The Green Bay Packers rolled to a 43-34 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1. The win gives the Packers a 1-0 record on the season and a 1-0 record in the division.
It was a strange road game played without fans in attendance. The crowd in Minnesota is usually a factor during games but not having them there clearly diminished the Vikings home field advantage.
More importantly, the Packers offense was potent in this game and the defense did enough to get the job done.
Here are 10 things we learned from the Packers Week 1 win in Minnesota:
1. Aaron Rodgers Is Still Elite
Rodgers had an outstanding start to his 2020 campaign. The Packers quarterback finished the game completing 32-of-44 passes for 364 yards and four touchdowns. He did not throw an interception and had a quarterback rating of 127.5.
Yes, Rodgers focused a lot on Davante Adams, targeting him 17 times and competing 14 passes to him, but his next two receivers each had four catches (Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling) and the top two running backs also made four catches each during the game.
Rodgers earned a few free plays with his cadence and was able to cash in on them. He seemed to be in command of the offense throughout the game and clearly showed that those who say he is no longer an elite quarterback are premature.
2. The Wide Receivers Were Good Enough
The Packers only had three active wide receivers (plus Tyler Ervin) and all of them contributed to the offense.
Davante Adams had a monster day against the Vikings inexperienced corners as we expected he might. Tae finished with 14 catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns. He consistently made good moves at the line of scrimmage to gain separation from those trying to cover him and came down with a great catch in the end zone where he barely got both feet down while standing still for his first score of the game.
Allen Lazard used his size well to gain key first downs and scored a touchdown as well. He finished with four catches for 63 yards and gained 19 more yards on an end around that helped keep the defense off balance.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling was feast or famine. He finished with four grabs for 96 yards and a touchdown and had a couple of long catches downfield. But he also dropped two passes he really should have had and will need to improve his consistency to become a better weapon for Rodgers. MVS clearly has the talent to be a difference maker but he needs to be more consistent to do it.
3. The Offensive Line Got the Job Done
The offensive line was a concern for the Packers, especially at right tackle. Coach Matt LaFleur was quiet about who would get the start, but it ended up being Elgton Jenkins moving from LG to RT with Lucas Patrick getting the start at left guard and Lane Taylor at right guard.
Patrick left the game early with an injury and so did Taylor, so adjustments had to be made. Jenkins moved back to left guard and rookie sixth-round pick Jon Runyan moved to right guard and more than held his own while Rick Wagner filled in at right tackle and did just fine.
The Packers did not allow a sack in the game and the run blocking was good for most of the game. There remain a lot of question marks now because of the injuries going forward, although when Billy Turner returns to the lineup, the Packers will have more depth and versatility here.
You have to feel for Taylor who missed the final 14 games of last season with an injury, took a pay cut to stay with the team and then had a great training camp to earn the starting position at right guard only to be hurt in the season opener.
The long-term status of Taylor and Patrick will be important over the course of the season but in the opener, the Packers offensive line got the job done.
4. The Run Defense Was OK
At first blush, the numbers aren’t great. The Packers allowed the Vikings to gain 134 rushing yards and they averaged 6.1-yards per carry.
But they were able to contain Dalvin Cook who gained just 50 yards on 12 carries and was never the dominant force the Vikings needed him to be. Kirk Cousins gained 34 of Minnesota’s ground yards on four carries. If you take his yardage away, the Pack allowed 100 yards in 18 carries with backup Alexander Mattison doing most of the damage.
The combination of adequate run defense and the fact that the Packers head a big lead kept Cook from being a difference maker.
Unfortunately, Kenny Clark left the game early with an injury. His loss could be a big problem for the Packers if he is not available for Week 2.
5. Tyler Ervin Will Have an Important Role in the Offense
He’s not going to be a workhorse, but Tyler Ervin will clearly have a role in the offense and when he gets the ball, he makes things happen. Ervin ran three times for 38 yards including a 21-yard jaunt, and he caught one pass on his only target of the game for six more yards.
Ervin helps keep defenses off-balance and honest and his ability to line up as either a running back or a wide receiver just makes life more difficult for opposing defenses.
6. Jaire Alexander Made Big Plays
The biggest thing that was keeping Jaire Alexander from reaching the elite level of cornerbacks was making big plays. In his first two years in the league, Alexander made three interceptions and recorded half a sack. Against the Vikings in Week 1, he made two big plays, a key interception and a sack that resulted in a safety and helped turn the game in the Packers favor.
Alexander did get beat in coverage a few times, but he continues to display confidence and remains the Packers best and most consistent cornerback.
If he continues to make big plays like this, a Pro Bowl could very well be in his future this season.
7. The Offense Was Great but Had Some Areas of Concern
Overall, the Packers offense was extremely efficient. The team only punted once all game, giving J.K. Scott an easy season opener.
The Packers gained 522 total yards, finished 6-of-11 on third down conversions and held the ball for 41:16 which shows how dominant they were with the football.
However, there were still a few areas of concern. Early in the game, the team struggled in the red zone. For the game, the Pack was 3-for-6 in the red zone, a percentage that obviously needs to improve.
The first drive took up nearly half of the first quarter but the Packers came away with a field goal. The next drive went 12 plays for 74 yards and took 6:05 off the clock, but the Packers gave the ball up on downs at the Minnesota one-yard line.
In their first three drives, the Packers gained 171 yards on 33 plays and took 17:09 off the clock but had only six points to show for it. The numbers improved later in the game, but more consistency in the red zone is needed.
The Packers also had to take at least three time outs over the course of the game because the play clock was about to run out. This can be explained by the lack of preseason games and shorter training camp, but it was a problem throughout 2018 and 2019 and is something that needs to be cleaned up going forward.
8. Can the Packers Stop a 2-Point Conversion?
Defensively, the Packers had one constant problem: the Vikings tried three two-point conversions and converted all three. That’s an additional three points added on to the Vikings offensive total. Two came on Dalvin Cook runs and the third on a pass to Adam Thielen.
Last season, opponents went for two points three times against the Packers and failed to convert on any of them. Again, the defense just made it look too easy and this is something opponents will try to exploit in the future if the defense can’t adjust and stop these plays from working.
9. Krys Barnes Was a Surprise Starter
The Packers added undrafted free agent Krys Barnes to the active roster late last week and Barnes was not only active, he earned the start at ILB ahead of Oren Burks and Ty Summers. Barnes acquitted himself well. The former UCLA star was second on the team (behind fellow ILB Christian Kirksey) with six total tackles including one on special teams. Two of Barnes’ tackles were tackles for loss.
Yes, Barnes made a few rookie mistakes, but he showed some definite promise and was far from overmatched in his NFL debut. The kid has potential, but let’s see what he can do in Week 2 against Detroit.
10. The Defense Gave Up Yards But…
The Packers gave up 34 points and 382 total net yards to the Vikings. Those numbers are a bit higher than you’d like, but the fact is the defense yielded a lot of points and yards after the Pack had built a 29-10 lead after three quarters.
They still need to tighten things up a bit, but situationally, the Packers defense was strong when it needed to be for most of the game.
How they look in Week 2 against Matthew Stafford and the Lions will give us a better idea of what this D can do.
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