But for a night he was good enough, and won a night game for a change.
The Vikings quarterback was sharp in their 24-17 win over the Packers, earning his money and putting his team in good position for the final month of the season.
He finished 29-of-38 for 342 yards and three touchdowns, and made the timely plays when he needed them. It was more of an efficient night than eye-popping, but he he was clearly the better quarterback of the two.
It was his fifth win in 17 tries in prime time, but more importantly, it puts the Vikings (6-4-1) in the best spot for the top wild card berth in the NFC.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. In the past, it has been easy to assume that given enough time, Rodgers was good enough to drag a sub-standard team to a win.
The reality at the moment is that Rodgers is not playing to his own standards, and he clearly doesn’t have the kind of help he needs. He missed throws badly in the late stages of the game, the kind of plays we’re not conditioned to expect from him.
The first part of the problem is likely physical, as Rodgers hasn’t looked the same since his knee injury earlier this season. The kinds of plays where he buys time to make throws downfield are now becoming sacks, as he isn’t able to avoid the rush long enough or evade it when it gets close.
But there are also fundamental problems with the Packers, that go beyond his health or the injuries that have thinned them out. He doesn’t seem to have complete trust in his coaches or targets on the field, and that has left them closer to a top-10 pick than a playoff berth.
2. Coaches can be stubborn people.
After taking so much criticism for punting last week, Packers coach Mike McCarthy decided to go for a fourth down this time. But his decision was to plow running back Aaron Jones straight into the middle of the line during the third quarter, which the Vikings were waiting for.
It wasn’t a very imaginative call, and certainly the one that put the least responsibility on his best player. If that’s the kind of decision-making he’s going to employ on fourth downs, he’ll at least get people to stop criticizing the decision to go or not.
At least Mike Zimmer didn’t let his pride get in the way. He told NBC’s Michele Tafoya at halftime he wasn’t going to let the game be decided by kicker Dan Bailey, after Bailey missed two field goals in the first half. Of course, he should have gotten a third chance at the second one, since there was a penalty for at least running into him that wasn’t called.
But late in the third, Zimmer deigned to let Bailey try a 37-yarder, and he hit it to give the Vikings the lead.
3. The Vikings might enjoy the win, though seeing cornerback Xavier Rhodes leave the game late was a concern as they head down the stretch.
Rhodes is their best cover player, and with games coming up immediately against the Patriots and Packers (and what they hope are future playoff dates), it leaves a significant question mark. He grabbed at his hamstring as soon as he went down, and hobbled slowly off the field.
They got linebacker Anthony Barr back on the field Sunday, but need to be well because they’ve already given away most of their margin of error.
4. Packers tight end Jimmy Graham was active and dressed, but he didn’t do much.
After breaking his thumb last week, he played with his left hand in a glove and splinted and taped.
He wasn’t much use as a run-blocker, as you might imagine, and Marcedes Lewis got most of the work. He was targeted four times, and caught two passes for 34 yards.
With so many injuries at wide receiver, the Packers badly need Graham (or somebody who can make a play downfield) if they’re going to salvage this season.
5. Packers rookie cornerback Jaire Alexander has made some impressive plays this year. But his most impressive may have been in the first half.
It was a physical play for a guy better known for his downfield coverage skills, and the kind of play that the Packers think he can build on.