Rodgers' Late Efforts Not Enough
Next game: Sunday, December 14th at Jacksonville
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Cover a kickoff here, make a defensive play there and avoid one key penalty, and suddenly Aaron Rodgers is building his reputation as a fourth-quarter comeback artist.
Instead, the Green Bay Packers are making a bad habit out of giving away close games this year, so nobody really remembers that their first-year starting quarterback put them in position to win two weeks in a row.
"You look at some of the games, we've gotten ourselves in position and taken the lead and lost it," Rodgers said. "You know, it'd probably be a different spin on some of those games if we're able to stop them, or if we kick the ball or score a touchdown instead of a field goal. Then it's, 'Hey, you know, that offense drove us down and won the game,' instead of, 'We drove down, took the lead, gave the lead back up then we turned the ball over and lost the game."'
Rodgers knows he shoulders his share of the blame.
As good as he has been under pressure, he might not have had to march the Packers back into games if they hadn't been getting off to such slow starts.
"It's been a similar script in a number of our losses," Rodgers said. "We start slow, then wait for somebody to make a play -- then somebody does and we go on a run, and we get close and we don't finish it off."
According to STATS LLC, the Packers have scored 127 points in the fourth quarter this season, making them the league leader by a large margin. The Tennessee Titans are second with 106 fourth-quarter points.
But Green Bay has scored only 44 first-quarter points this year, tying them with the Detroit Lions for 24th in the league.
"We go through lulls at times," Rodgers said. "We're not making plays, we're not executing and it takes all 11, it really does. As much as I would have loved to be more consistent at times, and played better, it takes all 11 to be successful. And a lot of times it's been, I've made a mistake. But a lot of times we've had some communication problems or assignment problems with other guys, and that's why you don't finish drives off."
The Packers had one of those offensive lulls against Carolina two weeks ago, falling behind 21-10 at halftime before Rodgers brought them back not once, but twice, to take the lead in the fourth quarter. Green Bay then gave away the lead both times, including a long kick return and long pass play to set up Carolina's decisive touchdown.
Rodgers had a third and final chance to bring the Packers back against the Panthers, but threw an interception.
And against Houston on Sunday, the Packers trailed 13-7 before Rodgers marched them for a go-ahead touchdown to start the fourth quarter. Houston answered with a touchdown and two-point conversion, but Rodgers threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson to tie the game.
Then Green Bay's defense finally made a stop, and Rodgers drove the Packers deep into Texans territory -- only to watch backup right tackle Tony Moll get called for a questionable holding penalty. Rodgers got sacked on the next play, taking the Packers out of field goal range.
Houston's Matt Schaub completed three midrange passes in the final 1:49 and Kris Brown kicked the winning 40-yard field goal on the last play.
The Packers have lost five of their last six games, and four of those losses have come by four points or less. The Packers will take a win any way they can get it at this point, but holding on to make one of those fourth-quarter comebacks stick would provide a boost.
"I don't care how we win -- I just want to win," Rodgers said. "It feels a little more special when you can put together a late drive."
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he hasn't once looked into Rodgers' eyes in a high-pressure situation and seen anything that would make him think twice about calling an aggressive play. But he acknowledged that a comeback win would build the entire team's confidence.
"All quarterbacks need that," McCarthy said. "That's a positive, and your football team needs that. To answer correctly would be to say our team needs that, and then the individuals, including the quarterback. Those are all opportunities to stack successes. That has been our battle cry in the past and we haven't done that year."
Despite the tough losses, Rodgers said the fourth-quarter drives he has led have built up his confidence.
"I'm very confident in my abilities at all times," Rodgers said. "You want the ball in your hand at the end of the game, that's what you grew up watching on TV and dreaming about Saturday nights at the hotel, the opportunity to win the game. We've had our opportunities, haven't done it. That's disappointing. That's why I take that squarely on my shoulders."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)