If Vikings fans had made a list of the fears they had of what could go wrong heading into their Week 1 game against the Packers, they could check just about every box by the time the final whistle sounded.
☑ The empty U.S. Bank Stadium will feel really stale and odd.
☑ The young and overhauled secondary will get roasted by Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams.
☑ The middle of the defensive line will get pushed around.
☑ Rodgers will use his team’s head-scratching draft picks and talk of his decline as motivation to show that he’s still a top-tier quarterback.
☑ The pass rush will really miss Danielle Hunter.
☑ The offense will struggle to get going early and the absence of Stefon Diggs will be noticeable.
☑ The Packers will show everyone that the NFC North is still their division until further notice.
With so many new pieces and such a small window to prepare this season, it wasn’t a complete shock that the Vikings lost. In fact, I picked them to lose by nine points, which was the final result. But how they lost by nine points was pretty jarring. The final score wasn’t an indication of how the Packers dominated for most of the day. The 43 points scored by Green Bay was the most a Vikings team has ever allowed under Mike Zimmer. And to be honest, it could have easily been over 50 if not for a couple early red zone stops by the Vikings and a couple bad drops by the Packers. The Vikings generated only four total pressures on Rodgers; Hunter averaged 6.1 pressures per game by himself last year. While the pass rush was virtually non-existent for the Vikings on Sunday, the coverage is probably to blame more in this chicken/egg discussion about the defense’s failures. According to Pro Football Focus, Rodgers had a 2.25 second average to throw. The Packers held more than a 2-to-1 time of possession advantage, which allowed them to rack up 522 total yards, the second most ever allowed in the Zimmer era. The Minnesota defense did very little to throw Green Bay’s offense off their rhythm.
Rhythm was much harder to come by for the Minnesota offense. The final box score for the Vikings offense looks nice, but the vast majority of their production came while trailing by double digits late. After an impressive opening drive that resulted in a Dalvin Cook touchdown, the offense did next to nothing for the rest of the first half. The defense couldn’t get off the field and the offense couldn’t stay on it in the second quarter, which resulted in a total of 17 plays for 97 total yards for the Vikings in the first half. The Vikings had 382 yards of offense when the dust settled, but Oscar the Grouch would be jealous of that kind of garbage time production.
So yeah, overall it was pretty bad! The Vikings were humbled and humiliated in their hollowed-out home stadium on Sunday. You could fill the Mariana Trench with the room for improvement this team currently has. But don’t fall into the classic Vikings fan “season’s over” trope just yet. Getting smacked around by your rivals always stings, but we all knew that this squad was going to be a work in progress. It’s going to take a while to work out the kinks; hopefully the progress starts next week in Indianapolis against a Colts team that had an equally disappointing Week 1 loss. My favorite saying after an early-season Vikings loss is “don’t panic; there will be plenty of time for that later!”
We’ll break down the Week 2 matchup in a few days, but for now let’s take our weekly look back at the five biggest game-changing plays.
Play 1: Vikings ball, 2nd & 7 at the Minnesota 4. Second quarter, 11:43 remaining. K.Cousins sacked in End Zone for -4 yards, SAFETY (J.Alexander).
The Packers had run 25 plays for 137 yards over their first two drives of the game, chewing up 13:18 of game clock. However, they had only three points to show for it. The Vikings defense came up with a nice red zone stop on the first drive and Holton Hill had an excellent pass breakup of a pass intended for Adams on 4th & goal to stop the second drive. Despite having the ball for most of the first quarter, the Packers still trailed 7-3 as the Vikings took over deep in their own territory early in the second quarter.
It took 25 plays for the Green Bay offense to muster the team’s first three points; it took the Green Bay defense only two plays to get their next two.
Jaire Alexander blitzed from the corner untouched and sacked Cousins for a safety. All the positivity the Vikings had after their big defensive stop was quickly washed away. The Minnesota defense was immediately forced back onto the field, and the Packers regained the lead on the drive following the safety.
Play 2: Packers ball, 2nd & 9 on the Minnesota 24. Second quarter, 0:47 remaining. (Shotgun) A.Rodgers pass deep right to D.Adams for 24 yards, TOUCHDOWN. The Replay Official reviewed the pass completion ruling, and the play was Upheld. The ruling on the field stands.
