Aaron Rodgers looked pedestrian Sunday night. Worse than pedestrian, at times.
He looked frustrated, confused, erratic — nothing like the best quarterback in the NFL. Nothing like the guy who has owned the Vikings throughout his career.
He looked like just another QB chewed up and spit out by a Mike Zimmer defense.
At the moment of truth — a time when he usually delivers for the Green Bay Packers — Rodgers floated a pass that ended up in the hands of Trae Waynes for an interception that essentially put the game on ice.
And in the ultimate man-bites-dog development, Rodgers got outplayed by a quarterback who has been with the Vikings for like 12 hours, barely long enough to learn everyone’s name.
Score another round to Zimmer and his defense.
That’s two in a row now after a 17-14 Vikings victory on a raucous night in their new home.
Rodgers stat line was decidedly meh: 20-of-36 passing for 213 yards with one touchdown, one interception and one lost fumble.
“We just didn’t have enough success on third down and turned the ball over too many times,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers had paid respect to Zimmer’s defensive mastery last week, calling the Vikings coach an NFL “trendsetter” while lauding his creative blitz packages.
Rodgers felt that heat all game, resulting in uncharacteristic mistakes and sloppy ball security.
Rodgers sailed passes over the heads of receivers. He chucked balls out of bounds when no one came open and the walls closed around him.
He fumbled three times, nearly threw an interception on his second pass and barely avoided another pick in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
He couldn’t escape trouble one last time.
The final sequence set up like classic Rodgers comeback material. Trailing 17-14, 4:38 left on the clock, ball at the Green Bay.
In years past, he would have broken the Vikings’ hearts with a surgical winning drive.
Not this time. Rodgers made a few clutch throws, but his final pass was a floater to Davante Adams along the sideline that Waynes sniffed out.
The second-year cornerback who had been picked on all game outfoxed Rodgers.
Explain that one.
The official launch of U.S. Bank Stadium followed a script similar to the previous meeting between the border rivals. In that one, the 2015 regular-season finale at Lambeau Field, the Vikings clinched the NFC North title by giving Rodgers fits in the pocket.
The Vikings sacked him five times that game. They sacked him five times again Sunday.
Rodgers’ passer rating in the ’15 finale: 80.8. Sunday: 70.7.
Zimmer is winning the chess match.
The first half was a continuation of that dominance. The Packers were held to seven points and 65 total yards before halftime. The one score was a 1-yard pass to Jordy Nelson basically gift-wrapped thanks to a blocked punt and a 40-yard pass interference penalty on Terence Newman.
Rodgers has feasted on Vikings defenses pre-Zimmer more than any other foe. In 17 career meetings before Sunday, Rodgers posted a 112.7 passer rating. That’s the highest rating by anyone against the Vikings.
In the previous seven meetings, Rodgers had thrown 15 TDs with only one interception.
But Sunday, Rodgers and his offense looked out of sorts from the opening series. Adams fumbled on the first play, but was saved by teammate Randall Cobb, who stripped the ball from Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo to regain possession.
“Our rhythm in the passing game was not what we would have liked it to have been,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
McCarthy showed faith in his offense late in the third quarter with his team trailing 10-7. He elected not to attempt a 31-yard field goal and went for it on fourth-and-2.
The Vikings stuffed James Starks, who inexplicably got the carry instead of power back Eddie Lacy.
Rodgers started to make a few plays in the fourth quarter. He scrambled for a 10-yard touchdown, taking a shot to the ribs by Sendejo as he crossed the goal line, which caused tempers to flare.
Rodgers failed, though, with a chance to ruin the Vikings stadium extravaganza. The quarterback who has owned the Vikings so many times made one final mistake on a night filled with them.
Zimmer and his defense suddenly have answers for him.