GREEN BAY, Wisconsin. – Aaron Rodgers didn’t think he would play another terrible half on Sunday against the New England Patriots, and the Green Bay Packers quarterback was right.
And Packers coach Matt LaFleur hopes he never again makes what he called “worst call of the day” when it comes to an ill-advised replay challenge.
They narrowly got away with it in Sunday’s 27-24 overtime victory over the Patriots at Lambeau Field. But if they hadn’t faced a rookie third-row quarterback in Bailey Zappe for most of the game, they might not have.
“This way of winning, I don’t think, is sustainable because it puts too much pressure on our defense,” Rodgers said. “And obviously, I have to play better and I will play better.”
While he fully appreciates the fortune that his team is 3-1 heading into next Sunday’s game against the New York Giants in London, Rodgers hasn’t shied away from the reality of what could have been.
“You can’t lose 2-2 to a third-tier quarterback and not play very well in all three phases, so we had to have this one,” Rodgers said. “That doesn’t take anything away from the joy of winning, but this was one we had to have.”
The Packers trailed 10-7 at halftime in part because of Rodgers, who:
He had the lowest passer rating (11.2) of anyone assisted in any of the 210 games he has started.
He threw only the fourth pick-six of his career when rookie cornerback Jack Jones jumped an exit route the quarterback intended for Allen Lazard, in which Rodgers said he “missed the shot so bad [Jones] got over it That would have been good. If he had thrown the ball where he was supposed to, he would probably pick it up calmly.”
He was so wide on a short throw to Romeo Doubs that the rookie wide receiver couldn’t secure it easily enough before fumbled. “That was not a good pitch,” Rodgers said. “Good catch by him. I almost wish he’d drop it.”
Rodgers got next to nothing on the field in the first half. He completed just 1 of 5 passes for 10 or more passing yards in the first two quarters. It was a 24-yard pass to Lazard (who had six catches for 116 yards on the Packers’ first 100-yard receiving day this season). In the second half, Rodgers was 7-for-9 on those shots for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
“I settled in and usually I don’t have two terrible halves,” Rodgers said. “So I got back to the shape that I expected of myself and we started moving the ball.”
It helped that Rodgers finally started stretching the field. On Sunday he averaged a season-high 9.0 passing yards per attempt after averaging a league-low 5.2 passing yards in the first three weeks, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
It also helped that the Packers rushed for 199 yards (including 110 from Aaron Jones on 16 carries).
But mistakes still made it necessary to go into extra time.
One was from LaFleur, who challenged what he thought was a 40-yard touchdown reception from Doubs with 2 minutes, 2 seconds remaining in regulation. Doubs clearly didn’t secure the catch, and LaFleur even said his coach, Connor Lewis, told him so. However, LaFleur raised the red flag anyway. Losing the challenge cost him a timeout that could have helped the Packers win in regulation, but instead, they got the ball back with just four seconds remaining.
“I’m not very proud of that moment,” LaFleur said. “That was an emotional decision, and I think it’s a great learning lesson that you can never make those emotional decisions in the heat of battle. You know better. You have to survive on the ground. Connor Lewis was in my ear, he’s on the box and he’s in my ear, and he said, ‘I don’t think so.’ And he said we shouldn’t challenge him. He just made an emotional decision, and it was almost like throwing a Hail Mary. That could have come back and bit in the butt. “.
And then there’s the Packers’ defense, which was heavily touted before the season. The defense nearly let a third-row quarterback beat it, and so far it’s struggled against the run (the Patriots averaged 5.1 yards per attempt).
While the way they’ve done it may not be sustainable, that doesn’t mean the Packers can’t keep winning.
“I think winning is sustainable, for sure,” Rodgers said. “I think we’re going to have to play a little better against the starting quarterbacks and if our defense isn’t playing as well as it can.”