GREEN BAY, Wis. – Frequently, the most noteworthy comments made by a player are the ones made off-script.
Such was the case for quarterback Aaron Rodgers following the Green Bay Packers’ 38-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Rodgers was asked specifically about the speed of Buccaneers linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White. Rodgers’ first two sentences were used to answer that question. From there, he veered a different direction.
“You don’t ever want to lose like this [but] I felt like we needed a little bit of a wakeup call at some point this season,” Rodgers said, driving home a point he had made at other parts of his 13-question, 13-minute Zoom press conference, “because things have been so good and there’s been so much talk maybe outside the building about the ease with which we’re moving the ball on offense and scoring.
To be sure, Rodgers didn’t want to lose to the Buccaneers on Sunday. Not with a chance to get to 5-0, keep pace with the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC and to extend their lead over the obviously powerful Buccaneers. And, to be sure, he was disappointed in his performance and the team’s overall performance. But there wasn’t much reading between the lines needed to notice the silver lining in Rodgers’ mind.
After a record-setting start to the season in which the Packers topped 30 points in each of four impressive victories, they didn’t practice to their typical standards, Rodgers and coach Matt LaFleur said.
“I think that we just need to take a good look at our practice habits,” Rodgers said. “We talk about how practice and preparation equals game reality. That’s something that Matt’s talked about since the first day he got here. And I don't think our week of practice was that great. Offensively, I didn't feel like we had a good rhythm. We went outside, it was windy, it was colder, and I don’t think we practiced our best this week and, obviously, didn't play our best tonight.”
The result was a 28-point beating not all that dissimilar from the 29-point loss at San Francisco following last year’s bye.
“Our practice this week was not up to our standard that these guys have developed over the last year and a half,” LaFleur said. “That’s what happened today. You practice like crap and then you go out and play like crap.”
The Packers stormed out of the gate to take a 10-0 lead. Even then, Rodgers didn’t think the offense was playing with its typical efficiency. On a third-and-10 on the opening drive, Rodgers had to buy some time to make a key 20-yard completion to running back Aaron Jones. That helped put the Packers up 3-0. On the next drive, Rodgers had one throwaway and had to extend a couple of plays to get first downs before Jones plowed in from the 1.
“I just don’t think we were playing efficiently,” Rodgers said. “We didn’t necessarily have a lot of on-time throws during those two drives. It wasn’t like we were really, really sharp in the passing game, or other than the one run in the run game. I just felt like we were a little lethargic, just didn’t quite have the juice.”
Thus, Rodgers’ three huge blunders were impossible to overcome. First, it was the rare-as-a-unicorn pick-six. Second, it was the interception and near-pick-six that handed the Bucs another touchdown. Third, it was Rodgers missing a wide-open Marcedes Lewis on what he called a “response drive.”
All of a sudden, the Packers were down 28-10.
“I don’t think you want to totally flush something like this,” Rodgers said. “I think you have to be as critical as you are during the wins as you are during the stinkers like tonight. I think it’s important for us to realize the whys. Obviously, the turnovers didn’t help but, like I said, I don’t think we were very efficient the entire night. So, we’ve got to do a better job in certain areas moving forward. It starts with the preparation, having a better week of practice, and then we have to play better.”