The Lass Word: Packers Must Start Faster

Sluggish first quarters are a bad habit.

The head coaching career of Matt LaFleur has gotten off to a historic beginning.  Three consecutive thirteen win seasons in his first three years at the helm is unprecedented.  But the Packers under LaFleur have one worrisome trend that they can’t seem to break.  They are notoriously slow starters. 

In the 2021 regular season, Green Bay was outscored by its opponents in the first quarter by a collective total of 84 to 51.  The team failed to score in the first quarter in nine of its seventeen games.  They were either tied or trailing their opponent at the end of the first quarter in thirteen contests. 

One reason for this is that the Packers are one of the elite teams in the NFL, which means opponents get particularly fired up to play them, and that adrenalin helps opponents start the game strong, especially in their own stadiums.  The games are often televised nationally, another incentive for opponents to want to make a statement against Green Bay. 

Other times the team just seems to come out a bit lackadaisical, and doesn’t appear to wake up until they fall behind and feel some sort of urgency.  Usually, Aaron Rodgers and the coaches eventually figure out the problems and the team is able to come back and win.  But constantly relying on your ability to come from behind is a risky way to operate. 

This will be especially true in the season opener Sunday against the rival Vikings.  The Vikings have beaten Green Bay at least once in six of the last seven seasons.  Sunday’s game is on Minnesota’s home turf, always a difficult assignment for the Pack.  New coach Kevin O’Connell has made it clear Packer fans are not welcome at US Bank stadium.  Those Purple fans are going to be loud and rowdy, and their team will be sky high at the kickoff.  Green Bay will need to weather the storm by playing a strong first quarter. 

 

Pre-game chatter 

-- It’s really going to be a tough break for receiver Allen Lazard if he can’t play against the Vikings.  He is nursing what is described as an ankle injury after getting “stepped on” in practice last week.  The former Iowa State star has been held out of practices this week.  This couldn’t happen at a worse time for number 13.  Someone is going to step forward and lay claim to being Green Bay’s new number one receiver in this game, and no doubt Lazard has long envisioned it would be him. 

-- Much has been made of how critical it will be for the Packers to have David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins available for Sunday’s game.  But the sneaky injury that could also have a huge impact is the hamstring problem safety Darnell Savage is dealing with.  The Packers are not deep at safety, and they will be facing a strong set of receivers in Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and newly acquired Jalen Reagor.  Green Bay’s reserve safeties are Rudy Ford, Dallin Leavitt and rookie Tariq Carpenter.  Savage says he feels fine but hammies can be very fickle. 

-- In a way, I’m kind of glad that Viking linebacker Za’Darius Smith has been popping off about how he can’t wait to play against his former team Sunday.  Surely the Green Bay offensive linemen have had an earful of it, and perhaps it is they who will be highly motivated to play against him on opening day.  Another former Packer, Chandon Sullivan, appears to be Minnesota’s starting nickel back on Sunday.  I always felt Sullivan was the weak link in Green Bay’s secondary when he was here.  I feel good about playing against him. 

-- Of course the Packers’ traditional arch rival has been the Bears for more than a century.  But over the last ten to twenty years I find myself wanting to beat the Vikings worse.  I think it’s because they have demonstrated time and again that they are Packer wannabees.  They have signed so many of our discarded players over the years, including Darren Sharper, Ryan Longwell, Greg Jennings, and most blatantly, Brett Favre.  Now they’re even signing our coaches.  Kevin O’Connell’s newly hired staff includes former Green Bay coaches Mike Pettine, Ed Donatell and Mike Smith.    I enjoy nothing more than showing the Vikes and their fans they will never rise to the level of the Green and Gold. 

 

Game Prediction: Packers 28 Vikings 24 

Surprise hero of the game: Sammy Watkins 

NFL Upset of the week: Lions over Eagles 

-----------------------------------

Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

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3 points

Comments (47)

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NickPerry's picture

September 09, 2022 at 06:53 am

The Packers players should be JUST AS PUMPED to be playing week one as the Vikings regardless of where the game is being played. Home or away, this is week one against a division rival! If you can't get pumped for this game then something is wrong...Especially with all the shit, Z Smith has been spewing from his mouth. Whether it's Bakhtiari and Jenkins, just one of them, or neither of them play, that O-Line room should be pooping razor blades ready to go, REGARDLESS of who's playing. Obviously, we want our All-Pro O-Linemen out there. But if they can't go, especially on THAT surface, I trust Steno and Buktus to have them ready.

28 to 24?

Sorry, I just don't see the Vikings Offense scoring 24 points on THIS defense. Not in a new system week one. I think we'll see a score closer to 24-10 or 27-10 with the Packers winning. I do agree Sammy Watkins could be a surprise star of the game. But I'm going with the ENTIRE Packers D as the stars of the game.

