Matt LaFleur's plan for Aaron Rodgers, Packers looks just rightby Bill Bender
Several questionswere raised about the Packers' long-term future under second-year coach Matt LaFleur this past offseason.
Why did the team select Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft? How much longer will Aaron Rodgers be the franchise quarterback? How will Green Baybuild on last year's 13-3 season?
All of that ignored the present tense, which looked just fine in a 43-34victory over the Vikings inWeek 1 on Sunday. Rodgers,who finished32 of 44passing for364yards andfour touchdowns,took advantage of a masterful game plan by LaFleur.
The Packers still look like the team to beat in the NFC North heading into a Week 2 matchup against the Lions, wholost a heartbreaker at home to the Bears.
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The irony? Love was a healthy scratch for this game.Green Bay's quarterback can plan can wait. Rodgersis just fine, thanks.
Rodgers and the Packers played keepaway in the first half and dominated time of possession22:45 to 7:15. They ran 44 plays(28 pass attempts by Rodgers) while the Vikings ran 15.Thatgame plankept Minnesota's ground-heavyattack led by Dalvin Cook off the field, and it worked.
Green Bay led 22-10 at halftimebut it could have been up by more. It settled for field goals on two of its first three red-zone trips and turned the ball over on downs on the other one.
Rodgers,meanwhile, took advantage of Vikingsmistakes. He maintained the usual chemistry with Davante Adams(14 catches, 156 yards, two touchdowns)andmight have found a second receiver in Marquez Valdes-Scantling(fourcatches, 96 yards, one touchdown). Plus, Rodgers threw the dagger touchdown to Allen Lazard (four catches, 63 yards, one touchdown).
There were also questions this offseason about whetherthere were enough options in the receiving game, but less focus on the fact Rodgers was entering his second year in LaFleur's system.
Green Bay's rushing attack wasn't as effective as it wasin the Packers'23-10 victory at Minnesota in Week 16last season, and LaFleur adjusted the game plan accordingly.Rodgers delivered the rest in a vintage performance that served as a reminder he still has it.
That's coaching, and it'seasy to forgethow LaFleur flipped the balance of power in the NFC North last season. Green Bayfinished 6-0 in the division in 2019 and hasopened the 2020 season with a road victory against the preseason favorite.
The Packers are not perfect. The defense allowed Minnesota to mount a second-half comeback, and the Vikings averaged 6.1 yards per carry.That's OK. LaFleur outcoached Minnesota's Mike Zimmer for the third time in three tries.
Now, Green Bay can takeearlycontrol of the division with a victory in Week 2 at home against Detroit — which might be themore important gamein the division given the two matchups were decided by four points last season.
That is a credit to Rodgers and LaFleur and an offense that looks more fluid this year.
In the present tense, that will do just fine.