Tom Oates: Aaron Rodgers not satisfied after Packers dominate Bills
GREEN BAY — From one end of the locker room to the other, the Green Bay Packers were patting themselves on the back.
A 22-0 victory over the Buffalo Bills Sunday at Lambeau Field had seemingly restored order in the Packers’ world, erasing memories of a sloppy, 1-1-1 start to the season with a wire-to-wire, both-sides-of-the-ball domination of a team that had dominated the Minnesota Vikings only seven days earlier.
“It just shows us what we’re capable of and what we have across the board,” linebacker Blake Martinez said.
The only problem with adopting that approach is that Aaron Rodgers wasn’t participating. Instead, the quarterback was standing at a podium in the nearby auditorium and he wasn’t happy.
Rodgers wasn’t buying the notion that everything that ailed the Packers during the first three games suddenly was fixed. And if Rodgers isn’t buying it, we shouldn’t, either.
“We were terrible on offense,” said Rodgers, later pointing out that the Packers played at a “championship defensive level and non-playoff-team offensive level.”
The problem, according to Rodgers, was that the offense rolled up 423 yards — the most since the final regular-season game in 2016 — but only had two touchdowns and 22 points to show for it. That was good enough to beat the 1-3 Bills, whose three losses have come by a combined score of 100-23, but it wasn’t good enough to satisfy Rodgers.
He was frustrated even though running back Aaron Jones provided a spark with 65 yards on 11 rushes and a dazzling, 17-yard catch-and-run with a screen pass. Even though wide receivers Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison combined for 161 receiving yards. Even though running back Ty Montgomery had a 43-yard pass reception and rookie wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling had a 38-yard catch.
“I think a lot of people played really good,” Rodgers said. “But there was no flow to the game. There was a little bit in the first half. After that ...”
After that ... no touchdowns on the Packers’ final nine possessions.
“I’m happy,” Rodgers insisted. “I’m excited to go home and have a Scotch or two. But I’m also a realist. That’s just not acceptable offense for us. Four hundred and twenty three yards looks pretty good in comparison to some of the games we’ve put forward the first three weeks, but it should have been about 45 points and 600 yards.”
It was, he added, “as bad as we’ve played on offense with that many yards in a long time.”
Dropped passes, five of them, were part of the reason so many drives stalled. But Rodgers seemed much more concerned with the approach the Packers took on offense than the performance by the players.
If you’ve been around Rodgers for awhile, you know one thing: There is a reason for everything he says. His comments are always well thought out and have an intended target.
This time the target seemed to be coach Mike McCarthy, who designs the offense and calls the plays. Rodgers has expressed frustration with some of McCarthy’s decisions over the years, but this seemed more pointed than usual.
“That was not great by any stretch of the imagination,” he said of the offense. “We need to find ways to get our playmakers in position to get some more opportunities. You know, a game like today — Davante’s a tough cover for anybody, but he should have had 20 targets today. They couldn’t stop him. They dared to play one-high a few times. So we have to find ways to get him the ball. And Jimmy (Graham) as well.”
Adams was targeted 14 times and caught eight passes for 81 yards, but most of them came on slants and flanker screens. Graham, imported to give the Packers an elite threat in the middle of the field, was targeted six times and had three catches for 21 yards.
It’s possible they were receiving extra attention with wide receiver Randall Cobb missing the game due to injury, but Rodgers indicated that too many of the plays that are called don’t have the best receivers as the No. 1 reads.
“It’s by the plan,” he said.
Even without Cobb, the offense wasn’t handcuffed by personnel. With right tackle Bryan Bulaga back and Byron Bell playing solidly in place of Justin McCray at right guard, the line gave Rodgers ample protection. McCarthy had all three of his running backs — Jones, Montgomery and Jamaal Williams — at his disposal and used all three, though the elusive Jones clearly needs to ascend to No. 1 on the depth chart. Even Rodgers was moving around better than he has since he injured his left knee in the season opener.
“I felt like we did a good job,” left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “Obviously we were able to move the ball and then had a couple missed opportunities and lulls. I think we could have capitalized on them, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to understand it’s a football game. They get paid on the other side of the ball, too. They’re trying to do their job and this was a 60-minute grind-out fight against a good team. Obviously, we think we could have punched it in a few more (times), but at the end of the day, you’ve got to be happy with the success you had — moving the ball, getting points, and ultimately getting the win.”
For a guy whose team just won by three touchdowns, Rodgers wasn’t happy. And in Green Bay, when the quarterback’s not happy, no one should be happy.