MINNEAPOLIS – By the 10-yard line, Davante Adams had lost Minnesota Vikings backup cornerback Holton Hill. A wicked, inside-out move that would have given any cornerback fits. He was all alone in the end zone. As Aaron Rodgers lofted his pass, this was essentially an uncontested layup.
A perfect time for it, too. The Green Bay Packers were frantically driving, trying to revive the fainting pulse of their 2018 season. It was third-and-1 with 150 seconds left Sunday night, the Packers trailing 10 points. They needed this touchdown, and then some help. But the hardest part in their comeback equation was getting into the end zone.
So, yes, an uncontested layup was a very welcomed sight.
Except, of course, there is no such thing as a gimme with this Packers offense, including their two-time MVP quarterback.
So instead of an easy touchdown, Rodgers’ pass sailed an inch too far. Instead of hitting Adams square in the palms of both hands, the football grazed off his left fingertips. Instead of seven points to give the Packers' comeback bid serious life, they settled for a field goal and eventually lost, 24-17.
“I came to him late,” Rodgers said. “I was trying to hold the safety, and it was just a bad throw. I would assume, based on the separation I saw, he ran a great route. … He gave him a double move, because he’s one of the best receivers — if not the best receiver — in the NFL. So they played single-high (safety). I held my eyes there, and I just missed the throw.”
On the field, Rodgers stared up at the ceiling inside U.S. Bank Stadium in disbelief. He bit down on his chin strap. He shouted angrily at himself. This has to be frustrating, a generational talent so accustomed to putting the football precisely where he wants it, but so unable to this season. For all his gaudy stats — when it comes to touchdowns and pass yards, Rodgers’ season has been stellar — the most telling is his career-low 61.7 percent completion clip.
Missing throws has been a recurring theme this season.
The drumbeat for coach Mike McCarthy’s job will only get louder after another loss. The playoffs aren’t quite mathematically impossible, but they might as well be. The Packers need to win their last five games, and even that might not be enough.
Of course, there’s no guarantee they’ll win those last five games on the schedule, and the biggest reason isn’t McCarthy’s play calling, game management, stale scheme or any other item fans reference when presenting their case for why the head coach should be fired at season’s end and no later.
The biggest problem is the Packers' two-time MVP quarterback missing an alarming amount of throws. Maybe it’s unfair to demand perfection, but that’s the standard Rodgers has set. He was far from perfect Sunday night, finishing 17-for-28 for 198 yards, one touchdown and a pedestrian 94 passer rating. Rodgers was also sacked four times.
He didn’t dodge responsibility. After the game, Rodgers said everyone needs to play better, starting with him.
He also didn’t sound like a quarterback who agrees he missed many throws Sunday night.
“I missed the one to Tae,” Rodgers said, “threw the no-lace ball to EQ in the dirt. Other than that, I don’t really feel like I missed a lot of throws. We just weren’t executing.”
To be clear, those were just the last two. Before third-and-1, there was second-and-1. Rodgers flung a pass to rookie Equanimeous St. Brown without the laces. The football rolled off the table and into the turf, much like Rodgers’ third-and-2 pass attempt to fellow rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling one game prior in Seattle.
Those aren’t throws Rodgers usually misses. And they came at important times. But to suggest Rodgers only missed two throws Sunday night seems a bit kind.
Twice, Adams got a step on Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes down the left sideline, but Rodgers missed what could have been touchdowns. Rodgers overthrew Adams in the third quarter, and underthrew him in the second.
On the first, Rodgers said, Rhodes should’ve been called for pass interference. The only reason the cornerback had a chance to make contact was because Rodgers’ pass didn’t lead the receiver.
“It was a 50-50 ball,” Rodgers said, “and maybe should have put it a little bit more outside.”
Adams, who exceeded the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his five seasons, declined to talk with reporters after the game, walking to the team bus before the locker room opened to media. McCarthy said there were multiple factors, even things outside Rodgers’ control.
“I don’t have a specific answer for you,” McCarthy said.
Regardless, Rodgers uncharacteristically missing throws has become a specific problem. It doesn’t take much to throw an offense out of whack. To watch the Packers now is to see a picture that’s not quite in focus. You know what the image is supposed to look like, but details become pixelated.
Davante Adams sheds the cornerback, stands all alone in the end zone. You know it’s supposed to be a touchdown. Aaron Rodgers’ pass bounces off his outstretched hand instead.
Those are the plays that keep an offense from being great.