Green Bay Packers fans have a lot of things to be grateful for. First, the 2020 NFL season has actually started. Many wondered with the COVID-19 virus still running rampant in the US if the season would actually start. To the delight of all NFL fans, it did. Then, Packers fans got to enjoy watching their favorite team beat their arch-rival, the Minnesota Vikings, 43-34 on Sunday afternoon. The victory brought them a lot of delight, but the way one of their units played should have thrilled them. The Green Bay Packers offense shined on Sunday against the Vikings.
Green Bay Packers Offense Comes Alive in Season Opener Against Vikings
Heading into the season opener, the Packers, as a team, faced a lot of questions. But many of the questions were directed towards the Green Bay Packers offense.
Can the Packers get production out of the wide receivers not named Davante Adams? Does quarterback Aaron Rodgers still have some big games left? Will right tackle be an issue on Sunday against the Vikings front four? Can the Packers rushing attack continue to be successful?
The Green Bay Packers offense answered all of these questions.
Aaron Rodgers and His Possible Demise Grossly Exaggerated
This off-season, general manager Brian Gutekunst traded up in the first round of the NFL draft to select quarterback Jordan Love. It was a curious pick by a team that was one game away from the Super Bowl last season. The Love selection caused quite a stir for Packers fans. It also caused many Packers podcasters to wonder when the Packers would walk away from Rodgers and start the Jordan Love era. For those podcasters, they might want to find a new subject to talk about.
Sunday against the Vikings Rodgers looked like the Rodgers that Packers fans have been accustomed to seeing. He finished the day going 32 of 44 for 364 yards with four touchdowns and didn’t throw an interception. If one game is any indication of how his season will go, it appears that the selection of Love by Gutekunst has presented Rodgers with a new chip for his shoulder.
From what we witnessed on Sunday, it appears that Rodgers is getting very comfortable in head coach Matt LaFleur’s offense.
Davante Adams Leads the Way at Wide Receiver
There is a reason that Aaron Rodgers leans on Davante Adams. Adams has become one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. His ability was on full display Sunday against the inexperienced Vikings cornerbacks. He torched the Vikings secondary with 14 receptions for 156 yards with two touchdown receptions. Adams gave the appearance he could do anything he wanted on Sunday. But while Adams led the way, the Packers also got production from their other wide receivers.
The Packers offense saw contributions from Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The two wide receivers combined for eight receptions for 159 yards with both having a touchdown reception each. Valdes-Scantling displayed some big-play potential, but also dropped several crucial passes. The Packers had to be delighted to see both receivers contribute, but they will need to make sure Valdes-Scantling limits his mistakes moving forward.
The Packers offense will need to get more out of their tight end position in their passing game. On Sunday, only one tight end caught a pass, that being rookie Josiah Deguara. This off-season, Gutekunst chose to go young at tight end. Last year’s third-round pick Jace Sternberger was expected to be the Packers go to pass-catching tight end. However, Sternberger wasn’t even a starter for Sunday’s game. Robert Tonyan got the start over Sternberger, however, neither registered a catch. If the Packers can get something out of the tight end position, the Packers offense can be even better through the air.
Ground Game Opens up Passing Attack
Ever since LaFleur was hired at the Packers head coach, he has preached about having a solid rushing attack. He has said that not only can a good ground game get points on its own, but it also can open up the passing attack. That is exactly what it did for the Packers offense on Sunday afternoon.
Running backs Aaron Jones led the Packers offense in rushing carrying the ball 16 times for 66 yards with one touchdown. Fellow running backs Jamaal Williams, Tyler Ervin, and rookie A.J. Dillon chipped in 73 yards on 12 carries. The yardage the running backs gained was important, but it was what it did for the passing game that helped propel the Packers to a victory.
Because the Packers offense established the run early, it opened up play-action and the passing game. LaFleur and Rodgers took advantage of this and were able to put up big passing numbers. There is no doubt that this was the type of game that best represents what LaFleur wants to do with the Packers offense.
Injuries Hitting the Packers Offensive Line
The Packers offensive line was facing injuries going into the game on Sunday. After the game, the offensive line is dealing with even more injuries.
Billy Turner, who was expected to start at right tackle, missed the game due to a knee injury. Because of Turner’s injury Elgton Jenkins, the usual starter at left guard started the game at right tackle. Filling in at Jenkins’s usual position was Lucas Patrick. But that quickly changed when Patrick was lost to injury. Patrick’s injury forced Jenkins back to left guard and Rick Wagner was inserted at right tackle.
Even with the injuries, the Packers offensive line played very well. Along with opening up holes in the running game, the offensive line held the Vikings without a sack. Rodgers was given a lot of time and that allowed him to have a big day.
Patrick wasn’t the only offensive lineman lost to injury on Sunday. Lane Taylor suffered what appears to be a pretty serious knee injury. Jon Runyan Jr. came in and replaced Taylor.
Offense Carried the Defense Against the Vikings
While the Packers offense shined on Sunday, the same really can’t be said about the defense. Excluding the play of Jaire Alexander, who had a sack for a safety and also intercepted Kirk Cousins, the Packers defense had its struggles.
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook seemed to be on his way to a big game before the Vikings quit feeding him the ball. He finished the game with just 12 carries for 50 yards with two touchdowns. He finished the game with a 4.2 yards per carry average. It isn’t farfetched to believe that Cook would have had even more yards if he was given the ball more. The Packers run defense struggled last season and from what we saw on Sunday, seems to be once again having issues.
In the second half, when the Vikings were forced to pass to catch up, the Packers and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine struggled to stop the passing attack. Cousins finished with 259 yards passing with two touchdowns. Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen had six catches for 110 yards with two touchdown receptions. The Vikings don’t have a lot of weapons in the passing game, but still, the Packers defense didn’t have an answer for it.
If the Pettine led Packers defense continues to struggle to contain opposing offenses, the Packers offense will need to produce as they did on Sunday throughout the season. If that occurs, the Packers will have a hard time being one of the best teams in the NFC.
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