Packers strike early, hold on to beat Vikings 21-16 and improve to 2-0
GREEN BAY – In their 2019 home opener, the Green Bay Packers blasted to a comfortable lead early in the second quarter. Maybe a bit too comfortable.
The Packers scored three touchdowns before the Minnesota Vikings found the scoreboard, then held on to win 21-16. On the day the Packers celebrated the life of legendary quarterback Bart Starr, with wife Cherry Starr escorted by son Bart Starr Jr. and Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, and joined by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and team president Mark Murphy during a halftime ceremony, the Packers improved their record to 2-0.
Here are some quick observations.
A week after being stymied in Chicago, the Packers' offense got off to a rip-roaring start Sunday. The Packers scored touchdowns on their first three possessions, taking a 21-0 lead. Aaron Rodgers was 9-for-10 with 134 yards, two touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 rating in the first quarter. It was a complete opposite start as the previous week, when the Packers had minus-12 yards on nine plays in the first 15 minutes against the Bears. Then, the Packers offense did nothing. Rodgers, especially, struggled in the final three quarters, finishing 22-of-34 with 209 yards and just the two touchdowns. He was 13-for-24 for 75 yards and a 60.2 rating in the final three quarters. Aaron Jones, who rushed for 116 yards on a single-game career-high 23 carries, was the Packers' most consistent performer throughout the game.
Defense digs in
The Packers defense had another good performance, but it will want to clamp down on big plays this week in practice. The Vikings had, in chronological order, a 75-yard touchdown run from Dalvin Cook, a 61-yard reception to Chad Beebe, a 45-yard touchdown reception from Stefon Diggs, and a 30-yard completion on third down from Kirk Cousins to Adam Thielen. The Packers, who also forced three turnovers, know what they need to improve upon after another strong performance.
Going all out
Matt LaFleur made one thing clear: He’s going to be an aggressive head coach. Maybe the best example of that came in Sunday’s first half. The Packers had a fourth-and-1 at the Vikings’ 25-yard line, up 21-7 with 1:37 left before halftime. A field goal would have given the Packers a three-possession lead. That’s the usual call. LaFleur decided he wanted the touchdown, so he went for it. The Vikings dropped the Packers for a 2-yard loss, with Linval Joseph tackling running back Jamaal Williams behind the line of scrimmage. Those three points loomed large as the Packers entered the fourth quarter with a 21-16 lead, but that aggressiveness seems like it will be a staple early in the LaFleur era.
Changing of the guards
The Packers are apparently rotating their left guards. Lane Taylor started his second game Sunday, but he was replaced by rookie Elgton Jenkins after two possessions. Jenkins got two possessions before Taylor was back on the field. Taylor finished the final four possessions of the first half, two of which were in a two-minute situation. He also played most of the second half. The Packers’ desire for Jenkins to play has been clear before Sunday, but it appears there’s still more trust in the veteran Taylor during critical situations. Still, going forward, it’s fair to expect Jenkins’ playing time to increase.
Offensive pass interference is clearly going to be an emphasis this season. The Vikings were called for OPI three times, one of which nullified a touchdown after replay review. In the second half, tight end Jimmy Graham was called for offensive pass interference. So it’s not just that pass interference calls are reviewable this season, something that will take some time for everyone to adjust. Offensive pass interference will be closely scrutinized by officials.