As weird a year as this is, pro sports is still taking place.
That means it’s time for one of the most cherished Presteblog traditions, making fun of Packers’ vanquished opponents through their own media.
The Packers unexpectedly (at least to me) opened their season Sunday by overwhelming the Viking kitties …
The Minneapolis Star Tribune begins with Packers–Vikings history:
Since the Vikings thumped a 23-year-old Brett Favre and denied the upstart Packers a playoff berth with a 27-7 win in the 1992 season finale, the buildings on the corner of Chicago Ave. and 4th Street have been the site of more harrowing experiences than two Green Bay MVP quarterbacks would care to count.
Favre won four of his last five games against the Vikings in the Metrodome, breaking Dan Marino’s all-time passing TD record in 2007, but went 6-10 in the building while he was the Packers QB, losing nine of his first 11 in its tympanum-ratting environment.
Aaron Rodgers feasted on feeble Vikings defenses during the Metrodome’s final years, and won twice in the Vikings’ two years at TCF Bank Stadium. But his first three trips to U.S. Bank Stadium included three losses — none of which saw the Packers QB throw for more than 216 yards — and one broken collarbone.
The Packers left the building to chants of “Go Pack Go” last December, though, after beating the Vikings to claim their first NFC North title since U.S. Bank Stadium’s opening year. And on a surreal Sunday afternoon, in a building where the Vikings were once able to construct their home-field advantage with the help of sensory overload, Rodgers enjoyed something Favre could have only wished for during all those years: near-total serenity in a 43-34 Packers win.
The 36-year-old quarterback operated his offense in front of only the two teams and just under 500 cardboard cutouts that fans had purchased in the west end zone, with the stadium closed to spectators for at least the first two games of the season.
Rodgers didn’t have to worry about the Vikings’ pass rush, either, with Danielle Hunter on injured reserve for at least three weeks. He wasn’t sacked, was pressured infrequently and had plenty of time overall to test a remade Vikings secondary that was trying to coalesce without the benefit of a preseason.
Sunday’s end result doesn’t figure to define a Vikings team that will be a work in progress this season. But it does represent a jarring opening to the season for a defense that had enjoyed six years of battling Rodgers to a virtual stalemate.
Green Bay hadn’t gained more than 383 yards in a single game against the Vikings; it posted 524 on Sunday, more than any team had gained against a Zimmer-led Vikings team other than the Rams’ 556-yard day in 2018.
The Packers held the ball for more than 40 minutes. Rodgers became just the fifth QB to surpass 350 passing yards against a Zimmer-led defense, with 364 and four touchdowns. And Green Bay’s 43 points (with the help of a safety on a Jaire Alexander sack) were the most the Vikings had allowed since Zimmer took over in 2014.
After the game, Zimmer lamented mistakes, lack of pressure from the defensive line and a handful of false-start penalties on third and short.
“We didn’t cover them very good,” he said.
Rodgers spent much of the day looking for Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams, who caught 14 passes for 156 yards and two scores, but tested the Vikings’ young corners with deep shots to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who caught four passes for 96 yards and dropped another deep ball from Rodgers.
“It’s frustrating,” safety Harrison Smith said. “It’s not what we’re used to here.”
After Kirk Cousins threw behind Adam Thielen for an interception in the final minute of the first half, Valdes-Scantling got a step on rookie cornerback Cameron Dantzler hauling in a 45-yard touchdown from Rodgers to give Green Bay a 22-7 lead.
The lead grew to 29-10 entering the fourth quarter, when Cousins connected with Thielen for a 37-yard touchdown with 13:53 left in the game. The Vikings scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns, but could not keep the Packers out of the end zone to complete a comeback.
The fourth-quarter surge helped Cousins amass 259 yards on 19 of 25 passing, but in the first half had only five passing attempts, completing three.
The Vikings had the ball for only 7 minutes 15 seconds in the first half, and the Packers dominated time of possession overall, 41:16-18:44.
“We didn’t have the ball. We didn’t control the ball,” Zimmer said.
A day after signing a lucrative contract extension, Dalvin Cook rushed for 50 yards and two touchdowns in 12 carries.
Let’s see, $63 million divided by five years divided by 16 games equals $787,500 per regular-season game. That is $15,750 per yard Sunday.
The Strib’s Chip Scoggins:
The Vikings approached their 2020 season with a palpable sense of optimism about their offense and their rebuilt defense.
Yeah, good talk.
Green Bay 43, Vikings 34.
It was a lot worse than the final score might suggest.
Mike Zimmer’s defense had a disastrous debut, and the offense didn’t do much of anything until garbage time before 70,000 empty seats at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Based on first impressions, Zimmer has a lot of work on his hands to make that statement hold up. His defense’s performance was beyond bad Sunday. The Vikings had no chance against Aaron Rodgers who made it look easy in dissecting Zimmer’s young secondary.
The Vikings gave up big pass plays. They had trouble containing the run. They got zero pressure on Rodgers without injured Danielle Hunter. And they had two offsides penalties on third down that gave the Packets a fresh set of downs.
The whole thing was a mess.
Here are three things that caught my eye …
- Sloppy tackling
The Vikings missed two tackles on the Packers opening drive and more after that, which highlighted the lack of preseason games. Teams rarely tackle in training camp so that area figured to be a little sloppy early in the season.
