Anytime you can start out 2-0 its a great thing, and when its 2-0 in the division it’s an even better thing. The Packers held on to a 21 point lead in the first quarter to beat the Vikings 21-16 at home in a big early season match-up. There was a lot of good to go on offensively and defensively for the Packers but they still have a ton of things to improve on. Let’s start with the offense.
Let’s start with the good, the Packers scored on their first three possessions of the game and looked like they were gonna blow the doors off of the Vikings early on. Packers went right down field with Rodgers throwing some great balls, they got Davante Adams going early and the running game was effective when the Packers went to the outside, on non sweep plays (we’ll get to those later). The first touchdown was a thing of fucking beauty and perked me right up. Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones on the field at the same time, fake the pass to Jones and then hit the screen with Williams. My lord, what a play call. 4 play 75 yard drive.
Packers came back on the next drive and scored on a 11 play, 63 yard drive that included three different third down conversions. Rodgers threw a god damn strike to Geronimo Allison for the TD.
The third scoring drive came off of a Minnesota turnover and ended with Aaron Jones running the ball in from 2 yards out. It was a 33 yard drive and Jones touched the ball on 3 of the 4 plays for 18 yards and the TD. Aaron Jones got out of his funk against the Vikings and ran for 116 yards on 23 carries, and also caught 4 balls for 34 yards. I’m not sure Jones will get or needs 27 touches a game, but that is the kind of usage I want to see from him. Jones has such good vision and seems to always get the most out of nothing, he’s got great explosiveness and can catch the ball out of the backfield. I think somewhere around the 20 touches per game mark is more up his alley but I loved the Packers really pounding the ball with him. Overall the Packers ran the ball 33 times, and passed the ball 34 times.
Aaron Rodgers also played much better and made some great throws, even some that weren’t caught. He finished the game 22 for 34, 209 YDs, 2 TDs, and 0 INTs. Rodgers did lose one fumble on the day however. At receiver Davante had himself a day and was open all day, he caught 7 balls for 106 yards. After Davante though, Jones led this team in receiving with just 34 yards. Against good defenses it can be game plan or the simple fact some guys aren’t involved as much in the game plan, but I would like to see Allison or MVS be around that 60+ yard mark in a game like this. As mentioned before, I have to highlight some of Rodgers throws because there just aren’t many guys that can make these throws and yet Rodgers is old and washed up. Give me a break.
Now, let’s get into the bad we saw from the Packers on offense. I will say in the first half I thought the Packers stopped themselves more so than the Vikings did anything to stop them. Allison had a bad fumble on the Packers fourth drive after he had gotten a first down. Yes you can say hey the Vikings made a good play but Allison needs to hang onto that ball. If the Packers can even get a field goal there, it puts the game away.
The next couple drives in the first half ended with two different short yardage failures. Multiple times this game the Packers had 3rd and short, and once in the first half they had a 4th and 1 at the Minnesota 25 and came up short. As much as I love some of LaFleurs play calling, the Packers short yardage plays were awful. The Packers interior run game was pretty bad throughout, they couldn’t make anything happen. On top of that, their sweep game was very good either outside of 1 or two runs. They were really making hay on those off-tackle runs but in this short yardage situations they one, took the ball out of Rodgers hands and two, with tried to run the ball straight at the Vikings or went with sweeps that didn’t work. Again, you can give the Vikings credit for making stops but I thought the Packers execution was just awful and in the future, I’d like to see some better play calling and a different look. So many fans give teams shit on short yardage plays when they don’t line up and pound the ball, but if that isn’t working you need to get a little more imaginative with your play-calling. I don’t mind the Packers lining up and trying to play bully to get one yard, but when that’s not working then change things up and the Packers never did which stalled drives after the first quarter.
After the Allison fumble, the Packers longest drive was their last one in the 4th quarter which was 7 plays for 27 yards. I’ve been saying it all offseason that the Packers offense is going to struggle especially early on with their schedule. However given the Packers hot start you want to see more consistency or at least a resemblance of a solid drive, and we never saw that after the first quarter. The Vikings defense is good, but I feel like the Packers did just as much to hurt themselves, as the Vikings did to stop the Packers.
I would also like to give a good shout out to the offensive line. Rodgers did get some pressure but he was only sacked twice and the Packers ran for 144 yards. The Vikings front seven is very good and to have that kind of success is a good thing. We also saw second round pick Elgton Jenkins in at LG and he looked better than advertised. Lane Taylor might not have his job for much longer. The video below is a video of Aaron Jones’ TD run. Jenkins is #74 and hell come in from the right as he pushes his guy like 2 yards into the end zone. The guy is a fucking beast.
I’ll start with the same thing I said last week, if this is the Packers defense of the past few years then the Packers lose this game. The defense played great yet again. From an overall look at the defense the Packers gave up 421 total yard which isn’t good but I want to break down that yardage.
The Packers gave up a 75 YD TD to Dalvin Cook, a 61 yard catch to Chad Beebe, a 45 yard TD to Stefon Diggs, and then another 30 yard catch to Adam Thielen.
Let’s look at Dalvin Cook first who is this teams offense. The Vikings want to run the ball as much as they can. If you take away that 75 YD TD run the Packers held Cook to 19 carries for 79 yards which is 4.1 YPC. It is great but it is still pretty solid against a RB that is going to destroy some teams.
