Rodgers Feels Offense's Pain

Like Favre Bowl I, Favre Bowl II on Sunday at Lambeau Field was a bit of déjà vu. Brett Favre got a win against his former team, Jared Allen had his way and the Packers' offensive line was left wondering how to pick up the pieces.

Aaron Rodgers approached the podium ever so gingerly for his postgame press conference. His steps were long and slow, an indication that this one might have been even worse than the first.

"I'll be OK in a couple of days, but this one will hurt for a couple of days," said Rodgers. "Both physically and mentally."

That might be an understatement.

After getting sacked six more times, Rodgers was lucky enough to even get up. He entered Sunday's game with the Vikings on the injury report with a sore foot, and on at least two occasions on Sunday, it looked like he might be hurt worse after taking big hits.

After the game, the effects were only magnified by the final result – Vikings 38, Packers 26.

Though the numbers were again good for Rodgers (26-of-41, 287 yards, three touchdowns), the result was the same – another loss to the Vikings – this time in Round Two of Brett Favre vs. the Packers: The Homecoming at Lambeau Field.

"I hate losing to whoever's at quarterback for them. I hate losing to the Vikings, especially," said Rodgers. "(They're) division rivals (and we) don't like those (losses) at home."

Really, in this one, a poor first half did in the Packers, overshadowing an otherwise strong second half for Rodgers. The Packers' second-year starter completed 21-of-30 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns over the final 30 minutes.

The Packers' comeback bid, however, fell short as Rodgers' counterpart, Favre, was 17-of-28 for 244 yards and four touchdowns amidst a chorus of boos in his return to Green Bay.

ust like the first meeting between the two teams this season (a 30-23 Vikings' victory at the Metrodome Oct. 5), the Packers fell behind early and had to play catch-up.

"We weren't in a rhythm," said Rodgers. "I think that's the first thing. That was due to lack of execution."

With Lambeau ripe with excitement at the outset, the Packers fizzled. Rodgers was just 5 of his first 11 for 38 yards, and even more concerning, was sacked four times in the first half. The Packers gained just 47 yards over the first 30 minutes, their worst output since a 1999 regular season game at Denver in which they amassed just 42 yards with Favre at the helm.

The Packers almost methodically fell behind 17-3 as coach Mike McCarthy shared the blame.

"I didn't do a very good job getting the offense in rhythm in the first half," he said. "The run and pass mix was the starting point."

McCarthy's mission was to change that in the second half. He issued a challenge to his team at halftime to make the final two quarters a turning point in the season, and they responded.

Even after falling behind 24-3 early in the third quarter, the Packers found some hope and got the crowd into the game. Rodgers led three consecutive scoring drives (one field goal and two touchdown passes to Spencer Havner) and by the end of the third quarter, the Packers were back in it, trailing 24-20.

Both teams exchanged touchdowns to start the fourth quarter, and after the Packers' defense stopped the Vikings, the Packers' offense put together its most exciting drive of the game in an effort to pull ahead for the first time.

Trailing 31-26, the Packers started at their 19-yard line. After a great 14-yard catch-and-run by fullback John Kuhn, Rodgers scrambled and completed a 17-yard pass to Donald Driver while negating a bad shotgun snap. A roughing-the-passer penalty on the Vikings' Ray Edwards on the play moved the ball to the 35-yard line with 7:05 remaining.

But just as a Jared Allen sack in the red zone early in the third quarter limited the Packers to a field goal, an equally devastating sack killed their final comeback bid. Facing a second-and-3 from the 28, the Packers had a protection breakdown and Allen dropped Rodgers for a 5-yard loss. Allen went unblocked on the play as rookie left tackle T.J. Lang blocked down on an interior lineman.

"We had a miscommunication with the protection," Rodgers. said "I took a sack and it kind of hurt us with the momentum we had."

Added McCarthy: "We didn't do what we were supposed to there and it resulted in an extended third down."

When Rodgers misfired on third-and-8, looking deep for Driver, McCarthy had a tough call to make. He decided to try a 51-yard field goal, but when Mason Crosby missed just wide to the right, the Packers saw their last real comeback chance disappear with just 5:38 remaining. The Vikings took the next possession and went 59 yards in four plays, culminating in a 16-yard touchdown pass from Favre to Bernard Berrian to pull ahead by the final margin.

The Packers stuck with the offensive line that performed well last week at Cleveland but the results were subpar against a far superior defense. Not only did they give up the six sacks, but they contributed to a poor running day. Packers running backs gained just 38 yards on 14 carries.

Lang made his second straight start at left tackle for Chad Clifton, who was suited up but did not play due to an ankle sprain. Scott Wells also started his third straight game at center for Jason Spitz (inactive – back).

Tight end Jermichael Finley, a game-time decision, was inactive with a sprained knee. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson was sidelined with the same injury, so when Driver and receiver Greg Jennings each left the game at different times due to minor injuries, the Packers had to use former practice squad player Jake Allen in their multiple-receiver sets.

The Vikings' Allen recorded three more sacks of Rodgers, giving him 7.5 sacks against the Packers this season. He also added four tackles for losses and three quarterback hits going up against Lang, who went one-on-one with Allen for most of the day. The Packers only gave Lang help with an extra tight end or chip block on 12 of the Packers' 46 dropbacks.

An unbalanced lineup, in the end, led to an unbalanced game. The Packers put up 42 passes against just 19 runs, a function of their poor start.

"We did not want to be, as lopsided this evening, run and pass," said McCarthy.

Added Rodgers, who was sacked 14 times in two games vs. the Vikings: "We've all got to be critical. I've got to take a couple of those (sacks) on me for sure, but we still battled. We hung in there. It's tough to take that many shots, for sure, but you've got to give them credit. They had a good scheme."


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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com


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