Dang that Twitter. Unable to watch the Packers game while in Tennessee watching the Vikings beat the Titans, I spent Sunday night reading some 140-character accounts of the Packers’ 27-23 win at Jacksonville. Some who see life through Purple-colored glasses were gleefully unimpressed by the Packers. Shocking, I know.
Wednesday night, I actually watched the game and rediscovered that Twitter ain’t the best place with which to form one’s own opinion of reality.
The Packers played one of those dreaded September road openers in Florida. Visitors hate these games while the Floridians view them as chances to steal wins from better teams. Temps were in the 90s with high humidity. Yet the Packers were the better conditioned team that even at times pushed the tempo with no-huddle and hurry up. Their defense held strong with the Jaguars driving in the closing minute for what would have been their best victory in many years.
Also, from what I saw, this is a much improved Jaguars teams. We’ll wait to see how good they are. But, trust me, this was a game that a lot of the visiting Yanks would have lost.
Overview: Both the Vikings and Packers are 1-0 heading into Sunday’s night’s regular-season debut of U.S. Bank Stadium. The Packers’ four-year stranglehold on the division was wrestled away from them by the Vikings in last year’s winner-take-all regular-season finale. The offense was terrible — Teddy Bridgewater was held to 10 completions for 99 yards and a 45.7 passer rating — but the defense was the best it’s ever been against Rodgers. Rodgers’ 80.8 passer rating was the second-lowest it’s ever been against the Vikings, and the lowest since his first year as a starter. A strip-sack by Everson Griffen was returned 55 yards for a touchdown by Captain Munnerlyn, and the defense held on for its lives at the end as the Packers were held under 20 points for only the second time in 20 meetings since Mike McCarthy became head coach in 2006.
To the tape: Is it possible for Rodgers to be even better?
Answer: Yes. Reports from Green Bay are he lost seven to 10 pounds and is in the best shape of his life. I believe them after watching him move quicker, faster and more efficiently than I can recall, which is really impressive because he’s always been quick, fast and efficient. And he did it all in that heat and humidity. His escape and burst to the pylon for a 6-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0 looked faster than normal. He also was masterful in the pocket, sliding, stepping up, ducking and moving every which way as if he had some sort of Spiderman sense. Throw in the league-best arm strength and the return of receiver Jordy Nelson and, well, look out.
Mike Zimmer on Rodgers: Zimmer did a good job of keeping Rodgers in the pocket for the most part in last year’s season finale. That’s vital because even an All-Pro cornerback can’t cover for the length of time it takes when Rodgers extends plays with his legs, vision down the field and rocket arm.
Said Zimmer: “We just gave them different looks. We rushed smart, I think. Other than that, he got out a couple times. He’ll probably get out a couple times this week, I’m guessing. He’s pretty good at it.
“He can scramble. He’s got great vision. He’s smart. He’s a competitor. He’s got an unbelievable arm. He can throw it from any position, anywhere, any place. He’s sees everything and then he has the ability when he starts scrambling to throw that sucker deep and be accurate. He’s unbelievably accurate.”
More from the tape: Random thoughts
—Finding and blocking Clay Matthews will be difficult now that he’s back at outside linebacker. I noticed this watching the game. After the game, it was noted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s excellent NFL writer Bob McGinn that Matthews lined up 32 times on the right side, 14 on the left and seven as a rover in the middle of the defense.
—Although the Packers ended up holding the Jaguars to 48 yards rushing (a league best), I think Green Bay’s run defense is vulnerable. The Jags were without No. 1 back Chris Ivory, who was hospitalized Sunday morning. Backup T.J. Yeldon gouged the Packers with some impressive inside power runs early, but defensive adjustments eventually led to Yeldon being tackled for losses six times.
—The Packers basically play a two-down front. According to McGinn, they lined up with three down linemen only three times in 72 snaps. A few times, the Packers had no down linemen and four outside linebackers all roaming at the line of scrimmage. Offensive lines need to be assignment sound against these fellas.
—I was surprised new tight end Jared Cook had such a small role in the passing game.
—Second-year linebacker Joe Thomas might be only 217 pounds, but he plays much bigger. He showed quickness on an interception off a tipped pass and power when he ran over a running back to set up a sack for Matthews.
—I’m not convinced that running back Eddie Lacy is any lighter than he was last season, per several reports. But I do know after watching the game that he’s in better shape at whatever weight he is. He showed power and, better yet for the Packers, some stamina in very trying conditions. He made a nice cut on a 28-yarder when the defensive back froze, expecting to be run over.
—Receiver Davante Adams dropped a deep ball. Meanwhile, Randall Cobb bobbled a deep ball that he pulled in while falling. It was good for 32, but should have been 60-some for a touchdown. Cobb also moved around a lot. McGinn notes that he lined up in the backfield 14 times and had four of his six catches from out of the backfield.
—Overall, the Packers receivers were OK. There wasn’t glaring separation, but the coaches made some nice adjustments. Moving Nelson into the slot and stacking him with other targets helped spring him open.
—As soon as the analysts made note of Rodgers finishing the first quarter 2-for-7 for 11 yards and three straight three-and-outs, Rodgers completed 9 of 11 passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns in the second quarter.
—Safety Morgan Burnett looked especially good considering he hadn’t played in the preseason. Several Packers swarmed to the ball on the game-ending tackle. But it was Burnett who pounced the hardest and stopped the bubble screen on fourth-and-five in Packers territory with 16 seconds left.
—The Packers have a new fullback, Aaron Ripkowski. How weird will it be not to hear Packer fans yell “Kooooooon!” now that John Kuhn is no longer a Packer?
Key stat: 112.7.
Rodgers’ career passer rating against the Vikings. In 17 meetings, Rodgers has completed 354 of 514 passes (68.9) for 4,267 yards, 35 touchdowns and five interceptions. Among all passers to ever throw a minimum of 100 times on the Vikings, Rodgers’ 112.7 ranks No. 1.