That didn’t stop the quarterback from some early-season self-reflection about his own effort and about how the Packers might need to play this season.
A three-point second half, during which Rodgers botched a handoff that resulted in a fumble, left him wanting more after the Packers’ 27-10 victory at Lambeau Field. But he could not have asked for much more from Jones and Dillon, who combined for 237 total yards.
“Tonight was really about 28 and 33, getting them the football,” Rodgers said, referring to the running backs by their jersey numbers. “I didn’t play great. I feel like the stats look a little better than the game. The standard I set for myself is pretty high. I feel like it is attainable, and my definition of success, I feel like, rests gently on my shoulders and my ego. But I missed some throws that I should never miss. And there were some opportunities for more points out there.”
He lamented missing receiver Allen Lazard in the end zone on the first drive, which resulted in a field goal, and also what he called “a real ugly one” to Dillon.
“I’ve got to play better moving forward,” Rodgers said, ahead of their Week 3 road tilt with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“This is going to be a really good football team in Tampa, and obviously, they’re going to be expecting to be playing in January. So, I’m going to keep improving and find a way to get those guys confident and get them the ball in certain spots, but if we can run the ball like we did today, it alleviates a lot of the stress that we could feel had we not had 200 yards rushing.”
Rodgers’ numbers -- 19-of-25 for 234 yards, 2 touchdowns, no interceptions -- were better than in the 23-7 Week 1 loss at the Minnesota Vikings. And without an established premier receiver, he might have to operate like he did on Sunday night – with no single receiver targeted more than four times and none with more than three catches, led by Sammy Watkins’ three for 93 yards, followed by Randall Cobb’s three for 37 yards. Jones caught one of Rodgers’ touchdowns on an 8-yard shovel pass, while Allen Lazard caught the other on a 5-yard slant.
Rodgers might also have to accept that this offense will have to operate differently than in the past, when there was a clear-cut No. 1 receiver such as Davante Adams. Rodgers’ 25 targets were spread out among nine different players.
“I think we’re going to have to,” Rodgers said. “The days of one guy getting 15 and then next guy getting four or five are kind of over. We’re going to have to find ways to get different guys the football in different spots. There’s a lot of different plays for specific guys. We had a package for Christian [Watson]. We had a package for Romeo [Doubs]. Obviously, a lot of plays for Sammy and for Allen coming back, which was great. And then a couple wrinkles for [Cobb]; we had him in the backfield on a third down. That’s kind of the way it’s going to go. Obviously, we had a lot of plays for 33 and 28.”
That coach Matt LaFleur all but announced last week this game would feature a heavy dose of Jones and Dillon after they combined to touch the ball only 23 times against the Vikings didn’t make them any less effective. Jones averaged 8.8 yards on 15 carries and now has a season average of 9.0 yards per rush, third best in the NFL behind D’Andre Swift (10.0) and Lamar Jackson (9.1).
The return of right tackle Elgton Jenkins, 10 months after he tore his left ACL, and Lazard’s debut after missing last week’s opener because of an ankle injury, also provided an emotional boost for the offense.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise was Watkins, who caught three passes for 93 yards, including a 55-yarder on a deep ball to set up the fourth-quarter field goal that represented the only points of the second half.
“I thank the coach for dialing that up, and that, I think, was one of my top plays from the last two or three years to go deep on that pass,” said Watkins, a 2014 first-round pick who is trying to jump-start his career in Green Bay.
While a somber Rodgers didn’t smile much during his postgame dissection of the game with reporters, one thing seemed to brighten his mood: the celebration after Lazard’s touchdown.
Several players gathered around Lazard, who pretended to pour cups of a special tea, which they drank.
Had NO IDEA that there was ayahuasca in NFL footballs pic.twitter.com/PX6psQqHNe— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) September 19, 2022
Watkins confirmed that it was an ode to Rodgers, who this offseason openly discussed his use of the hallucinogenic drink ayahuasca.
“He gave us the tea and all of us kind of passed out,” Watkins said. “It was pretty cool. … That was to Aaron. I think that was a great celebration."