Packers’ week 1 games are usually interesting one way or another. In the Aaron Rodgers as a starter era, the team is 10-4 and, importantly, 6-0 against NFC North teams. Each of the four losses, three straight against the 49rs and Seahawks and then last year’s dud against the Saints, came against a team with an elite defense.
Let’s go over the games that stand out looking back.
Last year’s travesty put the question in everyone’s mind: is Matt LaFleur too cautious when he has time before games? The team lost after the bye week in each of his first two season, lost to San Francisco in the playoffs following a bye week, and, of course, was utterly embarrassed by the Saints a year ago.
For what it’s worth, I think there are two different issues at play here. The after a bye games usually seem more disjointed and sloppier than a typical LaFleur coached game where the week 1 loss last year was more of a lack of fitness issue, the team just didn’t seem in shape.
Reportedly, the team has run more than ever before in training camp this offseason, so we can hope this issue won’t recur.
The 2020 win against the Vikings was close to the opposite of the 2021 loss. At least on the offensive side. Rodgers was 32/44 with 364 yards and four touchdowns and te team put up 43 points. This game signaled what was to come: the ultimate mashup of the generation’s most talented thrower of the football and most creative scheme.
The offense wasn’t as good in LaFleur’s first game as head coach, and Rodgers famously proclaimed that the team finally had a defense after pulling out a 10-3 win. Narrator: they didn’t.
Th late McCarthy tenure first games aren’t very memorable to me. I vaguely remember getting excited about Damarious Randall shutting down Allen Robinson in one game (mostly with uncalled pass interference) and of course I remember Randall Cobb going for a 75-yard touchdown against the Bears with two minutes left. Overall, not much to learn from these games for this year I don’t think.
Take out this stretch and Rodgers is 10-1 in his career in week 1. In 2011, the Chiefs stymied the Packers’ offensive attack by stopping the run and getting pressure with four while stopping the deep pass game with a 2-man shell. That strategy is the same one San Francisco used in 2012 and 2013 (and the 2021 playoffs) and similar to the Cover-3 strategy that Seattle used in 2014.
It seems silly to say that stopping the run and getting pressure with four while eliminating the deep pass game with cover 2, 3, or 4 is Rodger’s kryptonite, because it’s every offense’s kryptonite, but there’s no doubt it is where Rodgers has struggled the most.
The Vikings come into this game with two potential pro-bowl level edges (both coming off season long injuries to be fair), a couple good run stuffing interior linemen, and a scheme based around limiting deep passes. How the Packers gameplan for and then react to this game will be revealing. If they can pile on the points like they did in the last game 1 match-up with the Vikings, we could be in a for a fun season.
We’re more than a decade in the past now, but I didn’t want to end on a pessimistic note. This is the game that I’m hopeful will be duplicated (on the offensive side of course) on Sunday.
We’ve endured an offseason of endless questions about whether Rodgers needed to be at voluntary minicamp, whether he needed to play in the preseason, whether he needed more time with Christian Watson, David Bakhtiari, and Elgton Jenkins.
In 2011, the same types of questions were asked when Rodgers didn’t set up practices with his receivers during the lockout like some other QBs did. He made sure to mention those criticisms in a post-game interview after the offense put up 42 points (and explosive rookie WR Randall Cobb had a pair of TDs). I’m looking forward to the 2022 version of that interview.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.