Rodgers just part of late-game failings

Even though the Rodgers-led offense has fallen short in last-minutes drives against Jacksonville, Carolina, Minnesota, Tennessee and Tampa Bay, neither coach Mike McCarthy nor coordinator Joe Philbin sense Rodgers' confidence is lagging in win-or-else situations.

Another late-game chance to win a game. Another late-game chance down the drain.

The Packers have dropped their last three games by a combined 11 points, and for the second time in three weeks, Aaron Rodgers threw an interception instead of the touchdown necessary to rescue the team.

On Monday, the day after a 20-16 loss at Jacksonville in which Rodgers overthrew tight end Donald Lee and was intercepted with just less than 1 minute remaining, coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said Rodgers deserves some — but not close to all — of the blame.

"The fact of the matter is, as an offensive team, at the end of the game with 2 minutes, we've had four, five, maybe more opportunities to win a game, and we haven't gotten that done," Philbin told a handful of reporters. "When I say we, you know, coaching-wise, we haven't prepared them well enough. They haven't executed well enough. He's the quarterback, so he's a part of it, as do the other 10 players on offense.

"It's a collective effort. It's not about Aaron Rodgers' résumé or what he's done. It's about the Green Bay Packers winning a game in the fourth quarter and making plays when it counts. He has to do that, as do the other guys."

Even though the Rodgers-led offense has fallen short in last-minutes drives against Jacksonville, Carolina, Minnesota, Tennessee and Tampa Bay, neither McCarthy nor Philbin sense Rodgers' confidence is lagging in win-or-else situations.

"Everybody is different," McCarthy said of the quarterbacks he's worked with. "There are certain mannerisms I think people tend to express in different times, positive and negative that they go through. I think it is important to look in an individual's eyes at those particular times. To answer your question: Do I think Aaron Rodgers has a confidence problem? No, I don't. I think that's reflected in the way he plays. If Aaron is guilty of anything, it may be being a little too aggressive. He made a lot of plays in that game. He made a lot of plays with his feet. He threw the ball well moving in and out of the pocket.

"The two-minute drill — and I understand it and he understands — that's what he'll be judged on and we need to do a better job of executing in that spot."

Part of the reason for that is because his predecessor, Brett Favre, launched the Packers to 40 fourth-quarter comeback wins during his 16 years in Green Bay. Favre's first was in his first game, and he famously led the Packers to game-winning touchdowns in the final 2 minutes three times in the first month of the 1999 season.

Of course, at that point, Favre was in his eighth season as the Packers' starting quarterback. Rodgers, of course, is in his first season. Even with these Packers losing all six of their games decided by four points or less, Philbin said the offensive players were eager for Sunday's chance to finally produce a breakthrough drive.

"Even though it's been well-documented the struggles we've had, I think our guys were looking forward to rectifying that situation and getting out on the field and scoring a touchdown and pulling a game out late," Philbin said.

But, it didn't happen. Rodgers completed three consecutive passes to get the ball near midfield. He had Lee open down the seam for what would have been a 20- or 25-yard gain, but the ball was overthrown and intercepted. It was the correct read, the coaches said.

The Packers have two games remaining, though there's no guarantee they'll get another crack at mounting a game-winning drive in the final minutes. So, there's at least a decent chance Rodgers will have this stigma festering all season. Then again, the Bears — Monday's opponent in Chicago — aren't a juggernaut and Detroit, while winless, is playing hard.

"Maybe we're pressing a little bit too hard," Philbin said. "We've talked to our guys about, ‘We're going to be in this situation again.' The margin for error right now as a team isn't very great, so a lot of games are going to come down to the last position. I can sit here and say, ‘Hey, maybe we're pressing a little bit too hard, maybe we're forcing some things to make some things happen.

"Nobody's been immune to contributing to our disfunction at the end of a game," Philbin continued, listing route running and blocking as other culprits. "It's been a little bit of everybody. We had a real good two-minute drive at practice last week. We work on it continually. It's something we've got to see if we can come up with quickly, because chances are, we very well could be in another one."

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com.


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