GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Don’t get Aaron Rodgers wrong: He loves having a defense to back him up.
But the Green Bay Packers quarterback doesn’t want to rely on that to bail out his erratic offense, as it has done time and time again during the team's 3-0 start.
For years, the Packers were viewed as a team that needed Rodgers to play at a near-Most Valuable Player level to win. Just because that wasn’t necessary in Sunday’s 27-16 win over the Denver Broncos at Lambeau Field doesn’t mean the two-time MVP is willing to accept that he doesn’t have to be, well, Aaron Rodgers all the time.
"No," he said when posed with that question.
"I want to play better," he added. "I want to score more points. I mean, obviously you love having a defense, but I don’t take any satisfaction in having an OK performance. No. I want to have greatness out there."
Rodgers’ 235 passing yards against the Broncos was his highest total of the season. Only once since he became a starter in 2008 has he begun the season without at least 269 passing yards in a game in the first three weeks. His 647 total yards is the second-lowest total of his career through three games, behind his 617 yards to start the 2016 season. Rodgers' 57 completions through three games are his lowest total to that point in a season since 2009 (51).
"Got to go back and look at it, but there were definitely some throwaways today," said Rodgers, who at one point in the third quarter Sunday appeared to throw the ball away on five of six passes. "We had a few where we just weren’t on the same page, so we’ve got to clean some things up. There’s times in this game I feel like I was in a really good rhythm, and times where I feel like we were all a little stagnant. We need to keep finding ways to stay in that rhythm, because I feel really good about the offense and the potential, but potential has got to start getting close to the actual performance."
There have been some signs that first-year coach Matt LaFleur’s offense is taking hold. They scored touchdowns on their first three drives in the 21-16 Week 2 win over the Vikings but then didn’t score again.
On Sunday, Rodgers performed well in two areas in which he struggled the first two games: According to ESPN Stats & Information research, he completed 5 of 7 passes for 82 yards from out of the pocket; he was 8-of-17 from out of the pocket the first two games. And he went 5-of-9 for 88 yards when under duress against the Broncos; he was 3-of-17 for 23 yards when under duress the first two games.
"I think he’s done such a great job in terms of just, first and foremost, taking care of the football," LaFleur said. "That’s the quarterback’s No. 1 responsibility. Again, I don’t think he’s satisfied with where we’re at offensively, and either am I. But, I think he’s done everything we've asked him to do, and he’s done a good job with that. And we’ve just got to continue to make sure we put him in position to make plays down the field."
So what’s the cure for the Packers' offense to match what the defense has done, which on Sunday featured six sacks and three takeaways?
"Four targets for Davante is obviously not enough, especially on a day like today when there was a lot of soft coverage and some stuff to be hit outside," Rodgers said. "We’ve got to keep finding ways to get him the ball more often when it wasn’t a ton of double [coverage]. We came in thinking they might play what Chicago did in Week 1, with a lot of rolled coverage to Davante. That really didn’t happen to be the case. There was a lot more one-high and off-coverage. We’ve got to keep finding ways to get him the ball. And then Jimmy, I said it during the week, Wednesday, we’ve got to find ways to get him the ball."
"We’ve had some good starts the past couple games to get us out to a comfortable lead, so we’ve just got to stop the lulls and lock in and make sure that we continue to put our foot on their throat," Adams said. "That’s what separates. I look up and see the Patriots [leading] 30-0 week after week. I want to get back to doing stuff like that."
The Packers won’t have much, if any, full-speed practice time this week to work on the fixes, not with a quick turnaround thanks to a Thursday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
But at least Rodgers will feel fresh. He wasn’t sacked and was hit only once Sunday, which actually came on the Packers’ second-longest pass play of the game, a 27-yarder to fullback Danny Vitale down to the 1-yard line on the first drive of the third quarter.
"Usually, these short weeks, your body is killing you until about Wednesday, and then the next day, you play," Rodgers said. "That will not be the case for me this week, so I'm feeling really good about that. I really appreciate the offensive line for the way they protected today, and it'll be a nice week of preparation."