120 minutes. Matt LaFleur made sure his team and the media knew the number. Despite sweeping the Detroit Lions in the NFC North last season, the Green Bay Packers failed to hold a lead for any of the 120 minutes played between the two teams, earning victories as the clock expired in each matchup. After the Lions opened with an impressive pair of touchdowns drives on Sunday, Detroit extended that streak another 29 minutes and 46 seconds until Aaron Rodgers found Robert Tonyan to give the Packers a 17-14 lead with just 14 seconds left in the first half. After falling down 14-3, Green Bay hung 31 straight points on the Lions, wrestling control of the game and finishing a 42-21 Week 2 win.
After putting up 522 yards of offense on the Vikings defense last week, the second-most ever allowed by a Mike Zimmer defense, Aaron Jones took center stage, rushing for a career-high 168 yards and adding four catches for another 68 yards with three total touchdowns. Though the air or on the ground, no one in the NFC North has an answer for this offense so far.
Last time the Packers scored 85 points total in back-to-back games, Rodgers won the MVP and Green Bay went to the NFC Championship Game. Against the Vikings, Rodgers lit up a hapless secondary. Matt LaFleur’s offense once again got whatever it wanted offensively, this time dominating on the ground as well whether it was Jones or Jamaal Williams who added 63 yards of his own on 8 carries.
Davante Adams followed up his franchise record-tying performance against the helpless Minnesota secondary with a quiet day ending in a hamstring injury, but Marquez Valdes-Scantling again showed his big play ability with a key 41-yard burst on a 3rd-and-4 that ultimately sealed the game for Green Bay. He had another drop, a bug-a-boo for the Packers on the day with a half-dozen, but MVS bringing that big play ability complements the consistency of Allen Lazard and the dynamic play of Adams. Add in Jones’ big day and this offense looks nearly unstoppable. Even without Justin Coleman or Desmond Trufant due to injury, the Packers were able to find favorable matchups against rookie Jeff Okudah while also taking advantage of crossing routes from all over the field.
After putting up 522 yards of offense on the Vikings defense last week, the second-most ever allowed by a Mike Zimmer defense, the Packers added another 488 on the day, putting together one of the most productive stretches in recent team history.
A slow Packers start defensive evinced some scary Lions games of years past, including each of last season’s meetings. Before the 2019 season, the Lions beat the Packers four straight, but only one of those games features Aaron Rodgers. Two wins over Brett Hundley and one over DeShone Kizer hardly make a trend, though blowout losses in Week 17 two years in a row where the team appeared to quit playing hard raised some concerns. After the cultural paradigm switch LaFleur engineered and the remaking of this roster under Brian Gutekunst, it’s difficult to imagine this version of the Packers succumbing to the same lack of urgency and effort.
Chandon Sullivan turned a Rashan Gary pressure into a pick-six after the Packers doubled up to start the third quarter, pushing the lead to 24-14. At 31-14, Green Bay boasted a three-score lead in the second half for the second straight week, and this it time held up. The fourth quarter in Week 2 looked nothing like Week 1, with Rashan Gary taking over and Mike Pettine’s defense making stands. Gary added 1.5 sacks after the pick-six alone, and has looked like Pettine’s best edge defender as far this season.
Instead of playing passive, off coverage, Green Bay maintained their aggressive coverage calls, playing more man coverage, disguising, and creating pressure. After giving up two touchdowns on the first two drives of the game for the Lions, the D-Train allowed just one score the rest of the way, a score they evened out with a touchdown of their own. Whether it was a sluggish start with no crowd, or just a little rust to knock off, the Packers managed to tighten the screws on Stafford and Co., shut down the run game, and start to create pressure.
Rumors of Adrian Peterson’s relation to Wolverine grow louder as the 35-year-old back came into Lambeau off a 14-carry 93-yard performance against the Bears. Peterson once again proved efficient, with 41 yards on just 7 carries, but most of that came on a 25-yard run and overall the Packers run defense buckled down after mostly buckling in the first quarter. Detroit finished with 89 yards on 21 carries as the Packers offense was once again the team’s best run defense.
And on the other side of the ball, Jones ate all day, breaking the game open to start the third quarter with a 75-yard flash touchdown, jolting the Lions and handing the Packers a 10-point lead at 24-14. Green Bay exploded for 17 points in the third quarter, scoring just about every way a team can, on the ground, on defense, and with a field goal drive by Rodgers.
Green Bay didn’t panic with adversity in Week 1 or Week 2, a testament to their mental confidence, and confidence in this team after a revitalizing season from the defense, and more continuity in Year 2 with LaFleur who is fast becoming a rising star in the coaching ranks. After a 2-0 start with the best offense in the NFL through two weeks, maybe it’s time to eliminate the “rising” caveat altogether.
In such a unique and challenging season, banking wins early boosts the Packers even more than usual, particularly with the risk of missing games due to COVID-19 as we’ve seen in the MLB. Earning those victories over NFC North opponents in a year with extra playoff spots and altered postseason seeding buoys them further. But Green Bay showed last year it could take care of the sub-contending teams in the NFC, the tier below the true Super Bowl caliber teams. LaFleur’s team will get its first chance to put the pair of 49ers debacles behind them and make a statement against the current NFC favorite Saints in New Orleans next Sunday. Against Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and Sean Payton, they can’t wait about 29 minutes and 46 seconds to take the lead, but even if they do fall behind early, they’ve proven to be dynamic and combustible enough to come back, something this team couldn’t have said a season ago.