And what a game it was! The Packers showed the offensive flexibility and explosiveness we were promised throughout last season, scoring points seemingly at will once they got rolling. But let’s not give too much away. Here’s what we loved most from Week 1.
Rcon14: The Baaaad Man is Back
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Bad Man. That’s not to say Aaron Rodgers hasn’t had good performances over the past three seasons, but the Bad Man has been a fleeting memory since early-winter 2017. It was almost jarring seeing him again. The tempo, the precision, the crispness of it all. I’ve documented my issues with Rodgers quite thoroughly, but it was never because I thought Aaron Rodgers was bad, but rather that I always thought the Bad Man was still in there somewhere. What we were shown on Sunday wasn’t just a player picking on a porous pass defense, albeit the Vikings pass defense will probably be quite bad this year, but it was a clinical performance that truly was vintage. According to my count, Rodgers had only one missed throw on Sunday, not including throwaways, busted screens, or throws to well-covered receivers. If Rodgers continues that level of precision, the Packers are Super Bowl contenders.
Tex Western: Rodgers throwing with good mechanics
While Rodgers’ game and performance overall suggested a return to “Vintage Rodgers” mode, I suspect that one of the biggest reasons for his tremendous game was getting back to good mechanics. On most of his big plays, Rodgers got to the top of his drop and fired, throwing the football in rhythm and off a solid platform.
On the game broadcast, the FOX commentators (including Rodgers’ former wide receiver, Greg Jennings) discussed how Rodgers told them that he focused more on strengthening his lower body in the offseason. It showed. His accuracy looked much better on intermediate throws and even seemed improved on deep balls as he stepped into his throws with consistency rather than launching the football while falling away from the line of scrimmage. If this is truly a sign of a revitalized Rodgers, who is marrying good fundamentals during on-schedule plays with his legendary ability to improvise (see the touchdowns to Davante Adams and Allen Lazard), then he really might be back to his previous MVP form.
Paul Noonan: Smart Ideas All Over
I think the jury is still out on the defense, but there was so much to like about LaFleur’s gameplan. Rather than just changing things up for the sake of changing things up, if the team found success with a play, they ran it repeatedly until the Vikings stopped it, and then swerved to a concept to exploit the change by the Vikings. They were pass-heavy in situation-neutral settings, as they should be. They used play-action effectively, and it could have been even more effective without a few high-profile drops. They used pre-snap motion to great effect. They were aggressive on fourth downs and ran a sneak on a 4th and 1 play. They targeted the middle of the field far more frequently than they did in most of 2019.
All of these changes are great to see. They show an offense run with purpose, with sound strategic ideas backing the play-calling, and with a realization of what is and is not efficient at a high level. There’s no speak of wanting “balance” or establishing the run, and instead, renewed collaboration between coach and quarterback. I suspect the Vikings will have a bad defense this season with that secondary, but torching bad secondaries is what Aaron Rodgers is supposed to do. It was such a clean, happy game. I generally find myself complaining about every little strategic inadequacy when I watch a game. This offensive performance was so well done, I just sat back and watched them work.
Jon Meerdink: Personnel diversity
The Packers’ offense field its performance on Sunday through a steady diet of different and interesting personnel groupings that forced the Packers to account for different players doing a bunch of different things. And what a joy to watch it was. Josiah Deguara was every bit the Swiss army knife he was supposed to be, Tyler Ervin provided speed from the slot, Jace Sternberger and Robert Tonyan both played different roles as well as lining up as traditional ends, and each of the Packers running backs (in addition to Ervin’s unique looks) got a chance to do what they do best.
It was exactly the sort of thing I’d hoped for in the late McCarthy era and got glimpses of last year. Now, let’s hope it stays.