Going into this season, there was a lot of talk about the Packers feeling like a new team. Without Davante Adams and with an unproven receiving crew, perhaps Green Bay would have a new offensive focus. Instead of the high-scoring games of yore, this squad might be defined by its lock-down defense. Maybe the special teams department would feel new in that it wouldn't fill fans with dread everytime it took the field. With all the changes in the air, for the first time in a long time, it felt like we might see a different Green Bay team with a different energy compared to past years – different and maybe even better.
Yet for all the talk of what could feel new, the Packers' week one performance looked all too familiar.
Just like their deathly debut against the New Orleans Saints last year, the Packers once again came out utterly flat in the season opener, suffering a 23-7 beatdown from the Minnesota Vikings that never felt even that close. If Green Bay fans had nightmares about the receiving corps not being up to snuff or the defense not living up to its lofty expectations, Sunday was no reassuring wake-up – though it was certainly a wake-up call for the Pack, looking dire on both side of the ball.
My apologies in advance – but let's take one final look back at Sunday's season debut, learn some lessons and hope that the Packers duplicate the way the rest of the regular season went last year too.
1. New year, same old traditions
It wouldn't be a proper Packers season without Aaron Jones rocking a sombrero into the stadium – and indeed, there the Green Bay running back was, making his way into U.S. Bank Stadium with his usual flashy fashion statement. Unfortunately, all of the statements that followed during the actual game were made by Minnesota.
2. An early omen
The dreadful feeling that Sunday just might not be the Packers' day settled in early – on the team's first offensive play in fact, when rookie speedster Christian Watson dropped a wide-open, guaranteed touchdown from Aaron Rodgers that would've evened things up right off the bat and opened up the Vikings defense. Those things ... didn't happen.
Amazingly, the famously grudge-happy quarterback did look the rookie's way again during the game, leading to two catches and 34 yards in his NFL debut – mostly because what other choice did Rodgers have with this thin posse of pass-catchers? Or make that pass-bunglers in Watson's case on Sunday. But hey, I know a Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver who also had a problem with drops during his early seasons ...
3. Having a great time
It didn't take long to harsh Aaron Rodgers' zen offseason vibes. Down his by-definition number one receiver Allen Lazard (not to mention two of his best blockers) and learning how to play with his new pass-catching crew on the fly since he never played a preseason snap, Rodgers put up a paltry 195 yards with an interception and not a single touchdown. If the offense keeps looking this stiff and disconnected, QB1 might resort to putting some ayahuasca in his Gatorade bottle to dull the pain and take his mind elsewhere.
4. Somebody should consider covering him
Justin Jefferson: pretty good football player! So much so, most teams might try to stop him – but not the allegedly top-flight Packers defense on Sunday, as Green Bay allowed the stud Minnesota receiver to nab two touchdowns and 184 yards, a career-high number. And Jefferson didn't even have to put in much of an effort for those numbers either, seemingly wide open on every dropback. And now, just one week into the new season, Packers players are already questioning coaching decisions, with cornerback Jaire Alexander grumbling a bit after the game about not getting to shadow Jefferson. (I would've settled for just having him in the same ZIP code.)
With Adams gone and pieces missing, the Green Bay offense was expected to be shaky – but not the defense. Yet here we are after week one, with our best unit somehow turning out to be ... special teams? Oh god, that can't be right ...
5. Reunited and it feels so bad
Za'Darius Smith's tenure with the Packers came to a quietly acrimonious end last season – and now his time against the Packers arrived with a loudly acrimonious introduction on Sunday, wrecking multiple plays, scoring a sack and getting in this bonus hit on Aaron Rodgers. Somebody looked motivated on Sunday – and unfortunately it wasn't anybody wearing green and gold.
6. Team meeting on #12
Add two starting linemen on the sideline for Sunday with a thin and inexperienced receiving group that no defense would fear stretching the field, plus Aaron Rodgers' famous trust issues and risk aversion, and you get 12 Vikings players piled on top of the Packers QB on this play – one of Minnesota's four sacks on the day. A whole lot of people are going to have to come back next week – and a whole lot of people are going to have to play a lot better.
7. Two different ways to an L
Get used to this storyline for ... just about the rest of the season. While Sammy Watkins, Randall Cobb and the rest of the Packers receivers struggled to get the ball moving anywhere on Sunday, Davante Adams made his new team happy with ten catches for 141 yards and a touchdown – almost quadruple Green Bay's best wide receiver on the afternoon (Romeo Doubs, with 37 yards). Adams didn't make the Raiders that happy, though, as Las Vegas and Green Bay both went home with Ls in week one.
8. There goes the shutout
While we saw a lot of the worst case scenario for the Packers on Sunday, there's no need to give up and call it Bucks season already. It's just one game in a 17-spat season – and we all knew there'd be some issues to work out at the beginning of it all. And for as bad as the offense looked, there were some glimmers of optimism: AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones looked like the one-two punch we hope to see at the helm, while Christian Watson WAS quite open on that dropped pass, meaning he can get open downfield at an NFL level.
Plus, we've seen this story already. We saw the Pack get pummeled to an alarming level just last year in the opening game, and we saw how that turned out: with a 13-3 record the rest of the way and ... well, we don't talk about what happened next. So here's to all of these worries going away next week, and here's to the Packers just doing a Disney-style shot-for-shot remake of last season – just with a MUCH better ending.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.