2020 Week 1 - That’s What Cheese Said

The Packers are 1-0. Hear from players and Head Coach Matt LaFleur about the Week 1 victory over Minnesota. 

The Packers kicked off the 2020 season with a 43-34 win over the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium, and all feels right in the world again. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 364 yards and four touchdowns with a long of 34 and a rating of 127.5, silencing the critics (if only momentarily).

For center Corey Linsley, that’s just Rodgers being Rodgers. 

“It’s funny when you read the stats and you see after the game you know, ‘Aaron threw for however many touchdowns,’ and all that stuff, it like doesn’t even surprise me anymore,” he said smiling, adding that Rodgers is a “ridiculously intelligent” person and football player.  

Star wide receiver Davante Adams told the media post-game that he’s always been observant, and judging by Rodgers’ body language and attitude, he knew there was something different about the way he was preparing. 

 “I pay attention to a lot of stuff and when I see my guy having his hood on his head and he’s got headphones on, as soon as we leave a meeting he’s popping headphones back on. I don’t know what he’s listening to but whatever it is, I need to listen to that as well,” Adams joked.

Rodgers attributed the success of the offense to a good plan from the coaching staff. 

“I think Matt had a really good plan this week. I think him and his staff came up with some really good ideas and I think we executed pretty well,” Rodgers said of the Week 1 scheme. 

Eight different players were targeted in the receiving game, with Rodgers spreading the ball between three receivers, three running backs, and two tight ends.

The Packers completed 6-of-11 third down conversions for 55%, which is already an improvement from last season. 

“Offensively, I really liked our rhythm and our execution,” said Rodgers. The offense dominated time of possession against Minnesota, holding onto the ball for just over 41 minutes. 

Two of the game’s biggest standouts were receivers Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who both received praise from QB1. 

“I love Marquez. He’s such a good-hearted kid. I think he really adds a lot to our locker room and he wants it so badly,” said Rodgers. “The thing that I noticed this training camp was he was catching the ball better.”

Rodgers added that Valdes-Scantling was starting to trust his hands more, and even after a few drops against the Vikings, Rodgers never thought twice about going back to him with the ball. That trust paid off and Valdes-Scantling finished the day with four receptions for 96 yards and one touchdown. 

“You heard it from Aaron, myself, Coach LaFleur, he definitely showed a different type of focus this time around,” said Adams. “I had a feeling he was going to come and have a great start the way he did. I don’t put my name on just anybody.”

The third receiver in the lineup Sunday, Lazard, secured all four of his targets for 63 yards and a touchdown of his own, giving Rodgers a perfect passer rating of 158.3 when targeting him. 

“I’m really proud of Allen. I’ve been a fan of his since last training camp,” said Rodgers. “He’s a guy I trust. And you all have covered me for a long time. You know that’s the most important characteristic that a receiver can earn. Because once I trust him the ball is coming your way.”

After seven years playing together, nobody has Rodgers’ trust like Adams, who tied a franchise record 14 receptions (set by Don Hutson) Sunday against the Vikings. Adams finished the day with 156 yards and two touchdowns. 

“Aaron actually told me on the sideline right after the game,” Adams said of tying Don Hutson’s receptions record. “It’s awesome. It’s great company to be in.”

On the defensive side of the ball, third-year cornerback Jaire Alexander also finds himself in impressive company after his sack, safety, and interception against Minnesota. He’s one of just nine players since 1982 to tally all three in a single game. 

And if you ask Alexander, he went off-script for the safety. 

“Once I anticipated run, I shot my shot,” Alexander said. “I slid in the DMs, basically.”

He added that he had expected a run based on Thielen’s motion, but when he saw Kirk Cousins drop back he was too committed to backtrack and instead made the play. While he wouldn’t give away exactly what defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said to him on the sideline afterwards, he did share that Pettine called him “sneaky.” 

Beyond Alexander’s safety, sack, and interception, edge rusher Za’Darius Smith also sacked Cousins once on the day. It was a modest showing for the defense, but one that was playing without impact defensive linemen Kenny Clark for most of the game. Clark left early with a groin injury, and his status is still unclear for this Sunday’s matchup at home against the Detroit Lions. 

One of the most surprising, yet impressive performances of the day came from the starting inside linebacker, and it wasn’t free agent acquisition Christian Kirksey. 

Undrafted rookie Krys Barnes of UCLA got the start alongside Kirksey against the Vikings. Barnes didn’t make the initial 53-man roster and signed to Green Bay’s expanded practice squad before being added to the active roster prior to game day. He finished with six total tackles and two tackles for loss, with one tackle that likely saved a touchdown. 

