GREEN BAY, Wis. – The question was not, initially, about him.
Aaron Rodgers had just been asked whether he was concerned about wide receiver Jordy Nelson, his favorite passing target who was coming off a game in which he dropped two passes, finished with just four receptions for 38 yards and, afterward, termed his performance “pretty embarrassing.”
“I said it after the game. I’m not worried about that at all,” the Green Bay Packers quarterback replied. “Those things happen.”
Then, a pause, before pivoting the conversation. “I missed some passes. Those guys shouldn’t be worried about me, either,” Rodgers continued. “We’re going to get better. We’re not going to have inconsistent performances like that.”
It wasn’t quite R-E-L-A-X, but the message was clear: While Rodgers did indeed enter this week’s games ranked dead last in the NFL in completion percentage (56.1) among starters, and the Packers’ passing game was an anemic 27th in the league, there’s no panic within the halls of Lambeau Field.
Even if the offensive staff did have some extra meetings with a focus on the passing game this week.
“Coach [Mike McCarthy] is a big believer in, ‘We get what we emphasize,’” quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said. “We’ve put a point of emphasis on that and we’re expecting results.”
So while everyone from X’s-and-O’s enthusiasts to TV debaters to sports-talk radio hosts to social-media know-it-alls give their two cents on what’s wrong with the two-time NFL MVP, there seems to be a confidence entering Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys that Rodgers and the passing game will be fine – and sooner rather than later.
“I don’t think we’re far away,” said associate head coach/offense Tom Clements, who pointed to several near-misses the offense had — including one to Nelson — in last Sunday night’s 23-16 win over the New York Giants. “It’s just a matter of having some things click in the game and having some confidence and building on that.
“You look at the last game, there were some plays that could have been big plays that for whatever reason didn’t happen. You can’t put your finger on any one reason why they didn’t happen. At some point they will – and that’s what we’re working towards.”
Against the Giants, Rodgers completed 23 of 45 passes for 259 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 65.0. His first interception was on a throw across the middle to Nelson, which Nelson said he should have caught even though it was high and slightly behind him. His other interception came on a throw to Davante Adams on which Rodgers missed his mark by just enough to allow Janoris Jenkins to pick him off again.
“Probably a total of 13 inches of not being where [the throw] should be resulted in two interceptions,” Van Pelt said. “Those are going to happen. You’re going to miss throws here or there. I have no concern.”
Said Rodgers: “That’s the game. It’s one or two plays there here or there that, if they’d gone our way, if we had executed better, it would have looked a lot better on paper and actually live, as well.”
Van Pelt, who has become one of Rodgers’ closest confidants – in part because of his tell-it-like-it-is approach – in recent years, smiled when asked what he’d tell someone who asked him what’s wrong with No. 12.
“I don’t know what’s wrong. I don’t know if there is anything wrong,” Van Pelt replied. “It’s the game of football. He’s not going to roll it out there every day and be perfect, be Superman. [But] the standards have been set – and he set them.
“He’s played some fantastic football, and he will play fantastic football moving forward. It’s just right now, we’re in a little bit of a lull. We’re trying to get out of it. … But to say there’s anything wrong with Aaron, I don’t think there’s anything wrong.”