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Mental mistakes are mystery Packers can't solve in Week 1

“Surprising” to QB Aaron Rodgers how prevalent they were, and youth is no excuse

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

MINNEAPOLIS – The dropped deep ball on the first play was disheartening, and Aaron Rodgers would always like to have a couple throws back.

But what bothered the four-time MVP quarterback most after Sunday's season-opening 23-7 dud against the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium were the mental mistakes that cropped up everywhere on offense.

"Too many across the board," Rodgers said. "Drops are going to happen, but the mental stuff we can't have because we're hurting ourselves.

"It's tough to win in this league, and it's tough to win when you get in your own way too many times."

He was referring to players going the wrong way on a block, missing a protection call, not being on the same page with hot reads, and route miscues that included depth and timing.

Due to injuries to front-line players David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins and Allen Lazard, the Packers were forced to play a bunch of young linemen and receivers, but Rodgers emphasized that at this level there are no excuses.

"Truth is, we're professionals," Rodgers said. "There's an expectation of performance, and it starts with preparation. There were just too many preparation issues, and it was surprising."

He mentioned on three or four plays, the blocking up front simply wasn't executed properly, assignment-wise, and chances for big plays down the field were ruined. He also admitted he made a "dumb decision" to throw a jump ball deep for Randall Cobb that was picked off by Harrison Smith.

Also, once on a scramble drill, the two receivers downfield did the opposite of what Rodgers was hoping they would do.

Patience with all the young players on offense will be necessary, and it didn't help that rookie receiver Christian Watson wasn't able to play in any preseason games due to a knee injury. Perhaps if he had, the game is 7-7 in the middle of the first quarter.

But woulda, coulda, shoulda only goes so far, and that patience will only last so long.

"You knew there were going to be growing pains," he said. "This is real football. This counts.

"I wish I had the answer there (as to why). It's different when it's real, I guess. I know for me it feels different and the urgency goes up."

Most unsettling was the game unfolded much like the opener last year, and all the work that went into Week 1 didn't translate to the field, on either side of the ball.

Similar to 2021 against the Saints, the defense got gashed for big plays, and the first opportunity for the offense to score in close was thwarted. The early red-zone failures offensively became a season-long issue after being historically terrific in 2020, and they were studied extensively this past offseason.

"It's something that's hindered us in the past, to last season, where we're not finishing in the red zone," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said.

Green Bay gave Minnesota requisite credit for the convincing result, but one year later the Packers are once again exactly where they didn't want to be – coming back home shaking their heads as to how it could go so wrong, with another division rival on deck in prime time who's hunting the wounded.

"Some young guys played their first game, Bobby (Tonyan) came back from his injury, those were the positives," Rodgers said.

"We'll learn from this. It sucks, but it's the NFL. Got to come back next week, put it all together, clean it up.

"We've got to get some guys back on offense and get this thing going in the right direction."

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