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No matter how frustrated, Aaron Rodgers isn't giving up

Injuries, defensive fronts will continue to put burden on Packers QB

QB Aaron Rodgers
QB Aaron Rodgers

The Packers' season may be hanging by a thread, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers made two things clear after the 15-9 loss to the Lions at Ford Field.

He doesn't wish he'd retired in the offseason, and he's not going to give up, however the odds are stacked against him and the Packers the rest of the way.

Asked if his on-field emotional displays in Detroit (and prior weeks) are any indication he wishes he weren't out there, and that he'd rather have walked away with back-to-back MVPs to finish his career, Rodgers emphasized he's frustrated, not miserable.

"Frustration and (misery) are two different emotions," he said. "So, when I decided to come back, it was all-in, and I don't make decisions and then hindsight, 20/20 have regrets about big decisions like that.

"So I was all-in, and this is a lot of life lessons for sure this year, but luckily it's not over. There's still a lot of games left. We'll be counted out, probably, by many, and we'll see how we respond."

That's been the refrain for over a month now, and the Packers have continued to respond with effort and fight but not results.

What's become increasingly evident is more and more of the burden is going to fall on Rodgers' shoulders, and throwing three interceptions for the first time in five years will lead the outside critics to claim he can no longer carry the team.

Last week, the Buffalo Bills sat back defensively and let the Packers run the ball, which they did to the tune of 200-plus yards. The Lions stacked their front to successfully take away running backs AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones, who combined for just 59 yards on 20 carries (2.95 per), and dared Rodgers to beat them with a depleted receiving corps.

Allen Lazard was gutting it out on a bad shoulder. Rookies Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson both left the game with injuries. Randall Cobb won't be back for another couple weeks. Veteran Sammy Watkins managed just one reception on five targets, dropping a couple catchable balls while clearly not on the same page with his QB on others.

Ten different players caught a pass out of necessity, but it's stunning to see a defense – especially one as poor statistically as Detroit's, ranked last in the league in yards and points – lining up and telling a four-time MVP to go right ahead and try whatever he wants.

"They dared us to throw the football," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "I can't tell you how many times you're looking in, particularly when we're under center, and everybody's mugged up on the line of scrimmage.

"Apparently we've got to do some better things schematically to alleviate some of that."

What answers the coaching staff can come up with at this point is anyone's guess. It's not as though change-ups haven't been tried over the last five games.

Execution at the goal line was the primary culprit this time, as Rodgers' two interceptions from the 5- and 1-yard lines on the first two drives gave his team too much to overcome.

The one visible sign of life offensively in the attempted road comebacks the last three weeks has been success with backyard ball. Rodgers has bought time, run around, and found some throwing windows late in games to give the offense a spark.

That's not exactly a long-term formula, nor one for even a full 60-minute game, but a few times now during the losing streak Rodgers has suggested he might have to turn to the improv game more often.

See scenes from the Sunday afternoon matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Nov. 6, 2022.

"I played (crappy) but I never gave up," he said. "And obviously I don't want to lead us in rushing, but I knew I was going to have to make some plays with my legs, and moving forward I'm definitely going to have to keep doing things like that."

The competition gets a lot better than the now two-win Lions. Of the eight games remaining, three are against current division leaders (Tennessee, Philadelphia, Minnesota), and two others are against teams that own playoff spots at the moment (Dallas, Miami).

The Cowboys and Titans are visiting Lambeau Field in a span of five days. A win over the Lions was supposed to set up this next week as an opportunity to get back above .500 in a hurry.

Instead, the Packers are still searching for answers, able to rely only upon their resolve.

"I've been counted out many times in my life as have many of my teammates, and I hope we just dig deep and find a way," Rodgers said. "We will truly be underdogs for many games moving forward. Hopefully we can embrace that.

"We have two games at home. We've got to go win those two games in a week, and then this thing looks a little different."


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