“He did an outstanding job,” LaFleur said of Barnes in his first start.

Barnes wasn’t the only rookie to step up Week 1. The offensive line was also shuffled quite a bit all game. Offensive lineman Jon Runyan Jr. was called upon to fill in at right guard when Lane Taylor went down with a knee injury, which we now know unfortunately was season-ending. 

“I remember being in eighth grade and watching Aaron win the Super Bowl,” Runyan Jr. said. “I was sitting there on my couch. And now I got thrown in my first NFL game I ever dressed and now I’m in charge of protecting him. It’s kind of crazy how life works sometimes.”

While Runyan Jr. mentioned that these were his first snaps with the first-team offense and with Rodgers, he still didn’t allow a pressure, hurry, or sack in his debut. 

Another rookie that impressed early was tight end Josiah Deguara, who caught the attention of fans with one block that took down two Vikings at once. But while Deguara has received praise for that blocking ability, he said it’s something he’s been working on with tight ends coach Justin Outten. 

His next goal is to build a relationship with Rodgers.

“I think it’s just consistency honestly,” Deguara said of earning Rodgers’ trust. “Being consistent not only in practice but in the film room. If we’re in an offensive meeting room and he’s asking us questions, just being on top of your stuff. Making sure that whenever he does go your way that you’re ready for it.”

It’s possible that no one is a bigger fan of Deguara than his own head coach. 

“He’s got a lot of flexibility where we can put him in the backfield or put him out wide in kind of a wide receiver position, or we feel like we can use him as that movable, more of an F tight end. He’s a really really smart football player,” LaFleur said. 

While the Packers led the NFL in scoring Week 1 with 43 points, LaFleur knows there’s plenty for his team to improve on heading into Week 2.

“It’s only one week. I don’t think any of us are going to be patting ourselves on the back. There’s a lot to improve upon, specifically some those red zone opportunities. And we’re going to have a great opponent next week in the Detroit Lions,” said LaFleur. 

He called hindsight 20/20 on some of the play-calling that stalled drives in the red zone, but it’s clear LaFleur knows what his team needs to work on. One aspect certainly would be to keep the team’s foot on the gas. 

“When we’re up on somebody, we can’t relax. Not for one second,” LaFleur said of letting the Vikings back into the game late. “Once that momentum starts going one way, it’s hard to stop it.

“It’s going to take better focus from our guys, it’s going to take better coaching from our coaches to make sure that stuff doesn’t happen again.”

With Week 1 in the rear view mirror, and one win secured in the division, the Packers get to stay home at Lambeau for another division matchup this week. Green Bay is 1-0 and onto the Lions. 

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV, podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said, and hosts a weekly live show called Happy Hour through Game On Wisconsin. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (17)

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Jonathan Spader's picture

September 15, 2020 at 12:41 pm

Haven't heard any word on why ESB was listed among the inactives. Anyone hear anything?

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PatrickGB's picture

September 15, 2020 at 01:46 pm

I did not hear anything. Perhaps with all the TE’s, H-Backs, F-Backs and running backs suited up the team did not feel the need to play a WR who does even not play on ST’s.

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Coldworld's picture

September 15, 2020 at 02:40 pm

I think 3 receivers may be the norm plus Ervin. The three we started all bring something different to the table. Taylor was a leader on special teams. I think he will be active for that reason before EQ. Game plans differ, but EQ may sit a lot if the others stay healthy.

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AKDan's picture

September 15, 2020 at 04:49 pm

If MVS keeps dropping the ball, ESB will be activated sooner rather than later.

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Coldworld's picture

September 15, 2020 at 04:53 pm

If MVS does anything like he did on Sunday every week I seriously doubt that he will not be active.

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AKDan's picture

September 16, 2020 at 12:44 am

There is a reason MVS disappeared from the offense the end of 2019 season. In spite of occasional great plays there were too many drops. If he picks up in 2020 with the inconsistency he showed in 2019, I don't think the coaching staff will cut him the same amount of slack. One game does not define MVS, it does, however, keep the specter from last year alive.

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LayingTheLawe's picture

September 15, 2020 at 07:34 pm

The history of the NFL is littered with receivers who once in a while dropped a ball. James Jones comes to mind. He holds onto that one in the super bowl and the game was probably over in the third quarter.

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Coldworld's picture

September 15, 2020 at 11:33 pm

“ No game hinges on one player, but Adams, the second-year wide receiver, was a significant reason the Green Bay Packers lost to their rival at home Thanksgiving night.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw 11 passes his way. Adams dropped more (three) than he caught (two). One drop, on a post pattern, could have gone for a 47-yard touchdown.

