Green Bay Packers


Photo credit: Mark Hoffmann-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY Sports

It sure didn’t take long to find out what kind of day this was going to be for the Green Bay Packers. When rookie Christian Watson torched Patrick Peterson and then dropped a sure 75-yard touchdown pass on the first offensive play of the season, we should’ve known. That was strike one.

When the Minnesota Vikings stuffed AJ Dillon on fourth-and-one at the goal line after the Pack’s first productive drive of the game, we should’ve known. That was strike two. And when the Pack came out of halftime looking to score on the opening drive to try to gain some momentum, Aaron Rodgers got demolished and turned the ball over. That was strike three. But really, it was clear much earlier that the Vikings were the more prepared, polished, and, frankly, the better team on this day.

I can live with the ugliness on offense. That was not completely unexpected. With neither starting tackle playing and no Allen Lazard, you figured it might take a while for Rodgers and company to find their footing. The Vikes’ defense was much better than I expected, especially up front. Despite the injuries to the Pack’s O-line, I thought they would handle their business. But Rodgers could never get comfortable in the pocket and was sacked four times. I would’ve liked to see more slants and crossers in the middle of the field, but the best production through the air came from the backfield.

I know the game script dictated the need to throw the ball, but I wish Matt LaFleur had committed to the run earlier. And I REALLY wish he would’ve given Aaron Jones more than eight touches. Indefensible. Five carries for 49 yards. Three catches for 27 yards. With no wideouts to frighten the defense, the Packers had to feature their most talented skill player, Aaron Jones. They did not. Dillon made the most of his touches on the ground and through the air, and the Pack averaged over six yards a carry on the ground. They just didn’t do it enough.

This opening week offensive malaise is becoming a trend. Green Bay scored 10, 3, and 7 points in three of the last four openers. Ugh.

But what was most indefensible on this day was the vaunted Packers defense. I have high expectations for this unit, and I just don’t understand Joe Barry’s thinking as he prepared to face Kevin O’Connell’s offense for the first time. Seems like the one thing he absolutely had to do was prevent mercurial receiver Justin Jefferson from beating him single-handedly. Jaire Alexander lobbied all week to be permitted to shadow him as much as possible.

But Barry had other ideas: planting Alexander on the right side and taking his chances with Eric Stokes and safeties and linebackers when the Pack played zone and JJ found plenty of open space to roam. Allowing him to get loose for 158 yards and two TDs in the first half while the Pack had 100 yards total as a team? Indefensible.

I would have bet a lot of money that the Vikings would not string together four drives of 74 or more yards. Their other six drives led to five punts and a field goal on a drive that went backward. But those four long drives, two in each half, were more than enough to get the job done.

To make matters worse, the depth at inside linebacker took a major hit, with Kris Barnes being carted off the field with what looks like a long-term injury. He was in for rookie Quay Walker, who was all over the field in the first half but left the game with a shoulder injury. If both are out for an extended period, the Pack will need to shop for re-enforcements.

Big picture: it’s just one game, and losing on the road to your chief division rival is not a sin. But it was a profoundly unsatisfying effort on both sides of the ball. The offense figures to be a work in progress for the first half of the season or so until the injured guys come back and the young receivers get more comfortable. But the defense is talented enough to carry this team through its offensive growing pains. It needs to assert itself beginning Sunday night at Lambeau. Thankfully, the (surprisingly undefeated) Chicago Bears should comply.

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Photo credit: Mark Hoffmann-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears fought for the honor of being the winningest team in NFL history this Sunday, and thanks to a late interception […]

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