From the receiving perspective, the Beebe catch and run was ridiculous as Cousins was falling down adn barely got that pass off – it was Beebe’s only catch on the day. The 45 yard TD to Diggs should have been picked by Jaire Alexander or at least broken up but Alexander miss judged it and said post game that he lost the ball in the sun. Diggs finished with just that 1 catch. Adam Thielen outside that 30 yard catch? 4 catches for 45 yards. Diggs and Theilen are going to be one of the best WR duos in the NFL all year so I’d say Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, and company did a great job against them.
If you take away those four plays over all, which resulted in 211 total yards. The Packers held the Vikings to 210 yards on 55 plays. They only sacked Cousins once but they were getting constant pressure on him, 28 in total on the day. They had 19 last week against the Bears. The Packers also forced 4 turnovers, 2 fumbles and 2 INTs albeit one of those fumbles was on the final play of the game for the Vikings where they were just lateraling ball back and forth.
The Packers should have had multiple other INTs on the day, but the two they had were great. The first was by Preston Smith who go the pick off of deflection from rookie Darnell Savage who played great again minus a missed tackle on Dalvin Cook on his long TD run. The other was a phenomenal INT in the back of the end zone by Kevin King.
Let’s get into some individual talk here and start with Kevin King and Jaire Alexander. These two guys are fucking phenomenal and their jobs. The Packers haven’t had this kind of DB play since they won the Super Bowl in 2011. These two could quickly become one of the top CB tandems in the NFL if they aren’t there already (I think they are). Both guys cover very well, both guys can tackle, both have good instincts, and both are ridiculously athletic. King shows off that athleticism in the INT above. Jaire Alexander also had a ton of good plays and break-ups. Not only that but the Packers have major depth. Tramon Williams has played way better this year playing being the #3 guy and then you have Tony Brown and Josh Jackson still. The Packers go five deep at CB alone. I also can’t emphasize enough how impressive it was how they shut down Diggs and Theilen the way they did. Those two are very good and for most of the day King and Alexander made their lives difficult. I mean in some of these videos below, Alexander is literally running the route with Diggs and Theilen.
I briefly mentioned Darnell Savage earlier but him and Amos had another good game as well. At linebacker Blake Martinez led the team with 13 total tackles and I really liked what I saw out of B.J. Goodson who the Packers just traded for from the New York Giants.
The Smith Bros were great again, specially in the run game. Again I get that Cook had 154 yards rushing but Za’Darius and Preston were constantly setting the edge and making Cook cut the back to the middle and did a good job him. I already gave the pressure stats and when the Vikings passed, Kirk Cousins was under constant pressure. Za’Darius finished the game with 6 tackles and 1 QB Hit while Preston had 2 sack, the INT, and 1 QB hit as well.
My MVP for this game on defense goes to Kenny Clark who was a savage out there from the get go. The Vikings new rookie center had himself a long damn day going up against Clark. Clark had the lone sack for the Packers, and 1 TFL, forced a fumble on Cousins, and was constantly in the backfield. Clark also had 7 of the Packers 28 pressures on the day. I hope to god Clark gets the recognition he deserves this year because he really is one of the best interior DL in the league.
Packers have now given up just 19 points in the first two weeks and they get the Denver Broncos at home this Sunday, a team that is struggling to score on offense. Mike Pettine is one of the best DCs in the league so I would look for another strong performance from the defense. We’ll have that game preview later on in the week.
- Speaking of Kenny Clark, he got called for another defensive holding. That two in as many weeks. I don’t remember them showing a replay of it but I have feeling it was a ticky tacky like the one in Chicago.
- Packers have dominated two QBs that aren’t well received in the first two weeks and they get Joe Flacco this week. The big test comes Weeks 4 at home against Carson Wentz and the Eagles.
- S Raven Greene left the field on a cart with an ankle injury and didn’t return. There is no news as of now on how long he’ll be out but he has played very good for the Packers early on. I hope its nothing serious and he doesn’t miss too much time. Packers have the depth to replace him but he earned a starting spot on this defense and has played very well.
- Darnell Savage Jr. was also seen in a walking boot but apparently he just got kicked in the shin and its precautionary. Hopefully that’s all it is and he’s back out on the field Sunday.
- TE’s were no existent today. Jimmy Graham got just two targets and I don’t think I ever heard Robert Tonyan or Mercedes Lewis’ names called.
- Saw a little more creativity from the offense this week. I expect to see different personnel packages, formations, and months little by little each week.
- Dolphins DB Minkah Fitzpatrick is available and he is very good. Of course Packers twitter is going crazy wanting to trade for him. If the Dolphins are willing to part ways for him for just a second round pick, I don’t see how Gutekunst doesn’t call the Dolphins and see what’s going on. For a first though, I am not sure its worth it.
- Wasn’t at Lambeau but all the players were commenting on how great the environment was. LaFleur and Rodgers have been talking a lot in the off season about the environment and apparently what the Packers did worked.
- Before the game and at halftime the Packers honored legendary QB Bart Starr. His wife Cherry Starr, son Bart Starr Jr., and Brett Favre were among those in attendance along with many former teammates of Starr. Packers played a tribute video at halftime and Aaron Rodgers was also out there at halftime to watch the video with Favre and the Starr family. In the video below you can watch the whole halftime tribute.