Sunshine State woes: Rodgers struggles in loss to Saints
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has rarely had an NFL performance like this.
It was nearly a new Sunshine State low for a quarterback with plenty of Florida woes.
The league’s reigning MVP completed 15 of 28 passes for 133 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions in a 38-3 drubbing to hurricane-displaced New Orleans on Sunday.
“This is a good kick in the you know where,” said Rodgers, ready to turn to page to next Monday night’s game against Detroit. “Hopefully gets us going in the right direction going back home and playing a division opponent next week.”
Rodgers spent the final 11 minutes of the game on the sideline, having given way to second-year pro Jordan Love. Rodgers mostly sat on the bench and chatted with teammates. There was plenty to break down, little of it positive.
“We played bad. I played bad. Not characteristic of how we’ve practiced in training camp. Obviously not how I’ve played over the years,” Rodgers said. “This is hopefully an outlier moving forward. We’ll find out next week.”
The Saints looked like geniuses for choosing to play in Florida, where Rodgers has been less than stellar over his 17-year NFL career. This one, though, made most of the others look decent.
“I think those are all great excuses for us that we will not even go near,” said Packers coach Matt LaFleur.
LaFleur said it was fair to question whether he should have rested most of his starters during the preseason.
“Certainly I think you question every decision you make when you put a performance like that out there,” he said.
Rodgers finished with a 36.8 passer rating, tied for his fourth worst in 191 starts. And it came against a defense supposedly thin in the secondary.
His biggest issue was Green Bay’s offensive line, which started two rookies and had another guy playing out of position because All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari is recovering from a knee injury. The revamped unit did little to open rushing lanes and even less to give Rodgers enough time in the pocket.
It didn’t help that Green Bay punted on its first two possessions and trailed 17-0 before picking up its third first down. Rodgers went to two-minute mode from there, hardly ideal against New Orleans’ two-deep shell scheme designed to get pressure with just the front four.
The Packers managed a field goal at the end of the half and moved into the red zone to open the third quarter — they were hoping to cut the lead to 17-10 — when Rodgers got hit as he threw and misfired behind Davante Adams. Paulson Adebo got the interception.
Rodgers called it the “play of the game.”
His second interception was a bad overthrow to speedster Marquez Valdes-Scantling. He completed just one pass longer than 20 yards, a perfectly placed ball to Adams that gained 31. That led to Green Bay’s lone score, a 39-yard field goal by Mason Crosby on the final play of the first half.
Nothing changed after the break. And Rodgers ended the day like few others in his illustrious career.
The only passing games worse for the three-time MVP came at Buffalo in 2014 (34.3 rating), at Detroit in 2010 (34.7) and at Tampa Bay last season (35.4).
Rodgers fell to 3-5 in eight starts in Florida, including back-to-back losses.
The Saints, who spent two weeks practicing in the Dallas area after Hurricane Ida made landfall near New Orleans on Aug. 29, had their pick of any of Florida’s three NFL stadiums. They chose Jacksonville in an effort to make it tougher on Packers fans trying to get tickets, and partly because they didn’t want Tampa Bay fans cheering against a fellow NFC South team.
They also looked at Rodgers’ record in the Sunshine State, which wasn’t good and just got worse.
“I always say there’s no coincidences in life, so I don’t think I can slough it off as a coincidence,” Rodgers said. “We traveled down here. It was hot but not as hot as we played here in ‘16. The heat shouldn’t have been an issue for us., We just didn’t execute very well.”
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