I've been running my mouth all Summer about how great I think the Defense will be...I'm not stopping now! : )

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mnbadger's picture

September 09, 2022 at 12:18 pm

I love your confidence and hope that you're right about the defense.
GPG!

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Eric Zenk's picture

September 09, 2022 at 01:27 pm

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

'Yoda

P.S. I hope there is a lot of 'Do' aka domination by this much hyped defense, especially the D-line versus the Vikings o-line. The Vikings have talked all off season about their 'improved' o-line for 2022. Last time I checked the Vikes still have Garrett Bradley playing center and Kenny Clark ready to abuse him again along with Reed, Smith, Gary, Lowery, Slaton etc. Time to put up or shut up Packer defense. 'Show me the money'.

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Handsback's picture

September 09, 2022 at 07:11 am

Would love to see a blow out like last night's game with the Packers on top of course.
I suspect it could happen, but rather sit Savage, Bak, and Jenkins if possible and take a narrow win just to make sure those guys are at 100% for the next game.
I know probably asking too much, but hope springs eternal whatever that means!

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Minniman's picture

September 09, 2022 at 02:11 pm

I don't think that you can risk anything but 100% in in a Divisional game Handsback (unless it's like the Lions game in the final game 2 seasons ago - when the work had already been done).

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NJ-RICK's picture

September 09, 2022 at 07:16 am

Ken, If last nights game between the Rams and Bills tell us anything about teams playing in their first NFL game this season. I'm expecting we will see more then the usual amount of fumbles, interceptions, penalties and mistakes. Especially since many teams did not play their starters in preseason. Which will lead to possibly many upsets. I hope your correct with your prediction. One thing is for sure, Coach LaFleur better have a good game plan in place to help AR12 get rid of the ball under 3 seconds. Offensive lines will be tested on both side's of the ball... I'm sure games played this week will be very exciting to watch...

GPG

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Oppy's picture

September 09, 2022 at 07:48 am

every pass play with rare exception is designed to get the ball out in 3 seconds. It's up to the QB to make it happen.

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T7Steve's picture

September 09, 2022 at 07:25 am

I always felt they started slow last year because of the OL not being able to establish the run. The first game against the Saints was where the D wasn't ready with a new coach and system.

This year I predict we'll be more ready and the Vikings will be the ones with growing pains. They have new systems on both sides of the ball, so we have no excuse if we let them get the better of us.

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croatpackfan's picture

September 09, 2022 at 09:53 am

Last season was 3rd MLF season as the head coach with 3rd season with Mostly complete offensive coaches for that 3years. So, it was not the reason why they played so badly. The reason is all that drama produced by AR and his unwillingness to play at least few snaps in the preseason. That forced MLF to find solution as they played game between O and D last week for 2 times, trying to bring the team in optimal working form...

And D was playing average game. Problem was TOP because offense was not able to move the ball down the field. Look at statistic.

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stanthemanwiththeplan's picture

September 09, 2022 at 11:06 am

AJ Dillon's quads have entered the chat and they are ready to establish the motherf*cking run baby!

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dobber's picture

September 09, 2022 at 07:25 am

Hey, if starting faster in regular season games means they win more in January, I'm all for it...

...but winning the NFC by winning 13 games (as they've done a couple years running) or winning the NFC by winning 16 games doesn't mean all that much if they aren't winning in January.

7 points
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Johnblood27's picture

September 09, 2022 at 07:39 am

GB has MInny and Detroit at home in January this season... just sayin'...

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Leatherhead's picture

September 09, 2022 at 11:03 am

which are much more important games. The game at home against Minnesota in the finale is our most important game of the year: Home being more important than away, division opponents being more important than out of division, division rivals being more important than division also-rans.

I would put this game....a division rival on the road...at about #10 on the scale of importance. Our game at Buffalo will be on the road and out of conference...about 16th or 17th in importance.

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Oppy's picture

September 09, 2022 at 04:38 pm

How is winning at home tangibly more important than winning on the road, though? Feel good for fans? yes. Sell more brats, beers. and jerseys? yes. But in terms of football?

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Leatherhead's picture

September 09, 2022 at 10:57 am

I watched us lose an opener, at home, to the Lions, 40-0 in 1970.

The next year we lost the opener, at home, to the Giants, 42-40. Our new head coach, Dan Devine, got caught in a sideline pile up and broke his leg. I've seen David Whitehurst and Barty Smith underwhelm the Bears, 3-6, then come back the next year to tie them 6-6, get a gamewinning FG from point blank range blocked, and have it bounce right to Marcol who took it and ran in for the 12-6 victory. (Of course, later that year they beat us 61-7). I've seen us get blown out in the opener and then win 13 games.

