MINNEAPOLIS – He didn’t come right out and say the five-letter “R” word he made so famous two seasons ago, but Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is not pushing the panic button over the offense’s early-season struggles.
“I don’t think we’re that far off,” Rodgers said following Sunday night’s 17-14 loss to Minnesota at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“We have to go back and be harsh with our critiques of ourselves, myself included, and we have to get better. I think we will. This isn’t anything to get super-crazy about.”
It is time, however, to get going. The schedule says so.
A rough, two-game road stretch to begin the season in difficult environments – the heat and humidity of Jacksonville, followed by the opening of the Vikings’ new stadium – is now followed by four straight home games with the bye week sprinkled in.
Rodgers called it an “awkward” schedule, but the bottom line is now is when it’s most favorable. It starts with another division opponent in Detroit and includes two home night games against the Giants and Bears.
“It’s huge on a number of different fronts,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said of the schedule turning Green Bay’s way. “We’ve been on the road four weeks. We obviously played in a dome stadium, and where we played last week, it was all part of the challenge, and we knew that going into the season.”
The Packers’ offense needs the home cooking. The first two weeks have been characterized by fits and starts. On Sunday night, the Packers had just 65 yards at halftime before compiling nearly 200 in the second half but letting multiple scoring chances get away.
Give the Vikings’ defense credit. They’re a top unit for a reason. McCarthy referred to it being early-season football. Things aren’t “clean.” That’s not an excuse, it’s reality. No one is shirking responsibility.
“This is a new season. It’s two games,” McCarthy said. “Our rhythm in the passing game was not what we would have liked it to been tonight. That always starts with me, anything that goes on with the offense. We’ll go back and look at it.”
Added Rodgers: “I missed a couple (throws) early in the game. We have to hit those. Those change the momentum and quiet the crowd a little bit.”
Rodgers acknowledged it’s a long season. Working Jordy Nelson back into the mix after a year off, and starting to click with new tight end Jared Cook, is going to take some time.
“It’s Week 2, there’s always a lot of work to be done,” Rodgers said. “We’re close at times. We just need to figure out what that identity is. That’s created throughout the season.”
The next four games would be a great time to forge that identity, whatever it may be.
Let’s be honest. The schedule-maker did the Packers no favors with these first two road games. Both presented challenging circumstances. Green Bay made the crunch-time plays on defense to win the first one. It didn’t come through in the clutch on offense to win the second.
As McCarthy likes to say, “That’s football.” The head coach reported only two new injuries, to defenders Letroy Guion (knee) and Morgan Burnett (hamstring), but with Sam Shields (concussion) also out and other bumps and bruises sure to crop up after this tough start, McCarthy noted the team’s health is a concern.
There are a lot of ways the Packers can get healthy over the next month or so. It’s up to them to seize what lies ahead as the schedule tilts their way.
“There was a lot of sloppy football play out there,” McCarthy said. “We’re going to focus on ourselves.”
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