The Green Bay Packers took the Minnesota Vikings’ best punch and stayed upright. Kirk Cousins played his best game as a pro in a big spot. It took an act of God for Adam Thielen to catch what turned out to be the game-tying touchdown, plus an act of ineptitude to set it up. Green Bay withstood the best that the NFC’s best had to offer without playing their own best.
There was the wonky officiating (a generous description). A Mason Crosby missed field goal could have won it in regulation. The heinous Clay Matthews call quite literally cost the Packers the game, negating an outstanding over-the-shoulder interception by rookie Jaire Alexander.
Minnesota is supposed to be the best the NFC has to offer. Mike Zimmer’s team played its best, at least offensively, and the defense was its usual self. The special teams hurt them, but weird things happen in divisional games. This was as good as that team in purple can play (kicking game aside), the officials cost the Packers a handful of critical penalties, and Aaron Rodgers could barely move, and yet the game still ended without a loss for Mike McCarthy and Co.
It took a confluence of events for the Vikings to escape without a loss on Sunday. If just one of half a dozen plays goes differently, the Packers win. And the thing Minnesota can point to, its kicker missing a chip shot field goal, isn’t something that is likely to get much better over the course of this season. Rookie kickers can struggle and it compounds. Ask the Buccaneers and Roberto Aguayo.
Meanwhile, the things the Packers messed up — such as playing Davon House over Josh Jackson or Jaire Alexander, the 3rd-and-2 run call, and more — are correctable. In fact, Mike Pettine already made the adjustment to the secondary in the game by not trotting House out there for a critical series late in the game.
There’s nothing this team can do about the officiating, though it was regrettable and terrible in Week 2 for Green Bay. The offensive pass interference call on Davante Adams was embarrassing. The roughing the passer call on Clay Matthews was laughable. The mysterious holding call on the Jimmy Graham touchdown was confusing at best.
And yet the Packers didn’t lose.
The defending Super Bowl champion Eagles lost to Ryan Fitzpatrick and it had nothing to do with not having Carson Wentz. The defense looks like a problem, particularly in the secondary. The Saints lost to that same Buccaneers team a week ago, only to follow it up with an uninspiring win at home against the Browns. Atlanta got a solid win in Week 2, but will face the rest of 2018 without two of its best defenders due to injury.
Outside of the Rams, are there any teams in the NFC we can confidently say are better than the Packers?
Even in the AFC, the Steelers were supposed to be Super Bowl contenders. They tied the Browns and got lit up in historic fashion by a QB in his third career game. The indomitable Patriots got worked by Blake Bortles on national television.
The Packers have started slow under Mike McCarthy before. With Washington next up before the Bills and Lions, the Packers should be 4-0-1 when the 49ers come to Lambeau for Week 6 before the bye. Aaron Jones comes back from suspension next week. Oren Burks should be back from injury and this defense will coalesce as these young talents grow together. Mike Pettine (hopefully) sees his rookies are a better option than throwing Davon House out there when a starter gets injured.
Also, maybe it’s already time to have a discussion about moving Tramon Williams to safety.
The tie sucks. That’s the technical, football term. It sucks. That it was taken from a team rightfully earning a win sucks even more. But it also wasn’t a loss. And while the rest of the NFC looks uninspiring, the Packers already showed they’re good enough to stand up to the best the conference has to offer.
They took the Vikings’ best punch, and now need to hit back on the schedule. Minnesota plays a first-place schedule after their 13-3 2017 season. That means extra games against the Saints and Eagles while the Packers get the Falcons at home and Washington. Plus, if the Packers can go into Minnesota for a win in week 12, it will be as good as a sweep in terms of what it means for the division and conference playoff race.
This will sting in the minds of fans for a long time, but there’s nothing like a little win streak to erase the bad taste in their mouths. The Packers still have their season in front of them, with improvements to make offensively and defensively. They’re already showing their toughness and resilience even if it didn’t end up in a win in Week 2 the way it did in Week 1. Even with a hobbled Aaron Rodgers, we were reminded once again: when 12 is on the field, Green Bay can beat anyone.