NEW ORLEANS -- If you saw Aaron Rodgers walk across the Superdome field with a security guard at his side on the way out of the stadium late Sunday night, you would have never known there was anything wrong with the Green Bay Packers quarterback.
He never broke stride on his way to the team buses.
Some of his teammates didn't even know during the game.
But they will when they see the film.
After Rodgers pulled his hamstring on the opening drive of the third quarter, he and the Packers' offense changed for the worse. Gone was Rodgers' ability to keep plays alive with his feet, to roll out or buy time for receivers to get open -- like he did on his 70-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb in the first quarter -- and to force the defense to respects his scrambles.
Consider Rodgers' production pre- and post-injury:
Before the injury, he was 14-of-19 for 298 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 133.1.
After the injury, he was 14-of-20 for 120 yards with two interceptions for a 45.8 passer rating.
When Rodgers felt the twinge in his left leg on a 7-yard scramble for a first down, the game was tied at 16-16. The Packers managed only one score after his injury in a 44-23 loss that sent them into their bye week with a 5-3 record and in second place in the NFC North behind the Detroit Lions (6-2).
The injury forced coach Mike McCarthy to ditch a large chunk of his game plan.
"We kept him in the gun [and] obviously didn't really even get into the play-action game ... and obviously scratched off all of the quarterback movements," McCarthy said. "He was limited."
A year ago, the Packers were 5-2 and feeling good about themselves when Rodgers broke his collarbone and missed the next seven games. They were in the same position Sunday night, and although their fortune wasn't altered for the long term by this injury, they need their quarterback healthy for the stretch run following next week’s bye.
"I didn't even know he had an injury," right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. "That's new to me."
Rodgers did not use his injury as justification for the Packers' second-half ineffectiveness, but he was in the unusual position of explaining two interceptions after his first multi-interception game since Week 3 of last season.
Three plays after Rodgers felt a pull in his hamstring, with the score tied 16-16, he fired a slant for Andrew Quarless on third-and-goal from the 5. The tight end couldn't handle the throw, and the ball bounced into the hands of linebacker David Hawthorne.
"I'd have to watch the film to see what happened, but I feel good about the throw," Rodgers said. New Orleans followed up by taking the lead for good four plays later on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Brandin Cooks.
After the Packers failed on a fourth-and-1 run on their next possession -- running back Eddie Lacy tried going behind fill-in right guard Lane Taylor, who got blown off the line of scrimmage -- the Saints went 40 yards in four plays to take a 30-16 lead. On the Packers' following possession, Rodgers threw his second pick, a ball that went off the hands of rookie receiver Davante Adams. It was one of the few post-injury plays in which Rodgers rolled out. When he threw on the run, it went off Adams' hand and was picked off by cornerback Corey White.
"Had to move to my right because of the pressure," Rodgers said. "Not sure if that made him think he was going to break his route out or whatnot but definitely missed my spot on that one."
From a pure passing yardage standpoint, it was one of Rodgers' best showings with 418 yards (the second-highest total of his career). But his mobility is one of his biggest assets, and with that largely removed from his repertoire, the Packers' offense could not keep with Brees and the Saints.
"Well if I felt it, then I had to back off a little bit," Rodgers said. "We had to do a little more in the shotgun, but it wasn't a big deal ultimately."