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'Kick in the you-know-where' comes early for Packers

Green Bay has been through this before in recent years

QB Aaron Rodgers
QB Aaron Rodgers

As a successful team that's a trendy pick to win the Super Bowl, the Packers aren't immune from being human and getting a tad caught up in it.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers admitted as much after the 38-3 loss to the Saints in Sunday's 2021 opener in Jacksonville. The three-time MVP confessed the squad likely was a little too high on itself.

"Yeah, I think so," Rodgers said. "I think there's probably some of that. We probably felt like we were going to go up and down the field on whoever they had out there."

That turned out to be far from the case, but also far from the first time the Packers of recent, successful seasons ate a little humble pie. This slice just happened to be fed to them in Week 1.

Two years ago, Green Bay was 7-1 and facing a middling Chargers team in a cozy LA soccer stadium filled mostly with Packers fans, only to come out flat as a pancake on both sides of the ball in a 26-11 loss that wasn't as lopsided as the final score.

Then last year, a 4-0 start followed by a bye week sent the Packers to Tampa, where they began the game with a quick 10 points and then did nothing right in a 38-10 defeat.

"This is a good kick in the you-know-where to hopefully get us going in the right direction," Rodgers said.

He uttered something similar about kicks, without the euphemism, last October after his interceptions on back-to-back possessions swung the game the Buccaneers' way.

Rodgers threw picks on consecutive drives again Sunday, yet these are the only two regular-season games in which he's thrown multiple interceptions dating back to 2017.

So when he talks about it being an "outlier," there's plenty of reason to believe him.

"One game. We've got 16 to go," he said.

The LaFleur-led Packers have responded in bounce-back mode before. They won the week after both those aforementioned losses to the Chargers and Buccaneers. In fact, coupled with last January's NFC title game defeat, this is the first time LaFleur has lost two in a row as a head coach.

One way they've rebounded is by getting back to running the football, a nonexistent aspect to the offense Sunday. As a team, the Packers compiled just 43 yards on 15 attempts, a paltry 2.9 average.

The Green Bay Packers faced the New Orleans in a Week 1 matchup in Jacksonville on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021.

LaFleur lamented not trying to run the ball more before the game got out of hand. Rodgers indicated the lack of success early told the Saints their defensive plan to keep both safeties back and not send an array of blitzes was the right call.

"If you can play a lot of two-shell and stop the run, there's not going to be a lot of guys running open," Rodgers said. "We have to go back to the drawing board a little bit and figure out … because this will be the old blueprint starting the season on the Packers.

"Hopefully we'll see it a little more because we'll have it figured out by next week."

Next Monday night's home opener won't be able to get here soon enough for the Packers. After games like this, players talk about flushing it and pushing forward, but it doesn't really get flushed until another game is played, and hopefully won.

"I don't know if we ever bury or dismiss even when we'd like to," Rodgers said. "You know, we'll evaluate the film like we always do, and be critical, and then move on."

Without feeling very good about themselves, and no one's going to say that's a bad thing, given this team's track record.

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