... Publicly, his head coach said Adams struggled. Too many mental errors, Mike McCarthy said. Too little production.“

Packersnews.com November 30, 2015

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AKDan's picture

September 16, 2020 at 01:44 am

There is no way you can legitimately compare MVS's third year to DA's second year. DA's second year with the Packers would have been his senior year at Fresno State. DA built off his second year errors and made that third year improvement and has continued to be a great player. Time will tell if MVS's two drops were a hiccup or not. Dragging up DA's game against the Vikings (as an apparent means to excuse MVS's drops) is insulting to DA; especially given the 2015 Vikings defense was lights-out superior to this current Vikings team.

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NoNonsense's picture

September 16, 2020 at 03:11 am

Do you even realize that Adams was once called Dropvante? That he struggled pretty bad with drops his second year and many wanted to see him get cut during his 3rd training camp and he was a 2nd round pick.

Compare both guys 1st two seasons and you will see MVS was actually the more productive of the two guys.

MVS had 64 catches for 1033 yrds and 4 TDs compared to Adams 88 for 929 and 4 TDs. Considering the fact that MVS' snaps dwindled to nothing down the stretch last year he was more productive with less opportunities.

I think you see Davante today and dont remember how brutal some of his drops were early in his career. Hell he dropped 2 passes in this game as well but I dont see you doubting him.

I get it, seeing is believing and until you see it, you wont believe he can improve to the level of a Davante or other studs WRs in the game but why not have a little faith, smart guy.

Here Rodgers says he loves him and Davante is putting his name on the guy and you still doubt him.

I guess it will have to fall out of the sky, land on your face and start to wiggle before you can believe what these guys,and a few of us fans, are seeing in him.

The talent is there, the improvement is palpable and now he just needs the consistancy that separates the goods from the greats. That may never happen and like you said he wouldnt be the first talented WR that couldnt put it all together but I think he has the will and the drive to make it happen. He also has a great mentor in Adams and a HOF QB who loves him so I dont see how he doesn't become at least very good if not great.

Guess we will have to wait and see, then I can say I told ya so. :-)

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AKDan's picture

September 16, 2020 at 05:41 am

Your assumption that total yards is an indicator of production is as meaningless as the childish pot-shots you took at me.

Since you brought up comparing the first and second year stats, how about I take a little closer look at the stats.

Games played: MVS -- 16,16 DA --- 16,13 (he played 3 snaps in the KC game

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AKDan's picture

September 16, 2020 at 05:41 am

Your assumption that total yards is an indicator of production is as meaningless as the childish pot-shots you took at me.

Since you brought up comparing the first and second year stats, how about I take a little closer look at the stats.

Games played: MVS -- 16,16 DA --- 16,13 (he played 3 snaps in the KC game

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AKDan's picture

September 16, 2020 at 01:05 am

Yes, and the NFL is littered with talented receivers who never made the expected jump between the second and third year. I did not damn MVS based on one game. His drops and inconsistency was the talk of training camp and he showed vast improvement during training camp. Now he needs to continue showing and building on that improvement in actual games.

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Coldworld's picture

September 16, 2020 at 08:08 am

If your argument is that MVS isn’t a proven starter then maybe. He is seemingly our number 3. If your argument is that there is no difference between him this year and last, I see signs you are wrong but I defer to Rodgers and Adams.

If your argument is that there are no parallels with Adams early on (or James Jones and others) then it’s not worth debating, because there are. “ Adams caught 50 passes in 2015 but averaged a pedestrian 9.7 yards per reception and just 3.0 yards after the catch. Adams dropped 12 of the 96 passes thrown his way in 2015 (12.5%), and Pro Football Focus ranked him as the No. 118 receiver out of 119 who played at least 25% of their team’s snaps.” Forbes.com in a piece lauding Adams’ subsequent turnaround.

To your original claim, no. If MVS repeats his performance last Sunday each week he will not be dropped in favor of EQ or anyone. You can keep rehashing, but that would not happen. It likely wouldn’t happen at half that.

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Lphill's picture

September 15, 2020 at 06:48 pm

If we have to wait for news on Clark then it can’t be good news .

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ottscay's picture

September 15, 2020 at 08:55 pm

For this week's game I agree. But it also isn't catastrophic, or else we'd have heard that as well (e.g. Lane Taylor's situation).

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Coldworld's picture

September 16, 2020 at 08:09 am

Hope you are right, but it could just be less clear cut.

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