FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – To listen to Aaron Rodgers describe his frustrations with the Packers’ offense Sunday night, it wasn’t anything he hasn’t said before.
The problem is it’s now eight games into the season and he’s still saying many of the same things. So even though the Packers hung in there against another of the league’s elite teams on Sunday night in New England, the regrets are within, because the chances were available.
“The consistency,” Rodgers said following a 31-17 road loss to the Patriots regarding what ails the offense. “We’re not hitting on all cylinders. Hurting ourselves with negative-yardage plays and missed throws and turnovers at the wrong time. Not being on the same page too many times.
“It’s happening at the worst time. When we have to play our best in crunch time, we’re not playing our best.”
When the Packers have played their best football late in games, they’ve rallied for wins over the Bears and 49ers, but the opportunities that have gotten away, particularly the last two weeks, have hurt.
The Packers had the ball with a one-point lead and roughly six minutes to go last week against the then-unbeaten Rams but went three-and-out and never got it back.
This week an Aaron Jones fumble in Patriots territory wiped out Green Bay’s lone chance to take the lead on the perennial AFC powerhouse, but it was seemingly the next possession that bothered Rodgers more.
Down by seven after the Patriots converted the turnover into a TD, Rodgers regretted not holding the ball a tad longer off play-action and a deep drop on second down. He saw rookie Equanimeous St. Brown flash open on a crossing route and fired, but if he’d waited a tick, he probably had Davante Adams one-on-one deep down the middle.
The pass to St. Brown was broken up on the sideline, and a sack on third down all but ended the Packers’ hopes.
“I just, I need to keep feeding Davante in those clutch situations,” Rodgers said. “That’s what I’m most disappointed in myself about.
“He’s a tough cover, and I have to keep finding ways to get him the football.”
Adams drew Patriots top cover man Stephon Gilmore and did have a touchdown but finished with just 40 yards on six catches. Rodgers probably feels the same way about Jimmy Graham, who had four grabs for 55 yards and a score, but nothing after his 15-yard TD to open the second half.
The Packers’ stars are going to have to produce like it for the offense to get rolling, and Rodgers puts just as much onus on himself as anyone to make that happen.
“We need to, we expect to,” Rodgers said of him and Adams in particular playing at a Pro Bowl level more often. “Davante is a tough cover, and I expect to play great every week. I have to keep looking his way.”
That’s not all, though. It doesn’t need to be the Rodgers-to-Adams show every week if the Packers clean things up elsewhere.
A delay-of-game penalty in goal-to-go on their first scoring drive led to a field goal instead of a touchdown. A failed third-and-1 just before halftime ruined a chance for points. And then there’s the fumble when the Packers were on the verge of putting the Patriots on their heels for the first time all night.
“That one play obviously doesn’t lose the game, but it’s plays like that by all of us, myself included, that have just hindered us from finishing games out,” Rodgers said.
“I say all the time every year you have to learn how to win, and we have to learn how to win on the road. We haven’t won yet.”
Indeed, at the halfway point, the Packers are 3-0-1 at home and 0-4 away from Lambeau Field. These last two road trips, to L.A. and New England, are as tough as it gets, but an upcoming back-to-back at Seattle and Minnesota looks just as daunting.
No one’s shirking responsibility for the struggles, but no one’s finding the necessary groove, either. As this Packers team keeps fighting, the season keeps shortening.
“I’m upset that I haven’t been as consistent and we haven’t been clicking the way we expect to click,” Rodgers said.
“Two great teams, who could be considered two of the top teams in the NFL, and we had a chance to win both games.”
The Green Bay Packers faced off against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Sunday Night Football