So, being as how everything is relative, pretty much anything other than a meteor strike is going to be a faster start than some that I've seen. In the grand scheme of things, I'd expect a pretty respectable showing. We've got vets who've been to this dance before. They've played in the Bird Death Dome. They've heard the piped in noise, and the Stupidhorn. Rodgers and Crosby were already shaving when a bunch of the Purple was in diapers.

Winning in December and January is more important than winning in September, we agree on that. IMO, our last two seasons have ended partly because we had a makeshift line of backups on the field in the playoffs. I think the Davantevision stuff was a problem, and it should be fixed now, as long as some other tunnelvision doesn't take its place.

This weekend, I think we'll see what we always see: Rodgers and Dillon Jones will protect the ball and move the chains, just like they always do. Rodgers will make some throws to the WRs and TEs and most of them will be caught .

If Lazard is out, it certainly opens the door for the two rookies, Watson and Doubs, to get more snaps and targets than they would otherwise. Similarly, this is why you have veterans like Watkins and Cobb on the roster, so that you don't have to overwhelm the rookies in their first game.

I'm actually curious to see how the Purple safeties do this. I mean, I like the matchups with their corners, and I'm wondering if the youthful speed we can put on the field is going to be a match for 33 year old Harrison Schmidt. Or if the rookie safety plays, is Aaron Rodgers going to be able to fake him out of position?

My prediction? The game ends with Jordan Love taking a knee.
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Edit: I just saw that the Vikings new defensive coordinator is the same guy that we FIRED from that position after the 4th and 26 game. They do love our castoffs, don't they?

3 points
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wildbill's picture

September 09, 2022 at 11:21 am

Lions also beat us 20-0 in the last 1970 game, I thought that showed improvement…. Lol

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Leatherhead's picture

September 09, 2022 at 12:07 pm

60-0. In my mind, we still haven't paid them back for that.

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mnbadger's picture

September 09, 2022 at 12:25 pm

LH - I would never forget seeing JLov taka a knee at the gun with a huge smile spread across one sideline and a bunch of badly colored bitching on the other!
GPG! I've got a bunch of co-worker bets going this week, so I'm espcially jacked.
Time to rmove any sense of royalty from the vi'queens. I'd like to rename them the Vi'courtjesters!

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stockholder's picture

September 09, 2022 at 07:33 am

They better start fast. And this defense better bring pressure. Run it!

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 09, 2022 at 03:35 pm

The Vegas line is valid. Pack by a field goal.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 09, 2022 at 03:52 pm

Since you follow the betting info, I have a question.

If a person had bet $100 on every Packer game since LaFleur has been the HC, and you had bet that the Packers would beat the spread, about how much money would you have won/lost over that time?

My son is going to employ that strategy this year, and thinks it'll pay better than anything he could do in the stock market. I kind of think he's right, but I'm not sure.

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wildbill's picture

September 10, 2022 at 03:26 pm

Hmm very interesting thought. I don’t bet on sports as it’s just entertainment for me and adding money would make me too anxious watching the games. Please let us know how that plays out this year cause it would be interesting

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Packers0808's picture

September 09, 2022 at 07:59 am

Have a gut feeling you will see our running back tandem run all over the Vikings. Seems to me the Vikings think the passing game will be Packer downfall Sunday and be for some odd reason geared toward that form of offense. The defense big thing will stop the passing game depending of course what Cousins shows up. Packer 31-17

2 points
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x24's picture

September 09, 2022 at 08:03 am

Agreed on a fast start and I would also like to see a fast start start after the half- seems like we always have a junk offensive series in the third quarter...

While no team can possibly eclipse my disdain for the bears, the Minnesota vacuum is getting closer. Seems like MN would eat sh*t if it meant the Packers had to smell their breath.

"Rent free", let's hope it continues

3 points
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wildbill's picture

September 09, 2022 at 11:25 am

Hate:
Da bears
Viqueens
Cowgirls
In that order, and any team little pete Carroll is coaching.

I think us older Packer fans hate the bears first and those non Lombardi watching fans seem to put the Viqueens first for whatever reason

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

September 09, 2022 at 11:50 am

Hate the Cowboys and Niners from the Favre years. Hate the Seahawks from 2014, though now they are more like the toothless Yeti in the yearly “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with Burl Ives. John Schneider had a good run with talent he inherited from Scot McCloughan’s picks, including Wilson, Kam, Earl Thomas, etc. He hasn’t drafted all that well, has overpaid for FA and couldn’t keep one of the few Super Bowl winning franchise QBs in the league.

