Aaron Rodgers limped. He grimaced. He grabbed at his leg. Those have become familiar sights this season, with the two-time NFL MVP playing on an injured left knee. But what was missing Sunday was the quarterbacking magic that Rodgers usually is able to conjure, even while so obviously diminished physically, to compensate for the Green Bay Packers’ significant weaknesses.
The Packers lost, 31-17, to the Washington Redskins at rainy FedEx Field to drop their record to a thoroughly mediocre 1-1-1. Since Rodgers made his second-half return on opening night to orchestrate a memorable comeback victory over the Chicago Bears, he and the Packers have limped their way to a tie with the Minnesota Vikings and now a relatively ugly defeat to the Redskins.
“I missed a couple throws that I usually hit,” Rodgers said. “It was one of those days, tough conditions. Not super tough, but we had some steady rain for a lot of the game. That makes the ball a little slicker. It’s a little harder to throw. It’s a little harder to catch. But we hold ourselves to a high standard. I’ve got to play better, and we’ve got to make the plays when we have opportunities.”
The Packers gave an error-filled performance, with penalties and dropped passes. They trailed 28-10 at halftime.
“We just came out and laid an egg in the first half,” Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. “It was kind of like [Coach Mike McCarthy] said: It was the fundamentals, strictly speaking on behalf of the defense — missed tackles, missed assignments. . . . You could use any excuse in the book so far as last week or anything like that. But we’ve just got to start better.”
The Vikings, like the Packers, gave a dreadful performance a week after their tie.
“We’re not going to use that as an excuse,” Matthews said. “Of course, you could say five quarters of play, the heat, playing a division rival. You can use any of those excuses. But we’ve got to play better. We’ll get back to the basics, fundamentals.”
Said Rodgers: “It’s an excuse. Coincidence. They’ve got a really good defense, Washington. I missed a couple throws. We dropped a couple ones with chances for big plays. That kind of hurt us. We didn’t get a lot going most of the game. You’ve got to give them credit. But we left a lot of offense out there.”
Rodgers said there was no last-minute consideration of withholding him from the game because of the wet conditions. He moved around but clearly was hampered. He grabbed at his right hamstring after one play but said later that wasn’t an issue.
“It can be painful at times moving around, especially lateral movement,” Rodgers said. “But I’m going to be out there if I’m up to it and try to get this thing back turned in the right direction with a win next week.”
The Packers couldn’t run the ball Sunday and couldn’t play defense. Rodgers’s receivers did him no favors. He is the NFL’s highest-paid player because he often can lift his team above such shortcomings. It didn’t happen Sunday.
“We’re a work in progress on offense,” Rodgers said. “We’ve got to find ways to get [wide receiver] Davante [Adams] more attempts and get [tight end] Jimmy [Graham] involved. We’ve got to find the run game, too, because we have three talented backs. We need to start a little faster. We haven’t been starting fast in games. We’ve had double-digit deficits at halftime a couple times now. We’ve got to play better in the first quarter so we don’t have to come back and do something heroic in the fourth quarter.”
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