Matt LaFleur fell on the sword for the Packers’ Week 1 performance, but Aaron Rodgers preached patience after the Vikings’ 23-7 win in Minnesota.
LaFleur gave a blunt assessment of his own performance as a play-caller in a game in which the Packers averaged 6.7 yards per pass attempt and appeared to get away from the one productive unit — the run game — too early.
“Obviously, it wasn’t very good,” LaFleur said. “That starts with me. I have to have a better plan for the team and get the guys prepared.”
LaFleur even threw a few logs on his own fire when it came to the offensive distribution.
“Anytime Aaron Jones comes off of a game with eight touches, that’s not good enough,” LaFleur said.
But Rodgers, who was visibly upset on the sideline as the Packers stumbled out of the gate offensively, seemed to have mellowed a bit by the time postgame rolled around.
“We had a lot of chances today,” Rodgers said. “Not taking anything away from (the Vikings’) defense, but we hurt ourselves many times, myself included. I had a lot of opportunities to score a lot more than seven (points).”
There’s truth in what both men said. LaFleur has authored more on-point game plans than not in his mostly brilliant Packers career. But he certainly won’t be framing this call sheet.
The Packers came out passive and unwilling to test the Vikings’ secondary deep more than a few times early. Part of that understandably could be chalked up to the offensive line being quite beat up.
But getting away from his two best playmakers in the game, Jones and A.J. Dillon, ended up backfiring. They combined for 23 touches; realistically, that number should be closer to 40 than to 20.
Rodgers agreed on that point. But he also saw the bright side of what outwardly was a pretty dim performance when it mattered most.
“Look, it’s tough to win in this league, and definitely tough to win when you get in your own way too many times,” he said. “I feel like we did some good things. We maybe gotta get some more touches for Jonesy and Dillon.”
Rodgers did make sure to point out that it was far from ideal, though.
“(We) made a lot of mistakes in the perimeter, missed some throws, so there’s a lot to clean up all the way around,” he said.
But he might be onto something in one regard: The Packers struggling in Week 1 is not new. They were abysmal in that bizarre season opener a year ago against the Saints, losing 38-3 and amassing only 229 yards and 14 first downs — far worse than today.
For refresher’s sake, the Packers would win their next seven games, finish the season 13-4 and Rodgers would win AP NFL Most Valuable Player for a second consecutive season. Sometimes bad things happen in Week 1 that can be quickly washed away.
But that team had Davante Adams, something this club does not. While Adams was busy catching 10 passes for 141 yards and a score in his Raiders debut, the Packers’ wide receivers collectively totaled 12 catches for 120 yards, the vast majority of which came after falling behind by 17 points.
An early drop by rookie Christian Watson on a pass that should have been a 75-yard touchdown set the tone for the day.
“Drops are going to happen, it’s part of the game,” Rodgers said. “It’s the mental stuff that we just can’t have because we’re hurting ourselves.”
Perhaps LaFleur will rethink his decision to not play his starters in the preseason, something he’s now done two years in a row. Doing it last year was one thing; taking that approach with a unit that’s makeup has changed markedly is quite another.
“This is two years in a row that we’ve come out and not looked prepared,” LaFleur said. “Certainly all of us will look inward, and will make the necessary corrections.”
Those corrections could come as soon as Sept. 18, when the Packers host the 1-0 Chicago Bears. Even after Chicago’s fine defensive performance in Week 1, it’s worth reminding that Rodgers has owned the Bears in recent matchups.
If that trend continues, just like Green Bay’s slow start a year ago, the Packers should be just fine, even as ugly as Sunday’s result was.