Surprises and Familiarities in Week 1: Packers at Vikings

In what is both a surprise and a familiarity, the Green Bay Packers lost by double digits in week 1 for the second straight year, this time 23-7 at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings. We saw trends continue from the offseason, but also some (mostly concerning) surprises. It’s week one; there’s no need to sound the alarm. After all, the Packers ended the 2021 campaign with the number one seed in the NFC and Aaron Rodgers capturing his fourth MVP award. Still, there are some developments to keep an eye on as the season progresses.  

Surprise: Packers’ defense 

The Packers’ defense was hailed all offseason as their most talented since winning the Super Bowl in 2011. Unfortunately, the hype didn’t meet expectations in the first contest of the season. The Packers’ front was pushed around all day by an average Vikings offensive line. They mustered only 1 sack and allowed 126 rushing yards on 4.5 yards per carry. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins (23/32, 277 yds, 2 TD) had all day to throw on the majority of his dropbacks.  

When Cousins was pressured, he rarely had trouble quickly finding an open receiver. WR Justin Jefferson (9 rec, 184 yds, 2 TD) absolutely torched a Packers secondary that was content with sitting in zone coverage despite flaunting one of the best cornerbacks in the game in Jaire Alexander. No Packers defender was visible on the broadcast when Jefferson caught a pass that turned into a 36-yard touchdown just before halftime.  

Defensive coordinator Joe Barry must do a better job at putting his talented players in position to be successful if the Packers want to improve. And by the looks of an offense that clearly needs time to gel, the defense can’t settle for average. 

Familiar: Wide receiver concerns 

After the departure of All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams, the founder of the most dominant connection with Aaron Rodgers we’ve ever seen, we knew the 2022 wide receiver room was filled with uncertainty. Rodgers’ frustration with the state of his weapons reached a new level against the Vikings.  

Green Bay’s first offensive play of the game saw rookie Christian Watson beat veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson down the right sideline by about four steps, but the dime Rodgers delivered went right through Watson’s hands and erased what would have been a 75-yard touchdown. On the first play of the season. It was that kind of day for the Packers’ offense.  

No receiver was able to step up and be the answer when the Packers needed juice. In fact, it was RB AJ Dillon that led the team in both receptions (5) and yards (a mere 46). An inability to create separation from the Vikings corners led to 4 sacks and 5 QB hits on Rodgers, including a strip sack on the Packers first drive of the second half.  

Surprise: Lack of offensive identity 

The loss of Davante Adams was bound to present challenges to the Green Bay offense, but we’ve seen them be successful without him. The Packers are 7-0 in games Adams missed under Matt LaFleur, including a 24-21 victory over the then-undefeated Arizona Cardinals last season. LaFleur has previously excelled in forming gameplans centered around quick passes and a run-heavy attack to cover for the lack of a true game-changing weapon. 

It seemed that after Christian Watson’s critical drop to start the game, the Packers abandoned whatever plan they had. The offense looked lost for the entirety of the game. The vaunted duo of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon combined for just 15 carries. There were several miscommunications between Rodgers and the receivers. The offense’s lack of ability to dig themselves out of a hole and execute when needed is concerning. Hopefully, the group gains cohesion as the season continues.  

Familiar: A pair of stud running backs 

The duo of AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones is a thunder-and-lightning dynamic the Packers’ backfield hasn’t seen in a long time. It takes four defenders to ensure AJ Dillon doesn’t fall forward for extra yardage. Aaron Jones looked as quick and elusive as ever against the Vikings despite limited touches. Both backs have proven themselves to be deadly pass catchers as well.  

The game went south so suddenly and didn’t allow for the pair to get as many carries as LaFleur surely would have liked. Against Minnesota, Jones had 5 carries for 49 yards, nearly 10 YPC. Dillon went for 45 yards on 10 carries, a respectable 4.5 YPC. The backs combined for 73 yards receiving as well. 

When the flow of the game better allows for it, the Packers would be wise to get the ball in the hands of these playmakers as early and often as possible.  

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Liam O’Donnell is a devoted Packers fan and an aspiring sportswriter from Milwaukee. He writes for PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @liamodonnell___.

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