GREEN BAY — Aaron Rodgers did not recycle his 2014 R-E-L-A-X on Thursday, though the Green Bay Packers quarterback did reference it at one point. Aware of how apoplectic some fans are about his team’s abysmal performance in the 2021 season opener last Sunday, Rodgers didn’t see the need to go into full reassurance mode — for fans or for his teammates inside the locker room.
“I’m not going to make it bigger than it was. I’ll let you guys on the outside world do all that,” Rodgers said of the team’s 38-3 blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints in Jacksonville four days prior. “Look, we’ve won a lot of games around here. We’ve lost a few. But you move on. It doesn’t matter if you play incredible and put up 50, or you get blown out. You move on to the next opponent.
“There shouldn’t be some big drastic change and alteration the way that we do things, the way we practice, the way we prepare. If it’s good enough to get you to this point, then it’s good enough from this point forward. I haven’t changed any of the stuff that I’ve been doing. Obviously, we’ve got to play better. But if we’re starting to freak out after one week, we’re in big trouble.”
This was not meant to imply the Packers’ performance against the Saints created no reasons for concern.
The defense played poorly, allowing a pair of 15-play touchdown drives that used up most of the first half’s time of possession, suffering multiple communication breakdowns, allowing 171 rushing yards and watching quarterback Jameis Winston throw five touchdown passes while generating virtually no pressure on him.
The offense played poorly, failing to score a touchdown, not converting a single third down while Rodgers was on the field (0-for-7), turning the ball over three times and abandoning the running game, resulting in an imbalanced offense that failed to score a touchdown for the first time with Matt LaFleur as coach.
And Rodgers himself played poorly, completing just 15 of 28 passes for 133 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions for a quarterback rating of 36.8.
As a result, they all know the eyes of the NFL will be on how they bounce back on Monday night against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field — and that moving on is vital.
“This was probably one of the quicker ‘flushes’ that I’ve seen as far as me observing the rest of the team and seeing the coaches, how everybody’s responded from it,” wide receiver Davante Adams said. “I found that my teammates were able to shake this one better than what I’ve seen in the past. We’ve just got to make sure we actually do something about it this time, so we don’t have to try to deal with that (again).
“We’re going to be OK. I think people just freak out because they know, ‘Somebody’s got to freak out about this. Why not me?’ But they know, at the end of the day, the mentality we have as players. Nobody should be really shook up off of one game.”
To that end, Rodgers felt it was important the performance be met with the requisite critiques but not overemphasized. And he acknowledged his messaging — from his postgame press conference, to his weekly appearance on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio’s “The Pat McAfee Show” on Tuesday, to his Q&A session with reporters on Thursday.
So while fans might’ve wanted him to exhibit more concern or be angrier about the overall performance, Rodgers’ approach was calculated, with his intended target not necessarily fans but his own teammates, especially younger ones who haven’t experienced everything he has.
That’s why, after the team’s 1-2 start in 2014, Rodgers uttered his ubiquitous “R-E-L-A-X” line on his weekly ESPN Wisconsin radio show, and why he told the world he thought the Packers could “run the table” in 2016. Both times, the Packers bounced back and reached the NFC Championship Game.
So while he didn’t have any catchphrases on Thursday, he did have intent.
“You’re damn right,” Rodgers said. “Every time I’m up here, it’s a message to all of them — to them (in the locker room), (and) to the fans. When I was on the (radio) show (in 2014), that was spur-of-the-moment, but I was hoping my teammates would hear and the fans would hear that we need to ‘Relax.’ When I said in the locker room (in 2016) that I believe we can run the table, it wasn’t a predetermined, it was in the moment. But in the moment, it was something that I had thought about before (I said it) as I looked at the future schedule and it was cued up perfectly to say something that I thought could inspire the guys.
“Now, I wasn’t trying to be especially inspired after the loss in Jacksonville. I was trying to put the loss in the context where it deserves to be put. And that is, it’s not acceptable, but it’s just one game and we’re not going to be held prisoner mentally by that poor performance. Like I said, we’re not going to change a ton of things. I don’t think there needs to be wholesale preparation changes, schematic changes. We had a clunker, and we’ve got to play better. And I expect that we will on both sides of the ball.”
Photos: Packers' 2021 season in pictures
Check out photo galleries from every game of 2021 from the preseason through the end of the regular season and the playoffs.
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