One sign of how pervasive the Packers are in Wisconsin is how people react to a game.
The Packers opened their season by beating Jacksonville 27–23. Admittedly the Jaguars haven’t been good for a long time, so the closeness of the game got some fans wondering how good the Packers really are.
(Disclosure: I did not watch the game because I had church, work, and another football game in the three-hour game window, though I did hear the finish.)
Well, to paraphrase Aaron Rodgers, Cheesehead TV suggests they relax:
The defense sacked Blake Bortles three times, and Joe Thomas came away with an interception off a deflected pass—one he had to motor 10 yards to grab, since he had actually been blitzing on that play, his first of the game. The unit also had 10 tackles for loss and seven passes defensed.
And there, on the offensive side of the ball, was Aaron Rodgers getting pulled to the ground by his jersey at the hands of Jalen Ramsey, and still firing off a 29-yard pass to a diving Davante Adams that somehow ended up in the wideout’s hands rather than on the field.
There was Jordy Nelson catching three passes on one drive in the second quarter as Mike McCarthy increased the tempo of the offense, culminating in a touchdown that gave Green Bay a 14-10 lead.
There was Eddie Lacy breaking away for a 28-yard run and taking a reception for another 17.
There was Lane Taylor and the offensive line, after much handwringing, allowing just one sack on Aaron Rodgers.
Sure, there were some sore points for the Packers in their season opener. Davante Adams failed to bring in a deep ball in the first quarter that could have made an early statement for the Packers.
The offense had four three-and-outs and there was some miscommunication between Rodgers and his line, which was especially egregious when Rodgers was forced to call a timeout and then immediately the Packers got slapped with a delay of game penalty that eventually killed the drive.
There was also an issue in the fourth quarter when half the offensive line was run-blocking and half was pass-blocking, resulting in James Starks getting stuffed on third down and the Packers having to settle for a field goal. Aaron Rodgers personally called that “embarrassing.”
But why, after a Week 1 win in far-less-than-ideal conditions, is there so much negativity?
Is it because people failed to estimate the Jaguars, a team on the rise that features a pair of talented young receivers in Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson, a confident quarterback with a strong arm, and a defense filled with playmakers?
If so, that’s their own fault. This was by no means a “gimme” game.
Packers fans also seem to have an issue in comparing the team’s present performance to its past performance—or, perhaps more accurately, a formed idea of how the team is capable of playing. And, hey, potential is everything in football; teams who live up to theirs go to Super Bowls.
But let us also remember that each season exists on its own, as well; this is a new team with new starters at many positions. The Packers don’t have to put up 2011 numbers to be considered successful. At this point, their benchmark is set at improving upon their 23rd-ranked offense in 2015.
Considering that they have Jordy Nelson back, Aaron Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception yet this year, the offensive line isn’t falling apart, and Eddie Lacy looks much quicker, they’re well on their way.
The Packers’ 27 points against Jacksonville puts them at No. 10 in the league in scoring. Sure, that doesn’t mean much given the sample size, but Green Bay scored more points than 14 other teams this week, accounting for ties. That’s more than Arizona, Carolina, and Seattle—the conference rivals expected to go toe-to-toe with the Packers this year en route to a possible NFC Championship Game.
Let’s not feel like we can’t give criticism where it is due. Quinten Rollins, for instance, definitely deserved to be benched in favor of LaDarius Gunter after giving up a couple big plays. But he also came back and had one of the most clutch plays of the game when he broke up a pass in the end zone intended for Allen Robinson.
And the offensive miscommunications were mistakes that definitely don’t belong in the regular season, but, as Wes Hodkiewicz said this week, “It’s easier to learn from a win than a loss.”
All things considered, this team looks just fine.
Hodkiewicz must have heard from Lombardi-era Packer players who said that Lombardi was hardest on his team after a win, not a loss.
As it is, Packer fans should not want the first game to be a perfect performance. Teams need to be playing their best football once the postseason begins, because as we know playoff teams actually play defense, as opposed to the regular season. (Scores from Sunday besides the Packers included Kansas City 33, San Diego 27 in overtime; Tampa Bay 31, Atlanta 24; Oakland 35, New Orleans 34, and Detroit 39, Indianapolis 35.)
The NFL is sufficiently unpredictable (the first week had nine games decided by a touchdown or closer, five of which were decided by less than a field goal) that Baltimore, Indianapolis, Dallas and Detroit were in the 2014 season playoffs but not the 2015 season playoffs, and Minnesota, Washington, Houston and Kansas City were in the 2015 season playoffs one year after missing the 2014 season playoffs. It’s not easy to figure out at the start of the season who will be the breakout team; it could be Jacksonville this season for all we know.