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Aaron Rodgers - Packers vs. Broncos

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws a pass to wide receiver Davante Adams in the second quarter of the Packers' 27-16 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Rodgers completed 17 of 29 passes for 235 yards and one touchdown

GREEN BAY — The premise seemed like a sound one.

The Green Bay Packers had just improved to 3-0 on the season with a 27-16 victory over the Denver Broncos at Lambeau Field, a triumph that once again saw their defense do much of the heavy lifting.

And so, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was asked, has it been nice to see the team do well without having to bear quite as much of the burden as he had in previous seasons?

“No,” came the quick, terse reply.

Wait … really?

“I want to play better,” Rodgers continued. “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.”

On Sunday, Rodgers completed 17 of 29 passes for 235 yards and one touchdown — a 40-yarder to Marquez Valdes-Scantling on the opening series of the game. He finished the afternoon with a 96.2 passer rating, but he didn’t get the ball to No. 1 wide receiver Davante Adams (four receptions, 56 yards) enough, didn’t get the ball to tight end Jimmy Graham (one target) at all and went through one second-half stretch where he essentially had to throw the ball away five times in a six-pass span.

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Packers 27, Broncos 16

With the Broncos putting together three scoring drives of 12 or more plays to own time of possession, Rodgers spent far more time on the sideline (35 minutes, 34 seconds) than he did on the field (24 minutes, 26 seconds). Despite the big play to start the game, the offense once again seemed to be searching for its rhythm.

It was the defense, which registered six sacks and forced three turnovers, which set Rodgers and the offense up for their other two touchdowns. And the longest sustained drive the Packers had offensively was the 11-play, 51-yarder that led to their final points, on Mason Crosby’s 41-yard field goal with 5:49 to play in the game.

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“It’s nice watching those guys get after the passer, knowing that we don’t have to play against them,” Rodgers said. “We’ll keep getting better on offense. There’s a lot to be happy about. There’s definitely a lot to improve, as well. We started off with a nice opening drive for a score. Only two drives in the first quarter; very disjointed, with so much possession in their favor. Whatever rhythm we were maybe into early, it’s hard to keep that up when you’re on the sideline for 7 game minutes, which might be 15 or 20 actual minutes.”

In head coach Matt LaFleur’s ideal world, the Packers offense would be an amalgam of big plays and effective, sustained drives, striking a balance with an effective running game and an on-point passing game that uses wide receivers, tight ends and backs throughout the game.

On Sunday, though, the running game was hit-or-miss, with Jamaal Williams gaining hard yards (12 carries, 59 yards) and Aaron Jones, the star of last week’s win over Minnesota, scoring a pair of rushing touchdowns but finishing with just 19 yards on 10 carries.

Through the air, Valdes-Scantling’s other five receptions went for 59 yards; Adams’ longest catch was a 22-yarder and he’s still without his first touchdown catch of the year; fullback Danny Vitale had the second-biggest reception of the day (27 yards); and the only other catch by a wide receiver on Sunday was one by Geronimo Allison — a reception that lost 1 yard.

For the game, the Packers converted only 2 of 9 third-down situations, leaving them at just 9 of 36 (25%, 28th in the 32-team NFL) on the year.

“We’ve played some pretty good defenses and you’ve got to give them credit, too,” LaFleur said of Chicago, Minnesota and Denver. “Certainly, there’s a lot that we can clean up on. I think first and foremost it’s always going to start with me, and we’ve got to do a better job of staying in those manageable situations because that’s really what’s been our Achilles’ heel. When we stay in manageable situations or stay out of third down, we’ve been able to move the ball. But third down, we’ve got a lot of room for improvement there.”

Asked about winning without Rodgers carrying the team, LaFleur replied, “I think he’s done such a great job in terms of, just first and foremost, taking care of the football. That’s the quarterback’s No. 1 responsibility. Again, I don’t think he’s satisfied with where we’re at offensively — and neither 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.”

But for now, that’s insufficient.

“I can’t say it’s been real flashy on the offensive side of the ball. I do feel good about the way we’re progressing,” said Rodgers, who for the season has now completed 57 of 93 passes (61.3%) for 647 yards with four touchdowns, no interceptions and seven sacks (96.5 rating). “We’ve played three obviously good defenses and good coordinators, but that’s the NFL these days. We don’t have any excuses. We’ve just got to be a little more consistent. I’m excited that you say that and you’re also 3-0.”

Bucky!

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