GREEN BAY – The Packers were lucky, unlucky and their own worst enemy all on the same day.
While the outside world is going to babble incessantly about a penalty that dearly hurt, the Packers have to deal with all the ways they could have, and should have, negated that pain after tying the Vikings 29-29 on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
"We found a lot of ways to give that one away," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.
The Vikings ultimately didn't take it, either, but in the end it was the Packers who had both the earliest and the most chances to turn this Week 2 showdown into a W.
Where to start? Midway through the third quarter is as good a place as any, when the Packers, up 17-7, thought they had a clutch, third-down touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham to take a three-score lead. Only guard Lane Taylor was flagged for holding, and Green Bay had to settle for a field goal.
It was one of four red-zone possessions in the game that ended with just three points, because the Packers stalled out inside the 20 twice more in the fourth quarter and kicked short field goals.
First, Jamaal Williams got stuffed for a 1-yard loss on third-and-2 from the 12. Then, equally if not more frustrating was the sequence after Ha Ha Clinton Dix's interception and runback to the Minnesota 13 with just over two minutes left in regulation.
The Packers thought there'd be a replay review on a near-catch by Davante Adams in the end zone on second down (Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks ripped the ball out as both players fell to the ground). But play wasn't stopped and Green Bay ended up taking a delay of game that made it third-and-15, and kicked again after an incomplete pass.
Those missed chances were sandwiched around a longer, 48-yard field goal that ended what appeared to be a much more promising drive as well, after Rodgers drilled a 12-yard pass to Geronimo Allison for a huge conversion on third-and-8.
If any one of those four second-half drives reaches the end zone, the craziness of the Clay Matthews flag and subsequent overtime would never have occurred. Asked which of those possessions he felt really should have ended in a touchdown, Rodgers simply said, "Every single one of them."
He then paused, rattling off and processing a few details, and repeated, "Yeah, every single one of them."
Only the Packers had more chances coming. Rodgers' superb 27-yard sideline pass to Graham with just 7 seconds left would have been compared to the Jared Cook play to beat Dallas in the playoffs two seasons ago, only kicker Mason Crosby ruined his career-high-tying 5-for-5 day by missing wide left from 52 yards out as the fourth-quarter clock expired.
And then there were Rodgers' biggest regrets, in overtime. Facing second-and-1 from the Minnesota 37, Rodgers tried to fake an inside handoff to Williams, except he bobbled it while trying to pull the ball back from Williams.
"Jamaal didn't know I was pulling it," Rodgers said. "He was trying to grab for it a little bit."
The Minnesota Vikings traveled to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers in Week 2 of the 2018 NFL season
On his bad left knee, Rodgers executed a few rollout passes in the second half and was moving around much more than he did in the first. A QB keeper was the last thing the Vikings were expecting, and Rodgers said he saw Minnesota's defensive end to his right, along with safety Harrison Smith, crashing over toward Williams.
"I thought I had a first down," he said.
Rodgers recovered his own fumble but lost 3 yards, setting up third-and-4, and the Vikings sacked him with a blitz. On that one, Rodgers wished he'd kept his eyes to the left, because he thought he had Randall Cobb for at least a short gain that might have given Crosby a chance at redemption. Instead, the Packers had to punt and Rodgers never got the ball back.
"I'm disappointed about my last two plays," he said, another phrase he repeated postgame.
"We had a ton of chances."
Indeed they did, and while the Vikings will be dealing with a potential kicker crisis after Daniel Carlson missed twice in overtime and three kicks total on the day – including from barely longer than extra-point distance on the game-deciding final play – the Packers can only swallow hard knowing with repeated openings in front of them, they stumbled rather than forced their way through to shut the door.
"I'd feel better if we were 2-0," Rodgers said.
Might as well repeat that one, too.