GREEN BAY, Wis. – Aaron Rodgers' sentiments didn't match the scoreboard.
After putting up 27 points in the Green Bay Packers' season-opening victory at Philadelphia, Rodgers was happy to walk away from a tough road game with a win. He wasn't thrilled with the way he played.
Rodgers knows pretty good won't be good enough this year — not for a team that's expected to contend for the Super Bowl or for a quarterback who's expected to be an MVP candidate. Especially as Packers coach Mike McCarthy tries to plan for Sunday's game against Buffalo without running back Ryan Grant, who is out for the season with an ankle injury.
"'RG,' he was a big thing in the offense, and I think McCarthy, he's going to get the ball down the field," tight end Jermichael Finley said. "This pass game, we didn't throw the ball like we should, so he's going to come out and try to make a statement."
Coming off an impressive 2009 and sharp preseason performance, Rodgers threw for 188 yards with two touchdowns and an uncharacteristic pair of interceptions against the Eagles. Rodgers said he played "terrible" and missed throws he could make in his sleep.
"I didn't throw the ball as well as I wanted to," Rodgers said. "But I'm going to get better and improve. It's interesting when you step back from that game, watch the film and think about the fact you've scored 27 points and were productive and still didn't feel very good about the way you played. We're going to get better."
Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin says Packers coaches are using a quote to motivate players this year — "Dissatisfaction is the basis of all progress" — and Rodgers' reaction fits right in.
"We don't want guys to be satisfied," Philbin said. "None of us as a staff, coaching-wise I think offensively feel like we played up to our potential. We did have some guys that played very well, but by the same token, this is an 11-guys-as-a-unit thing, we're not humming yet the way we need to be. I'm kind of happy that he's not pleased with the way he's playing."
From a play-calling perspective, the Packers have not made a run-pass balance a high priority under McCarthy; according to STATS LLC, they passed 58 percent of the time last year, the 12th-highest percentage in the NFL. Arizona threw the most (62.9 percent) and only four NFL teams ran more often than they passed last year.
Now that Grant's gone, might the Packers throw the ball even more?
"I hope so," Rodgers said. "You know, you have to have balance in this league but I think we're seeing a shift in this league across the board of pass-heavy teams. You have to cater to the guys you've got and you look at those guys across the room over there, there's a lot of talent, splitting out and can catch the ball.
"Whether Ryan was in or not, you have to find ways to get the most athletic guys on your team the ball. And most of them are wearing numbers in the 80s."
That'd be just fine with wide receiver Greg Jennings.
"Would we love to pick up that slack? Of course, of course," Jennings said. "But you have to be smart about it. It's a game of inches. You can't throw it every single down, but would we like to see that? Any receiver would say yes."
The Bills are expecting it.
"Definitely any time you lose a guy like Grant you're going to have to rely more on others and I'm definitely thinking that Aaron Rogers will be the guy they lean on more," Bills defensive end Marcus Stroud said.
Still, the Packers can't abandon the run.
Rodgers made it clear this week that he'd like to see the team make a trade for Bills running back Marshawn Lynch.
What about Grant's backup, Brandon Jackson?
"He's done a great job being my guy in the backfield on third downs," Rodgers said. "And his feel for the screen game has gotten better every season, and I think his running style is a change-up running style that has worked very well with Ryan. And now he's going to get a chance to carry the ball 20-plus times, probably."
A solid running game can help the Packers' offensive line avoid the severe pass protection problems they had last year. Rodgers was sacked three times in the Packers' first three possessions Sunday, but his protection improved after the Packers established the run midway through the second quarter.
"I'm not worried about those guys up front," Rodgers said. "I think they did a great job in the second half of keeping myself clean and opening holes in the run game. If we can keep that balance and continue to change things up with our pass protection, I'm not worried about the protection schemes or those guys."