A ruthless Aaron Rodgers picks apart Lions' secondary with an assassin’s touch
GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers senses no déjà vu. He’s been here before, leading a high-octane Green Bay Packers offense, setting records and taking names, making it all look easy.
This should feel familiar for the two-time MVP. What the Packers have done through two games – the highest-scoring first two games to a Green Bay season since 1919 – is circa 2011, or 2014, or late 2016. The Packers dropped 40 points on another NFC North opponent Sunday, blowing past the Detroit Lions 42-21 inside an empty Lambeau Field, and they did it in warm-knife-through-butter fashion.
The first quarter ended with the Packers trailing 14-3. They scored the game’s next 31 points.
Yes, this should feel vintage for Rodgers, a return to the Packers offenses that consistently had defenses on their heels in the past. The Packers hadn’t dropped 40 points in consecutive games since 2014. That was the last time Rodgers won MVP. It’s been a while, sure, but this is nothing new.
Instead, Rodgers said the past two games feel unlike anything he’s encountered. He can’t pinpoint the familiarity, find the similarities, because the Packers are following a new script.
“It’s just schematically so different,” Rodgers said. “I like the adjustment we made from Week 1 to Week 2, and I think we did a good job in-game with our adjustments as well, finding ways to move some guys around and get them touches. These (running) backs that we have, it’s just a different type of combination than we’ve had around here in so long.”
Aaron Jones was the star Sunday, rushing for a career-high 168 yards on 18 carries. He added four catches for a team-high 68 yards. That Jones ran wild on a day when the Lions purposely shut down Davante Adams with constant double teams was unsurprising. It’s a pick-your-poison offense between Jones and Adams, who was held to three catches for 36 yards.
What was unexpected, though, was the success Rodgers had without his top receiver.
Rodgers was ruthless Sunday, picking apart the Lions' secondary with an assassin’s touch. He completed 18 of 30 passes for 240 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, a 107.6 rating. And he did it despite some drops from his receivers, which might be the norm this season. No, the Packers didn’t restock their receiver position this offseason, but it has hardly slowed the offense.
In his second season with LaFleur, Rodgers’ command of the playbook so far has been transcendent.
“He’s just being a wizard out there,” running back Aaron Jones said. “He’s putting us in the right spots, getting us going. He’s had a year in the offense as well. So he knows the ins and outs, and every single detail in and out. So he makes the game easier for us. He’s getting the calls, getting us open. We just run and do our jobs.”
It should be said the Packers have yet to face a defensive juggernaut. The Minnesota Vikings had Holton Hill, a third-year corner who was undrafted in 2018, cover Adams predominately in Week 1. Rookie Jeff Okudah, the Lions’ third-overall pick this spring, got his first start Sunday and received an education as well. The Lions no longer have Darius Slay in their secondary, shipping him away to the Philadelphia Eagles in an offseason trade. Desmond Trufant, who they signed to be their veteran replacement, was unable to play Sunday because of a hamstring injury.
There’s a reason this looked easy.
Still, it’s clear the Packers' offense is much more advanced than this point a year ago. They punted 17 times in their first two games last fall, only three times through their first two this season. Rodgers’ command has been among the clearest improvements. He is 50-for-74 for 604 yards, six touchdowns, no interceptions and a 119.43 passer rating through two games. A year ago, Rodgers was 40-for-64 for 412 yards, three touchdowns and a 96.61 rating through two games.
Imagine if the Packers actually had drafted a first-round receiver. Imagine if they'd had a full offseason to prepare.
Turns out, neither was necessary for Rodgers to turn back the clock.
“I like where we’re at,” Rodgers said. “I knew we were at a different place starting this year than last year, even though we didn’t have the offseason program and OTAs, and training camp was different. I really felt better about my feel within the offense and what we on paper had talked about doing.
“A lot of stuff has played itself out in the first two weeks.”