Cal in NFL: Aaron Rodgers Struggles in Loss; Jared Goff Impressive in Defeat

Rodgers' Packers, Goff's Lions both fall openers, but Goff had the better game
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Former Cal star and current Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers had a tough time in his 2021 regular-season opener on Sunday.

The 2020 MVP was 15-for-28 for a mere 133 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in a 38-3 loss to the Saints. The pick he threw early in the third quarter when the Packers were at the Saints' 9-yard line essentially ended Green Bay's chances. Green Bay trailed 17-3 at the time. 

"That first [interception] was obviously the play of the game," Rodgers said afterward. "That kind of swung things big time."

Rodgers had just five interceptions all of last year and did not turn the ball over at all in the red zone in 2020.

The 35-point loss represented the Packers' largest margin of defeat in any game started by Rodgers in his career. Rodgers was replaced by Jordan Love with more than 10 minutes left in the game, with the Packers trailing 38-3 at that point.

Rodgers' passer rating of 36.8 for the game was the third-worst of his career in games in which he started and did not depart due to injury.

"We played bad. I played bad," Rodgers said. "Hopefully this is an outlier. We'll find out next week."

Rodgers' season passer rating of 121.5 last year was the second-best single-season mark in history, although he did have a 34.5 passer rating in the regular-season loss to Tampa Bay on Oct. 18, 2020.

Making Rodgers' performance more difficult to take was that Jameis Winston threw five touchdown passes with no interceptions in his first regular-season start for the Saints.

Here is the second Rodgers interception:

The talk now will be whether Rodgers' offseason trade requests, his disputes with Packers management and his absences from voluntary workouts are affecting his play. Rodgers said he considered retirement, and his age -- Rodgers will turn 38 in December -- is likely to be mentioned too.

He did not play at all in the preseason, but that's been standard operating procedure for Rodgers the past few years.

Bottom line, it was just one game. The Packers play the Jets next week.

How other ex-Cal players performed in Week 1:

---Cameron Jordan, Saints defensive end: Jordan contributed to Rodgers' struggles in Sunday's game. He did not have any tackles but he had two quarterback hits and his pressure led to Rodgers' first interception, which we take another look at in the video below.

Jordan (94) forces Rodgers up in the pocket and the pass from the harried Rodgers is intercepted by Paulson Adebo. 

---Jared Goff, Lions quarterback -- Goff's regular-season debut as Detroit's quarterback looked like a disaster until Goff led a frantic comeback effort in the final six minutes that nearly sent the game into overtime.

When the Lions got the ball at their own 14-yard line with 5:45 remaining in the game, Detroit trailed the 49ers 41-17.  But Goff completed 16 of his next 20 passes, engineering an 86-yard drive to make it 41-25, then, after a successful onside kick, he led a 59-yard drive for a touchdown that made it 41-33 with 1:10 remaining. He completed passes for two-point conversions after each of those scores.

This Goff TD pass got Detroit within eight points

Detroit got the ball back at its own 30-yard line with 52 seconds left, and Goff led the Lions to a first down at the 49ers' 25-yard line with 32 seconds to go.  But that was as close as Detroit got as Goff threw three incompletions along with a 1-yard scramble. 

Goff finished 38-for-57 for 338 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, although he was sacked three times.

---Keenan Allen, Chargers -- Allen had a big game in the season opener, hauling in nine catches for 100 yards in Los Angeles' 20-16 win over Washington. 

Seven of his nine receptions resulted in first downs, and five of those came on third-down plays. The most important one was a 9-yard reception on a third-and-4 play from the Washington 16-yard line with 1:50 left. That clinched the win as it allowed the Chargers to use three kneel-downs to run out the clock.

LeBron James was impressed with that final catch.

Allen did fumble the ball once but the Chargers recovered it.

---Stephen Anderson, Chargers tight end -- Anderson got some playing time Sunday and had two passes thrown in his direction.  He had one catch for 1 yard.

---Marvin Jones Jr., Jaguars wide receiver -- In his first regular-season game with his new team, Jones had five catches for 77 yards and a touchdown.  He averaged 15.3 yards per receptions.

---DeSean Jackson, Rams wide receiver -- In his first game with his new team, Jackson caught two passes for 21 yards in a 34-14 victory over the Bears.

---Tyson Alualu, Stellers nose guard -- Alualu recorded five tackles, which is a lot for his position, and added a quarterback hurry to help Pittsburgh upset the Bills 23-16.

---Camryn Bynum, Vikings safety -- Bynum, a rookie, was not a starter but did record two tackles on special teams in his first regular-season NFL game. The Bengals beat Minnesota 27-24 in overtime.

---Alex Mack, 49ers center -- Playing his first game for his new team, Mack was the starting center for San Francisco, and helped the 49ers score 41 points. The 49ers had 131 rushing yards, including 104 by Elijah Mitchell, and allowed one sack.

---Jake Curhan, Seahawks offensive lineman -- Curhan, a rookie who signed as an undrafted free agent, was not a starter in Seattle's 28-16 victory over the Colts, but he did get some playing time at offensive tackle.

---Jaylinn Hawkins, Falcons safety -- Hawkins did not start Sunday's game but he did get playing time on defense, recording one solo tackle in Atlanta's 32-6 loss to the Eagles.

---Ashtyn Davis, Jets safety -- Davis did not play in the Jets' 19-14 loss to the Panthers and remains sidelined with a foot injury that required surgery.

---Bryan Anger, Cowboys punter -- Anger punted three times for an average of 49.0 yards with a long of 62 yards and one inside the 20-yard line in Thursday's 31-29 loss to Tampa Bay.

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Cover photo of Aaron Rodgers is by Tommy Gilligan, USA TODAY Sports

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Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53

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