The story of the Vikings’ 43-34 Week 1 loss to the Packers on Sunday was the same story from last season. The Packers outscored the Vikings 44-26 in two victories and held the ball for 71 minutes, 38 seconds, while the Vikings had it for 48:22.
On Sunday, the Packers simply controlled the game clock, especially in the first half when they jumped out to a 22-10 lead and had the ball for 22:45 compared to only 7:15 for the Vikings.
By the time the final horn sounded, the Packers had put together one of the most lopsided performances against a Mike Zimmer-led Vikings squad, and a lot of that had to do with them holding the ball for 41:16 compared to 18:44 for the Vikings.
Yes, you can point to other stats — Green Bay’s 522 total yards or 31 first downs — but the most telling number was time of possession.
“I think the time of possession was not very good,” Zimmer said in his postgame news conference. “We didn’t have the ball. We didn’t control the ball. That was one of the things that we’re typically pretty good at.”
There was no question the Vikings would have some growing pains this season, especially with no preseason games, new offensive and defensive coordinators, six new starters on defense and a receiving corps without Stefon Diggs.
But if you want to know why the Packers won, it all had to do with the game management of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Every time the ball was snapped, the play clock was under five seconds. Green Bay clearly had a plan to slow the contest down and then let Rodgers use his incredible passing ability to make big plays when they needed them.
The future Hall of Famer was exceptional, passing for 364 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
If you had said before the game that Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins would take only two sacks against a great Packers defense, the Vikings would have taken that.
But both those sacks came in the second quarter, when the Packers took control of the game and Cousins and the Vikings offense really struggled.
The biggest sack, of course, was when Cousins took a safety after the Vikings defense stuffed the Packers at the 1-yard line early in the quarter, after Green Bay had first-and-goal at the 3. At the time, the Purple had a 7-3 lead.
But when Cousins went back to pass two plays later, he was sacked by blitzing cornerback Jaire Alexander, which shrunk the Vikings’ lead to 7-5 and gave the Packers great field position at the Green Bay 44, which they turned into a 43-yard field goal by Mason Crosby.
Then the Vikings got the ball back and Cousins was sacked again, this time by linebacker Za’Darius Smith, to force a quick Vikings three-and-out.
The Packers then drove 60 yards, consuming 5:25, and scored on a 24-yard pass from Rodgers to Davante Adams to go up 15-7.
That 12-point turnaround all stemmed from the only sacks the Vikings allowed.
And then the Vikings tried to tie the score before halftime, but a deep pass by Cousins to Adam Thielen was picked off by Alexander, and two plays later Rodgers connected on a 45-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The Vikings went from having a 7-3 lead with the ball near the start of the second quarter to trailing 22-10 at halftime.
Zimmer said those 11½ minutes of the second quarter changed the game.
“That stretch right there kind of put things back in perspective,” he said. “But we still have to play better. In the second half, we didn’t challenge them, we didn’t rush the quarterback, they blocked us pretty well.”
For three consecutive games in this rivalry, the Packers have executed a ball-control game plan that the Vikings haven’t been able to stop.