- Offense sleepy until late
Kirk Cousins and the offense made some plays in the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late. The offense couldn’t sustain anything in the first half, causing the time of possession to become lopsided in favor of Green Bay.
- Weird play call
Vikings offense coordinator Gary Kubiak had a strange play call at a key moment in the second half. Trailing 22-10 late in the third quarter, the Vikings faced fourth-and-3 at the Packers’ 39. After a timeout, Cousins threw a deep pass down the sideline to Tajae Sharpe, their No. 4 wide receiver.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told the NFL Network last month that he’s “never had a bad defense.” Well, he’s got some work to do now.
In Sunday’s season opener at U.S. Bank Stadium, Green Bay shredded the Vikings’ once-vaunted defense to win 43-34. It was the most points ever scored against a Zimmer team in his seven seasons as Vikings’ head coach. The previous most came in the Packers’ 42-10 rout in 2014 at Lambeau Field.
With no fans allowed inside the stadium because of the coronavirus pandemic, it made for an eerie atmosphere. The Vikings did have one very impressive defensive showing on a goal-line stand early in the second quarter, when they led 7-3, but there were no fans to urge them on and perhaps shift momentum.
A few plays later, after the Vikings took possession of the ball at their own 1-yard line, Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander tackled quarterback Kirk Cousins in the end zone for a safety and they reeled off 19 straight points for a 22-7. The Vikings did get within 22-10 at halftime, but the second half provided few worries for the Packers.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer likely did not recognize his team as the normally strong defense looked absolutely atrocious. Nobody expected this defense to be great from Day 1, considering all the changes it has undergone, but the Vikings were a mess on that side of the ball. Some thoughts and observations from the Vikings’ 43-34 loss to the Packers.
- The 43 points against were the most a Zimmer-coached defense has given up since he took the job in 2014. The Packers had the previous high of 42 against the Vikings on Oct. 2, 2014 at Lambeau Field. That was Zimmer’s first season, this is his seventh and these were all of his guys.
- The Vikings gave up 522 yards (364 passing, 158 rushing), the second-most by a Zimmer-coached defense in Minnesota behind the 556 yards (456 passing, 100 rushing) the Rams accumulated in a 38-31 victory on Sept. 27, 2018 in Los Angeles.
- Jeff Gladney, the Vikings’ second first-round pick in April, was not part of the cornerback rotation that had Mike Hughes and Holton Hill starting and Cameron Dantzler outside, with Hughes going inside, in the nickel. Either Gladney really disappointed Zimmer in training camp or the Vikings still have concerns about the meniscus surgery he had in the spring.
- That rotation of corners all got picked on by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at different times and looked awful. Rodgers looked like the Rodgers of old — in part because the Vikings defense looked like it did before Zimmer arrived — and completed 32 of 44 passes for 364 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Davante Adams had 14 receptions, on 17 targets, for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
- It should come as no surprise that the Vikings had issues protecting quarterback Kirk Cousins and in the third quarter the veteran decided to do something about it. On back-to-back plays, he ran for 16 and 14 yard gains. Cousins talked about using his feet more often this season and on those two plays he did exactly that.
- Cousins threw his first pick of the season late in the second quarter on a poorly thrown ball behind Adam Thielen that cornerback Jaire Alexander picked off at the Vikings 45-yard line. That led to this …
- The Packers took a 22-7 lead with 21 seconds left in the quarter on a 45-yard TD pass from Rodgers to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Dantzler was running stride-for-stride with Valdes-Scantling but Rodgers made a perfect throw to the front corner of the end zone and Dantzler is, well, a rookie.
- Valdes-Scantling also caught a 39-yard pass from Rodgers on a third-quarter play in which Hughes was beaten. That put the ball at the 1-yard line and Rodgers threw a touchdown pass to Adams to give Green Bay a 29-10 lead.
- The key point in this game might have come in the second quarter when the Vikings defense stopped the Packers on fourth-and-goal from the Minnesota 1. The Vikings led 7-3 and had a chance to grab any momentum that might have existed. But that didn’t last long as Cousins was sacked on a corner blitz by Alexander for a safety. The Packers got a 43-yard field goal from Mason Crosby on the ensuing drive to take a one-point lead.
- The Vikings scored three meaningless touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Cousins found Thielen for a 37-yard touchdown to make it 29-18, Cook scored on a 3-yard run to make it 36-26 and Thielen caught another scoring pass, this one from 19 yards, to make it 43-34. All three Vikings touchdowns followed Packers scores.
- Wide receiver Justin Jefferson, the Vikings’ first pick in the first round in April, caught his first NFL pass in the third quarter, gaining 9 yards on third-and-16. Jefferson finished with two catches for 26 yards.
- The Vikings had an issue with missed tackles, beginning early with Dantzler and linebacker Eric Wilson both failing to wrap up Packers. You would expect an NFL player to be able to tackle, but even during an ordinary season tackling can be suspect early on. In this case, with no preseason games and limited practice time, the tackling was worse than usual. Zimmer won’t be happy but it couldn’t be considered a complete surprise.
- It was a given the Vikings would lose a significant home-field advantage with no fans in U.S. Bank Stadium. The question was how much? It turned out to be huge. One of the NFL’s best rivalries had the feeling that it was a youth football game being played on a Saturday morning and at least those games have parents in attendance. The piped in noise was barely noticeable, and the Packers’ offense had zero issues operating.
Ask the Milwaukee Bucks what not playing at home and in the “bubble” instead meant.