How Packers QB Aaron Rodgers carved up the Vikings in Week 1

Zach Kruse
·5 min read

Aaron Rodgers’ dismantling of the Minnesota Vikings during Sunday’s season opener was a masterclass of decisiveness, accuracy, aggressiveness and creativity, all hallmarks of the quarterback’s Hall of Fame career.

The Green Bay Packers quarterback completed 32 passes for 364 yards and four touchdowns, helping Matt LaFleur’s team score 43 points and race past the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.

As he was carving up Mike Zimmer’s defense at U.S. Bank Stadium, Rodgers’ own words from late in training camp started sounding more and more like a precursor of sorts to Sunday’s brilliant performance.

“I feel a lot more comfortable this year than last year. I think a lot of it is footwork, just being able to progress through my reads quicker. I think it has allowed me to play on time and be a little more accurate,” Rodgers said.

“I feel like I have had a pretty accurate training camp. Accuracy comes from the timing, rhythm and balance. But it also comes from timing your drops with the correct progressions. And then I feel really good about the progressions. It’s been easier to throw the ball on time and accurately. That has been the biggest step for me this camp.”

On time. Accurate. Rhythm. Balance. Rodgers put those words into action on Sunday. And it created a version of Rodgers that hasn’t been seen in such vivid clarity for a long time.

Call it a reintroduction of The Boogeyman.

Here’s how Rodgers opened his 2020 season with one of his most impressive performances:

Decisiveness

Rodgers was lethal throwing the football while playing on time within the offense. According to Pro Football Focus, Rodgers completed 26 of 31 passes and had a passer rating of 126.1 when throwing the football within 2.5 seconds of the snap on Sunday. The ball came out quick, with Rodgers making decisive reads and decisions and rarely holding the ball or extending plays.

It certainly helped that Davante Adams had plus matchups all over the field, and Rodgers and his top receiver now appear to have a telepathic connection every single play. They were in lockstep all afternoon. But Rodgers’ comfort level in the scheme and his confidence level in the calls were obvious, both in the timing of the passing game and his decisiveness with the football. There was trust, both between playcaller and quarterback, and quarterback and receivers.

Accuracy

Rodgers completed 72.7 percent of his 44 attempts. He completed 62.0 percent of his attempts last season. On Sunday, Rodgers threw away three passes and had at least three drops – and possibly even four. His adjusted completion percentage, accounting for throwaways and drops, was 86.3.

Balanced and in rhythm in the pocket, Rodgers threw accurate strikes with nearly impeccable ball placement, both short and deep. He threw high at least twice, once for Josiah Deguara and another to Adams, but defenders were near on both attempts. Otherwise, Rodgers was just about perfect. His most impressive throws were down the field. This offense will hum all year if Rodgers is this accurate every week.

Aggressiveness

Content to dink and dunk and soften the Vikings defense early, Rodgers went into attack mode in the second quarter and never relented. He completed five passes thrown over 20 yards and should have had a sixth. Of his 364 passing yards, over half came on balls thrown 20 yards or more.

He hit beautiful, drop-it-in-the-bucket throws to Adams (40 yards, fourth quarter) and Valdes-Scantling (45 yards, touchdown). Valdes-Scantling dropped another perfectly thrown deep ball that likely would have gained 50 or more yards. He hit Valdes-Scantling in stride on a free play from the slot and Allen Lazard down the seam for a huge third-down conversion. The Vikings tried to play some single-high safety but Rodgers made them pay just about every time.

Creativity

Rodgers wouldn’t be Rodgers without the creativity. At his best, he’s using creativity only when he needs it. Twice, he extended plays to his right and made astounding throws, the first to Adams for a 24-yard score and the second to Lazard for a 4-yard touchdown.

On the first, Rodgers simply threw the ball to a spot in the end zone, knowing Adams would uncover late and be the only one there to catch it. On the second, he scrambled right, stopped and side-armed the ball to Lazard, who made a terrific catch. Both throws were put right where they needed to be and in a spot where only his receiver could make the play. And both plays were improvised by one of the best ever at improvising.

Also, Rodgers drew the Vikings offsides three different times, using his famous cadence as a weapon inside an empty road stadium.

Context

Context is always important. Rodgers was facing an inexperienced secondary with young, unproven players at cornerback. He received terrific protection from the offensive line. In fact, he wasn’t sacked and only took two hits. A great quarterback is always going to take advantage of plus matchups in the passing game with nearly perfect protection. And the typically rowdy U.S. Bank Stadium was essentially silent. Still, Sunday could be a perfect jumping-off point for Rodgers and the Packers passing game. The foundation has been set. Decisiveness. Accuracy. Aggressiveness. Creativity. When Rodgers combines all four, he’s still one of the game’s most dangerous players.