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Aaron Rodgers not totally to blame in Packers' offensive letdown

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Mike McCarthy never spends any time comparing or ranking Aaron Rodgers' great performances. The list would be too long, the task too time consuming.

He doesn't spend much time contemplating Rodgers' duds, either, not that there are many of them for the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

This one, Sunday's 21-13 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium, where no Packers' team has ever won, might be at the top of the dud list.

Just don't ask McCarthy.

"I couldn't tell you," McCarthy said Sunday when asked whether it was Rodgers' worst game.

Then let's allow the stat sheet to decide.

His campaign for a second MVP award won't be trumpeting this: He set career records for his most incompletions (25) and lowest passer rating (34.3). He finished 17-of-42 passing for 185 yards and didn't have a touchdown pass. It was just the ninth time in 101 starts that he failed to throw a touchdown pass. Plus, he threw a pair of interceptions.

But McCarthy was right about one thing.

"I don't think this is all about Aaron's performance," he said.

Just don't blame the defense for this one. Shawn Slocum's special-teams unit gave up the only touchdown on a 75-yard first-quarter punt return by Marcus Thigpen and had a field goal blocked.

It was apparent early that Rodgers was either off the mark or out of sync -- or perhaps both -- with his receivers. He threw back-shoulder fades when Davante Adams and Randall Cobb ran go routes. Jordy Nelson ran a crossing pattern, and Rodgers missed behind him.

It not only was stunning to see Rodgers throw an interception in the third quarter because he was late and behind with a deep out for Cobb -- mistakes he rarely makes -- but it was equally shocking that on the other side of the field, Nelson was wide open and waving his arm to try to get his quarterback's attention, and Rodgers missed him.

The Bills, with their fifth-ranked pass defense and their physical corners, caused their share of disruption. But dropped passes -- oh, the dropped passes -- can't be blamed on that. Or on Rodgers.

Seven times, passes went off the hands of Rodgers' intended targets. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, no team has dropped that many in a game since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had eight in a 2008 game against the Carolina Panthers. Just about everyone was culpable -- Adams, Cobb, Nelson, Jarrett Boykin, Andrew Quarless, Richard Rodgers and James Starks all had drops, and you could've perhaps charged Cobb with a second. Eddie Lacy was the only Packers player with a target who didn't drop a pass.

The worst one looked like it could have gone for a 94-yard touchdown in the third quarter that would have given the Packers a 17-16 lead. Nelson had three steps on cornerback Corey Graham and Rodgers led him in stride. It clanked off his hands.

"Missed opportunities," Nelson lamented. "We had all sorts of chances and just didn't make them, for whatever reason. Obviously, my drop could have won the game for us. We've got to make those no matter how easy or hard they are."

That very same drive ended with Rodgers' second interception, this one on Boykin's drop. Unheralded Bills cornerback Bacarri Rambo had both of the picks. Four of Rodgers' five interceptions this season are on balls that bounced off his receivers' hands.

The takeaway from it all might be this: The Packers aren't the same team away from Lambeau Field, where they haven't lost this season. They need a win Sunday at Tampa Bay just to salvage a 4-4 road record this season.

This loss might have cost the Packers (10-4) home-field advantage or even a home game at all in the playoffs. They began the day as the No. 2 seed and by the time their plane landed in Green Bay on Sunday evening, they were clinging to the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC.

"I felt like this loss was definitely on us," right guard T.J. Lang said, speaking for the offense.

Cobb concurred.

"This loss is on us," Cobb said.