The Green Bay Packers started a sixth consecutive season with a win, using four touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers to power Matt LaFleur’s team to a 43-34 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the season opener at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
Here are the studs and duds from the Packers’ win in Week 1:
AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn
QB Aaron Rodgers: Sunday in Minnesota was Rodgers operating at or near his full capacity as a quarterback. He threw with incredible accuracy, completing almost 73 percent of his passes despite a handful of drops and a few throwaways. He threw on time and in rhythm with the call, often taking the easy throw within the framework of the play. He attacked downfield with patience and precision, hitting five passes thrown over 20 yards in the air, including two touchdowns and two other near touchdowns. And he was still creative, completing two high-difficulty throws for touchdowns moving to his right on extended plays, and he drew the Vikings offsides four different times. All the tools on his Hall of Fame tool belt were in play Sunday. Rodgers was scary good.
WR Davante Adams: The Vikings couldn’t cover him, and they tried everyone. Mike Hughes, Holton Hill and Cameron Dantzler all got a crack. They all got beat, often for easy completions. Rodgers and Adams have developed a connecting resembling what Rodgers once had with Jordy Nelson. They always know where the other will be, and what the other is thinking. Several times on Sunday, Rodgers was throwing the ball before Adams even got out of his break. No one can defend that. On his first touchdown, Adams uncovered for just a second in the scramble drill, and Rodgers threw to a spot without any hesitation, knowing it was Adams’ ball or nothing. The three-time Pro Bowler was sublime, but he probably should have finished with 16 catches and three scores. The drop on the goal line was the lone blemish. It’s tough to nitpick such a terrific individual performance.
LT David Bakhtiari: You run out of things to say about the All-Pro left tackle. He just eliminates people from games. No one even threatened Bakhtiari for a pressure. Newly acquired Vikings rusher Yannick Ngakoue took a few tries and came up empty. Forty-five times, Bakhtiari completed a pass-blocking snap without giving up a single pressure.
OL Elgton Jenkins: The Packers’ second-year offensive lineman turned in a classy season debut. He played the game’s first 33 snaps at right tackle before sliding back to left guard, his position last season, for the final 47 snaps. He was good at tackle and great at guard. Playing guard and playing tackle in the NFL couldn’t be more different, but Jenkins handled both transitions with ease. He’s strong and smart, and he’s really coordinated as an athlete when he has to move his feet and use his hands. Some offensive lines would have crumbled given all the shuffling Sunday. Jenkins made sure the Packers’ held together.
LB Krys Barnes: The undrafted rookie linebacker wasn’t even on the active roster until Saturday afternoon. By Sunday, he was starting next to Christian Kirksey against Dalvin Cook and the Vikings in the regular season opener. Barnes gave up a quick reception and looked out of place on a few run fits early, but he settled in and played a solid game overall. He dropped Cook twice for losses, including once on a well-diagnosed screen pass. Both tackles helped short-circuit drives for the Vikings. His stop on the screen likely prevent a big play.
CB Jaire Alexander: He gave up a late touchdown pass with the game in hand, but he also made game-altering plays in the first half. Two plays after the Packers were stopped on fourth down at the 1-yard line, Alexander blitzed off the left side of the offensive line and dropped Kirk Cousins in the end zone for a safety. He said he was anticipating run and improvised his blitz. No one touched him, and Cousins had no chance to see him or escape. Later in the second quarter, he blanketed Adam Thielen’s route and made a juggling interception of Cousins’ errant throw, setting up a quick touchdown strike right before the half. All-Pro corners change games. Alexander did just that on Sunday.
C Corey Linsley: He anchored an offensive line that played really well despite a lot of moving parts, both before the game and during. Linsley didn’t allow a pressure, and he was terrific in the run game, especially as a reach blocker on some the traditional wide zone concepts. He really fires off the ball and moves well laterally, getting level or to the outside shoulder of interior defenders in a flash. It’s a valuable skill in this offense. The Packers got chunk run plays behind several Linsley blocks.
TE Josiah Deguara: The Packers’ third-round pick might be the team’s most impactful rookie in 2020. He looked really comfortable in the H-back role. Several times, he helped spring runs from with good blocks at the point of attack, including an awesome cut block that took out two defenders on an Allen Lazard run in the first half. The Packers played him at several alignments. He’s also going to be a factor on some different passing game concepts, including vertical route combinations. Don’t be surprised if a couple of the seam routes hit for big plays this year. They were close Sunday.
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S Darnell Savage: Savage committed a cardinal sin, letting Adam Thielen get behind him for a 37-yard touchdown with the Packers up big in the second half. He looked tempted by the intermediate route and let Thielen run past him. Savage also got dinged for a questionable 15-yard penalty late in the first half, helping set up a Vikings field goal, and he missed a tackle on Dalvin Cook. It’s possible he was just over-aggressive in the season opener.
TE Robert Tonyan: He led the Packers’ tight ends in snaps played and lined up all over the field, but his impact was minimal. In fact, he wasn’t targeted despite running 24 routes. The Packers clearly wanted to feature the receivers in the passing game, and the Vikings countered many of the tight end looks with their elite safeties – Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris – in coverage. Tonyan’s time will come.
LB Christian Kirksey: The Packers new inside linebacker looked a lot like the last Packers inside linebacker. Like Blake Martinez, Kirksey did a lot of cleaning up, both against the run and in coverage. He led the team in tackles but only had one or two truly impactful stops. On the Vikings’ opening touchdown drive, he was flagged for a 15-yard facemask penalty. And Kirk Cousins out-ran him on a scramble for a 15-yard run.