t play very good on offense at times but we had chances to win the game.”
The second-guessers will have a field day with Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Minnesota 14-yard line late in the third quarter. Showing signs of breaking out of a first-half offensive slump, the Packers were trailing only 10-7 at the time.
Neither McCarthy nor Rodgers was questioning the call, though.
“It was a 12-play drive. I thought the advantage was to the offense in that particular situation,” McCarthy said. “I definitely felt that we were playing the way we needed to play, the way we’re capable of playing.”
Running back James Starks was stuffed just short of the marker, and the Vikings took the turnover on downs the other way for an 87-yard TD drive that put the Packers in a 10-point hole.
“I liked the call,” Rodgers said of the Starks handoff. “I had a chance to maybe throw it out to Jordy (Nelson) and convert it. I’m not sure about the spot. We’ll have to go back and look at it. I felt from where I was standing we maybe got the ball a little farther.
“I like the call. It was an aggressive call. We were moving the ball and we have to convert there.”
The Packers responded to the Vikings’ TD with a score of their own to get back within three points. A 39-yard pass to Nelson set up Rodgers’ 10-yard scramble into the end zone.
Green Bay’s last two possessions were tough to swallow, though.
One play after a 15-yard pass to tight end Richard Rodgers got the Packers to the Minnesota 40, the Vikings’ Brian Robison stripped Rodgers of the ball and Shamar Stephen recovered for Minnesota.
Rodgers was stepping away from the pressure and said he was trying to throw it away when Robison got a hand on it.
Green Bay’s defense gave Rodgers one more drive, and he moved the Packers from their own 9 to midfield. But a sack by Linval Joseph was followed two snaps later by a Trae Waynes interception on a pass for Davante Adams, and another chance was squandered.
“I left it too far inside,” Rodgers said of the pass.
Added McCarthy: “We had some opportunities. We just weren’t quite as clean as we’d like to be.”
On a night the defense held running back Adrian Peterson to just 19 yards on 12 carries, the Packers normally would like their odds. Peterson left the game in the second half with a knee injury.
Receiver Stefon Diggs was the tough guy to handle, though, as he caught nine of new Vikings QB Sam Bradford’s passes for 182 yards, including a 25-yard score. Diggs also had two receptions of 40-plus yards in the game, giving second-year cornerback Damarious Randall fits all night.
Bradford finished 22-of-31 for 286 yards and two TDs for a 121.2 passer rating in his Minnesota debut. Rodgers’ 70.7 passer rating (20-of-36, 213 yards, one TD, one INT) was not up to his standards.
It was a sloppy game overall on offense, as the Packers fumbled four times, but only lost the one in the fourth quarter on the Robison strip.
The Packers’ only score in the first half was set up by a blocked punt by Ty Montgomery followed by a pass interference penalty on a deep ball for Adams. The Packers had just 65 total yards at intermission.
“We’re not going to overreact,” Rodgers said. “It’s been two weeks. We haven’t been able to quite find our rhythm yet, but we’ll trust the process and believe we can get the thing turned around.”
With the win, Minnesota takes early possession of first place in the NFC North at 2-0. The 1-1 Packers have another division opponent on the docket next week, the home opener against Detroit.
“Tough night,” McCarthy said. “We’re a team that needs to recover in a number of different ways.”
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