The Green Bay Packers continue their season-opening schedule with the second of two divisional opponents. After beating the Bears in week 1, Green Bay once again defeated an NFC North rival. The Minnesota Viking fell on the road 21-16. This is a game recap of Packers vs Vikings week 2.
Right off the bat, we saw some of the creativity that Matt LaFleur had spoken about throughout the offseason. The very first play of the game was incredibly similar to their longest play from scrimmage in week 1. In both plays, the offensive line ran a zone blocking scheme towards the right while Aaron Rodgers faked the handoff and rolled out to his left. In this case, the defense was drwan toward the line of scrimmage which allowed Davante Adams to get open. He hauled in the 39-yard pass, which was greater than his entire output in week 1.
The other aspect that was interesting on this opening drive was personel usage. The Packers employed two tight end sets often in the Bears game and it was their opening formation in this contest. However, the very next play, it was a two running back set which featured both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. They ran a toss out to Jones, who was in motion, on which he gained 6 yards.
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Two plays later, and once again with two half backs on the field, Jones went out in motion again toward the left. Only this time Rodgers completed a screen pass to Williams who took it 15 yards to the end zone. Having Jones run in motion drew defenders towards him which made it easier for Williams to score. The idea of building a sequence of plays off of one another is exactly what LaFleur was trying to instill this season.
After going up 7-0 with the Williams touchdown, the creative use of players continued. On Geronimo Allison‘s touchdown, Davante Adams ran a route out of the backfield, which again, drew the defenders attention. All of a sudden, it was 14-0 after the 1st quarter. They quickly added to their lead with an Jones rushing score at the start of the 2nd frame.
The only problem with the Packers play calling is that that same type of creativity was not as present in the running game. Once Green Bay took a 21-0 lead, the effective misdirection plays were no longer present. This allowed the defense to key in on the running backs. To his credit, Jones made a lot of great cutbacks and was able to find some room to run. He especially found success running on the backside of zone blocks.
Overall, the run blocking was much better than it had been against the Bears in the previous week. One player who really turned around his game was left guard Lane Taylor. He did not allow any free rusher into the backfield like he repeatedly did in week 1. Taylor also clearly some running lanes and looked effective. Like it or not, he is the weak link on the offensive line. However, if Taylor can continue his strong play from week 2, then this team should be well-positioned moving forward.
Cook in the Kitchen
It is difficult to say that the Packers defense had success at stopping Dalvin Cook. The running back gained a career-high 154 rushing yards, which included a 75-yard touchdown run in the 2nd quarter. That being said, for the most part, Green Bay held him in check. Cook’s second-longest run of the day only went for 10 yards and the defense did a great job of preventing any additional big plays. They accomplished this by having great run contain and not letting Cook bounce things to the outside.
The 75-yard Cook run did turn the momentum of this game. It occured immediately after the Jones rushing touchdown and led off a 16-0 by the Vikings that lasted the entire game. Thankfully, the Packers defense more than held its own.
Turnover and Over
Turnovers were a big part of this game. It began in the 1st quarter with a Kenny Clark strip-sack of Kirk Cousins. Offenses are starting to take notice as Clark was double teamed by defensive linemen at times in this game. Any extra attention paid to Clark will allow his teammates to make plays 1-on-1.
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One player who most benefited from this situation was fellow defensive lineman Dean Lowry. He actually recovered Clark’s forced fumble but Lowry’s contribution went beyond that play. The defensive end was constantly in the Vikings backfield either stopping the run or pressuring the quarterback. Outside linebacker Preston Smith also had a great day, which included an interception of a tipped ball curtsey of rookie Darnell Savage.
Unfortunately for Lowry and Smith, their teammates on offense gave the ball away. First, Allison fumbled while they were inside of field goal range. With the way the offense was driving in that series, the fumble took away at least 3, if not 7, points off of the board. A second fumble was caused by a rare bad snap from center Corey Linsley. In the ensuing confusion, the Vikings recovered the football on the Packers side of half.
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Quarterback Kirk Cousins did not have the greatest day throwing the football. He ended up finishing 14-for-32 for 230 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT.
Overall it was a struggle for Cousins who was constantly disrupted in the pocket. For his credit, Cousins moved really well in face of the pressure provided by the Packers. There were a couple of plays where it appeared Cousins was getting sacked, yet he somehow found ways to escape. One particular play in the first quarter, Green Bay looked to have a sack, but then, while going down, Cousins suddenly threw a pass to Chad Beebe who took it for a total of 61 yards. Fortunately for the Packers, the defense (and some offensive penalties) held the Vikings to a field goal.
Arguably his best throw came three plays after the aforementioned fumble from the bad Linsely snap. On 3rd-and-13, Cousins went deep, throwing a 45-yard bomb to Stefon Diggs who caught the ball in the end zone.
Later in the game, Cousins had a chance to win it all. On 1st-and-goal from the Packers 8-yard line, once again, the pass rush beat the Vikings offensive line. Cousins scrambled and though he had Diggs open. However, the ball was intercepted by Kevin King.
King for a Day
In no way can we overlook the interception or take anything away from King’s ability to make a clutch play. However, he did get burned a few times by Diggs. Apparently, the Packers view Adam Thielen as the Vikings top receiver because they had Jaire Alexander cover him for most of the game. That left King to cover Diggs and that includes Cousins’ 45-yard touchdown pass. King got a step behind and Diggs just took off for the end zone.
There were a few other times that Diggs created separation against King. Needles to say, it was not the greatest of performances by the young defensive back. That is what makes his interception that much sweeter. Even though he was having a rough outing, King still had the confidence to undercut the Cousins pass and come down with the pick. While there were still over five minutes left in the game at that point, it was the closest that Minnesota would come to scoring in the final frame.
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