Rodgers turns in rare poor performance
CINCINNATI—Aaron Rodgers is human after all.
The National Football League's all-time leader in regular-season and postseason passer rating with marks well over 100 finished with 64.5 Sunday as the Green Bay Packers fell to the Cincinnati Bengals, 34-30, at Paul Brown Stadium.
“We had a lot of turnovers and I played poorly,” said Rodgers. “It's disappointing. We felt like we gave the game away offensively.”
It was Rodgers' lowest rating since the NFC Championship Game against Chicago in January 2011. His mark then was 55.4.
Rodgers threw two interceptions as well, although wide receiver James Jones took full blame for running a poor route against cornerback Terence Newman on the first.
He hadn't tossed more than one interception in a game since that Bears game. In his 37 starts between then and Sunday, Rodgers had just 17 interceptions and the Packers were 30-7.
It was the ninth time in Rodgers' 89-start career in which he had either two or three interceptions. He has never thrown more than three.
“We just got lucky, I guess,” Bengals cornerback Leon Hall said with a laugh about being the first team to pick off Rodgers twice in 31 months. “I liked Terence's (interception) more than mine. It looked real athletic. A great play, really.”
One of Rodgers' many frustrations was the Packers' .500 mark (two of four) in the red zone.
On their first red-zone trip, Rodgers was hit by defensive end Carlos Dunlap just after he threw a pass out of bounds on first down. After the play, he gestured to Mike McCarthy as if he wasn't happy about a call.
The Packers kicked a field goal, and the quarterback and coach got into what appeared to be a somewhat heated discussion in the bench area.
“Any time you get into a situation where there's changes in rhythm and personnel and play calls, it's frustrating,” McCarthy said. “I had called a play in a certain situation and he was frustrated by it.
“I feel good. One in every three weeks would be awesome.”
McCarthy brushed off the disagreement that was captured by television cameras and seen by millions of viewers.
“He's competitive, man,” said McCarthy. “That's what I love about him. I didn't really think it was that big of a deal.”
For his part, Rodgers chalked it up to two staunch competitors reacting in the heat of the moment.
“We're both passionate about the game and competitive,” he said. “We want to win very badly. I went over and talked to him after that, and we got on the same page. We needed to talk, we did and we moved on.”
The Packers went into the game with merely two running backs after Eddie Lacy was declared inactive. James Starks exited with a knee injury at halftime, leaving untested Johnathan Franklin.
“It's tough to win a football game with two running backs,” Rodgers said. “That limited our personnel groups.”
After Jermichael Finley suffered a concussion on the first series, it was left to Andrew Quarless and Ryan Taylor to play tight end.
Rodgers spent much of the second half appearing to instruct Franklin where to line up.
The Bengals' pass rush also was a handful, resulting in four sacks and eight quarterback hits.
“I prepared to play well this week against a great defense—they are very well-coached,” said Rodgers. “They had a good plan for us and knocked a lot of balls down. They played a lot of two-high (safety) coverage and played on top outside.
“We ran the ball effectively, but we weren't throwing it as well as we were the first couple of weeks, and that's disappointing because we had some chances.”
Rodgers wouldn't blame Jones for his first pick but the wide receiver never hesitated taking the rap. On third and 3, Jones was tentative on a slant and Newman sliced in front for the interception.
“I've got to cross the defender's face,” said Jones. “I stopped on the route. I can never do that. I put the quarterback in a bad situation right there, giving him mixed reads.”
On the next series, Rodgers went deep to Randall Cobb on a first-down wheel route.
McCarthy said he wasn't sure “if the throw was far enough outside.” Rodgers said the throw was on target but credited cornerback Hall for making the pick.
“That's my fault,” said Cobb. “I've just got to make a play on the wheel route. If I don't, break it up.”
Of Rodgers' 17 misfires, the only obvious drop was by Quarless on a slant. The Bengals also batted down three passes.
Nickel back Adam Jones said the Bengals had no intention of playing soft coverage against Green Bay as Washington did the previous week.
“The Washington game, they did an OK job but they had some missed tackles,” said Hall. “You really just got to tackle them when they catch the ball. That's a big problem a lot of people had (against the Packers).”
Rodgers also blamed himself for not tackling Newman on his 58-yard touchdown return of Franklin's fumble that proved decisive.
“We have a week off and we need to get some guys healthy and see what we can do at full strength,” he said. “It is what it is. We are 1-2 right now.”