The Green Bay Packers got their season back on track with a 35-17 win over the Detroit Lions in their home opener. The Lions hung tight for the first two and a half quarters before the Packers could take advantage of their mistakes and pull away.
We saw the Aaron Rodgers of last season in this win. He was able to expertly dissect Detroit’s defense on every dropback, hitting his targets for big chunks of yardage. Aaron Jones and Davante Adams also showed up in a big way on Monday night and became the keys to the offense.
Here are five numbers that explain Green Bay’s first win of the season.
Rodgers returned to MVP form after a tough Week 1 in Jacksonville. He looked much more comfortable in this game because he could get in a rhythm early and keep the momentum going throughout.
Rodgers was nothing short of brilliant on second and third down, going 16-of-17 on passing attempts for 208 yards and four touchdowns. The incompletion didn’t come until late in the fourth quarter when the game was already out of hand.
When you have an incredibly efficient quarterback who is comfortable with making passes on second and third down, you have a better chance to wear the defense down and demoralize your opponent as the game goes on. Rodgers looked like a different player than he was last week. He repeatedly made tough throws, and his offensive line allowed him to sit in the pocket as the play developed.
When looking at the box score, you would think that a Packers win was never in doubt. But Green Bay was down 17-14 at halftime, and Goff was 13-for-16 for 137 yards and two scores with a passer rating of 141.9.
After this less than optimal first half, the Packers’ defense grew much more stingy, and Goff was 13-for-26 in the second half with one interception. Goff saw his passer rating fall from 141.9 at halftime down to 97.7 to end the game.
While Green Bay’s lead forced the Lions to become more one-dimensional, the Packers’ secondary did a great job defending against the Lions’ wideouts. Rookie Eric Stokes stood out with his pass breakup in Detroit’s end zone during the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Packers placed Za’Darius Smith on IR this week, so the focus will be on Rashan Gary to generate pressure in his elevated role. While the former first-rounder hasn’t started many games, he has shown a lot of promise as a pass rusher in his limited role.
Gary showed up in a big way on Monday night. He led the team in pressures and won on 19.2% of his pass-rushing reps. While he didn’t record a sack, winning on these pass-rushing reps is a good sign for both Gary and the team at large. With Smith out for some time, Gary has to be the one to step up and get in the face of opposing quarterbacks.
I roundly criticized the offensive line last week for their play in both the passing and running game. Corey Linsley and David Bakhtiari‘s absence was felt, and if the offensive line maintained play like this, they would be in for a rough season.
However, this week the O-line took a step up in their pass protection, allowing only six pressures compared to the 15 they gave up last week. The offensive line barely let Rodgers get enough time to survey the field before he made a throw in Jacksonville, but he had plenty of time in the pocket against the Lions to make the correct read before he unleashed a pass.
Green Bay’s offensive line looked to be in top form, and we can only expect it to get better with the addition of Bakhtiari protecting Rodgers’ blindside as soon as he comes off the PUP list.
While watching the game, I kept thinking about how Eric Stokes should start over Kevin King. Stokes was very impressive when Goff decided to target him, only allowing one catch on his four targets for a total of five yards.
Going into the offseason, we all knew that this team needed reinforcements at cornerback, given how King played during the NFC Championship. While rookie corners usually struggle early in their career, Stokes looked comfortable.
Usually, when you have a cornerback as dominant as Jaire Alexander, teams typically try to get some easy pickings off the cornerback who is across from them. Stokes was able to hold his own on Monday night. Stokes is currently the third corner on this team, but if he keeps playing like this, he could be in line for a starting role soon.