Packers playmakers look inward

The Packers are disappointed with their 3-3 record and see a common thread in the losses – not scoring enough points. QB Aaron Rodgers is the first one to take the blame.

Forget Brett Favre vs. Aaron Rodgers, Part III.

In the mind of the Packers' cerebral and conscientious quarterback, the one who replaced the legendary Favre in 2008, it's Rodgers vs. Rodgers that will be the game within the bigger game of the Packers against Favre's Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night at Lambeau Field.

"I have to look at myself first, and I have to play better," Rodgers said. "I have not been playing up to the standard I've set for the way I've played in my 38 starts. I've got to play better."

Especially at closing time.

The Packers' would-be special season is on the brink of going up in flames with the midway point fast approaching because, in part, the struggles of the Rodgers-led offense has prevented Green Bay from winning close games.

All three of the Packers' losses after six games have been by three points, including the last two outings that were decided in overtime.

The common thread in those defeats is Green Bay has come up woefully short of the 28 points receiver Greg Jennings said the offense should at minimum be generating week in and week out. The Packers' output in the losses were 17, 13 and 20, compared to 27, 34 and 28 in their three victories.

"A big part of being successful on offense is when you are in rhythm," head coach/play-caller Mike McCarthy said. "I would not say we are in rhythm on offense right now."

While the injuries that have rocked the Packers early in the season are a convenient excuse, what's plaguing the offense isn't so much about losing featured back Ryan Grant and playmaking tight end Jermichael Finley for the rest of the season as it is the execution, or lack thereof, by a unit that still has the resources to put a lot of points on the board.

The Packers have little difficulty starting games well, scoring 44 points in the first quarter, but they fade at the end with only 24 points in the fourth quarter.

"I think it's a little bit of everything," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "Good offenses, productive offenses don't have the miscues that we have. We have too many miscues — negative play, sack, penalty, drop ... that's not a formula for a high-octane attack."

On top of those misdeeds, the Packers have been super bad on third down, which falls squarely on Rodgers' shoulders since he has been pulling the trigger with his right arm on all but a few of those plays.

After doing no wrong in third-down situations last season, when he completed 67.5 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns with no interceptions and an unrivaled passer rating of 133.5, Rodgers is one of the worst in the league on those money plays this season. He has completed just 51.9 percent of his throws for four touchdowns with five interceptions and a sickly passer rating of 59.0.

The Packers converted only five of 26 third-down chances the last two times out in those losses to the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins.

"Third downs is the key for the offense," right guard Josh Sitton said. "We haven't been as productive as we need to be on third down. You have to win the situational battles in this league to win football games."

Conspiring against Rodgers & Co. when they have to try to move the chains is the negative plays to which Philbin alluded, including a rash of sacks and penalties on first and second downs that has put the offense in several third-and-long situations.

"We've spent a lot of time on it as a staff the last two days," McCarthy said Wednesday. "We've gone back (to the game film) and thoroughly gone through every snap of third down, and we shared that with the players. It really comes down to the fundamentals, and if it was one thing, we would have changed it. I don't think we need to change anything.

"We just have to make sure we've got the right play called and have a good scheme and give our players a chance to be successful, and we need to execute it. Not to blow it off, but we need to play better, particularly on third down."

SERIES HISTORY: 98th regular-season meeting. Packers lead series, 49-47-1. The Vikings have won the last three games after the Packers had reeled off five straight victories. Minnesota's sweep of the two games last season was its first since 2005. Thirteen of the last 15 regular-season meetings dating to 2002 have been decided by no more than seven points, and the Packers have won eight of those close games. The longtime division rivals' only postseason encounter resulted in a 31-17 Vikings win in an NFC wild-card game Jan. 9, 2005, which was receiver Randy Moss' last visit to Lambeau Field during his first stint with Minnesota.

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