Even after the rocky start where they barely had possession, the Vikings trailed by a single point midway through the second quarter. But a Za’Darius Smith sack forced a three and out, and once again the Packers offense got the ball back and marched down the field. After three red zone trips that yielded only six points, the Packers decided to skip the last 20 yards of the field altogether this time around.
It appears as though reports of Rodgers’ demise may have been a bit overstated. This was a signature throw on the run by the Packers signal caller, capped off with an impressive boundary catch by Adams. Green Bay’s star receiver caught 14 of his 17 targets for 156 yards and two scores on Sunday; no other Packers player had more than six passes thrown his way. While stopping the Rodgers-to-Adams battery was likely very high on the list of priorities for the Vikings defense, they simply couldn’t stop it all day.
With less than a minute to play in the first half, it appeared that the Vikings would get the ball to start the third quarter and still be within a single score.
Play 3: Vikings ball, 2nd & 10 at the Minnesota 25. Second quarter, 0:34 remaining. (Shotgun) K.Cousins pass deep right intended for A.Thielen INTERCEPTED by J.Alexander at MIN 41. J.Alexander to MIN 45 for -4 yards (A.Thielen). GB-K.Clark was injured during the play.
Another two-play drive for the Vikings ended with Alexander making a big play. Cousins threw well behind Adam Thielen on the out route, and Alexander was able to fend off Thielen to get the pick. Suddenly the Packers had the chance to score again before the half, and that’s just what they did two plays later. Marquez Valdes-Scantling beat rookie corner Cameron Danztler on a go route, and Rodgers found him with another deadly accurate deep ball for the touchdown. Just like that, the Packers were up by 15. The Vikings were able to salvage a field goal on the final play of the first half, but still trailed by two scores at the break.
Play 4: Vikings ball, 4th & 3 at the Green Bay 39. Third quarter, 4:26 remaining. (Shotgun) K.Cousins pass incomplete deep right to T.Sharpe.
After the teams traded punts to start the second half, the Vikings ventured into Green Bay territory after a couple awkward-yet-effective scrambles from Cousins. The Vikings faced 4th and short and (correctly) decided to go for it while still trailing by 12. Cook picked up the blitz well, but the pass intended for Tajae Sharpe (his only target of the game) fell harmlessly incomplete.
We’re taking nothing away from the good coverage by Kevin King here, but you know who might have been able to make a play on that deep ball a little better than Sharpe? Yeah, that one guy that plays for the Bills now. After the turnover on downs, Green Bay finished the third quarter off with another Adams touchdown. The Vikings’ chances were officially on life support.
After going down 29-10, the Vikings offense finally joined the party. They took only 1:16 to get 77 yards on four plays, capped by a 37-yard touchdown to Thielen. Cook followed with a two-point conversion, and it was an eleven point game with most of the fourth quarter remaining. Still a chance, right?
Play 5: Packers ball, 3rd & 7 at the Minnesota 43. Fourth quarter, 11:42 remaining. (No Huddle, Shotgun) A.Rodgers pass deep middle to A.Lazard to MIN 5 for 38 yards (H.Smith).
The Packers came right back after the Thielen score and crossed midfield before they faced third down. This was the final make-or-break play for the Vikings defense. Get a stop here or it was basically over. Bring the heat and take down Rodgers or lock down the coverage and force an incompletion.
Neither thing happened.
The Vikings rushed four and created no pressure. A blown coverage left Allen Lazard wide open for a 38-yard gain. Lazard’s balance did more to prevent a touchdown than anything the Minnesota defense could muster. Two plays later, Rodgers and Lazard finished the job with this insanely accurate pass.
Despite two late scores from the Vikings, the game was never in doubt for the final ten minutes. The Packers left U.S. Bank Stadium with their third consecutive win over their border rivals.
Again, it’s a long season, and the sky isn’t falling just yet. The defense still needs time to jell and Zimmer will undoubtedly have his team more prepared as the season goes on. But this certainly isn’t the way the Vikings wanted to open their 2020 campaign. They’ll need to figure things out in a hurry if they hope to be a playoff contender in what looks to be an extremely competitive conference.
As always, we welcome you to vote in the poll to tell us which play you thought was the biggest and encourage you to suggest any we may have missed in the comments.
What was the most important play from the Vikings’ loss to the Packers?
This poll is closed
Adams’ first TD
Incomplete pass to Sharpe on 4th & 3
Lazard’s long catch
Other (comment below)