3 points
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LeotisHarris's picture

September 09, 2022 at 09:57 pm

Never ceases to amaze me that knuckle-draggers still roam around tossing out "queens" and "girls" as insults. Did you have a mother, wildbill? A wife? Daughter?

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wildbill's picture

September 10, 2022 at 03:22 pm

Sorry your panties got in a bunch, maybe a few hours in your safe place will help you Alice

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LeotisHarris's picture

September 10, 2022 at 06:46 pm

Aww, wildbill, your intelligence is eclipsed only by your humility.

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Tundraboy's picture

September 10, 2022 at 02:52 pm

Viking
Cowboys
Bears
Tampa Bay
Denver
Pete Carroll
Bruce Arians

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Tundraboy's picture

September 10, 2022 at 02:54 pm

Yeah the Bears,Eagles Lions and Colts in the old days but Viqueens are such obnoxious losers they have supplanted many on my list.

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mrtundra's picture

September 09, 2022 at 08:06 am

I think Stokes gets his first INT, of the season on Sunday. I had originally thought the Packers D would sack Cousins, in the end zone, twice, for 2 Safeties, as well. I still think that. It all depends on where the vikings start their drives from or how the Packers' D has backed them up to the goal line. Remember that sack, for 2 points, that Jaire had on Cousins? I see two of them this week. Kenny Clark and Quay get them, this time. GO PACK, GO!!!

3 points
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mnbadger's picture

September 09, 2022 at 12:29 pm

I don't care who gets the sack/safeties just hope it's a minimum of 2! I'd prefer if one was a clean but bruising blindside sack supplied by QW!
GPG!

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canadapacker's picture

September 09, 2022 at 09:09 am

I am hoping that we have a fast start - not only to this game but also the season. I dont think - from past precedents - and one can look at last night where Stafford had his eyes glued on Cupp - and AR did that with Adams - spreading the ball around is key. I also think that Jones and Dillon will be big in the passing game out of the backfield.

Our D should be able to get some INT's from Cousins - we would have beaten the Vikes last year but the INT was dropped ( on review). Anybody know why Stafford is such a hero? Geesh they shouldnt have made the Superbowl if the San Fran D back hadnt dropped the INT chance. And last night he continued his way of throwing the ball up. And he was a jerk when that photographer fell post Superbowl ( shows his interior motivation) never mind his wife going on an Anti Covid rant about Michigan - but last night Chris was going on and on about how great he was until the scoreboard showed differently. And had Buffalo held onto the ball it would have been over at half time- and where was the greatest D player ?? Aaron Donald - not to be seen.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 09, 2022 at 09:34 am

It's great to have some real football. We have a great opportunity Sunday to set the Purple season on fire, in the opener, in front of their own fans. A crushing loss at home to start the season is just what the doctor ordered.

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I watched the game last night. Josh Allen reminds me of a saying that a pilot friend shared with me: There are old pilots, and bold pilots, but no old, bold pilots. Allen running around and stiff-arming tacklers is going to put him on the injured list. There are old QBs, and bold QBs, but no old, bold QBs.

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I thought I'd do a recap of the game using the wisdom I've acquired here:

The Bills had more splash plays because they have better talent, and talent always wins, except in Detroit and Cleveland. The Rams didn't have enough talent or splash plays, because they don't have enough team speed or difference makers.. They should have spent more time practicing splash plays.

3 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

September 09, 2022 at 09:59 am

You mean the team that had more explosive plays won the game even though they had more turnovers? Imagine that! Who could have predicted it?

3 points
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Leatherhead's picture

September 09, 2022 at 02:10 pm

I'm glad you agree with my "analysis" Chesty. It's pretty much what I expected. A serious analysis would have mentioned that 7 sacks and 52 yards on the ground looks like an offensive line that got pushed around. I know, that's not as important as splash plays.

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vin0770's picture

September 09, 2022 at 10:13 am

Cousins will give you one and probably two gifts…just catch them!!!!!

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

September 09, 2022 at 10:58 am

Loving the excitement & enthusiasm with the start of a new & promising season against the arch rivals the Vikings no less. I'm hoping all the 'predictors' on the outcome of the game are correct. Frankly, I'm feeling surprisingly anxious about this game. While I'd like to see the Packers dominate and shut the Vikings out I just do not know how to predict this game. Hopefully, in addition to a victory one of the big ole nasty Packer linemen (or better yet Dillion) 'knocks the snot' out of Zadarius.

2 points
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dobber's picture

September 09, 2022 at 11:26 am

The Vikings are in an odd spot...not only did they--like the Packers--not play their starters very much (their OL and secondary did play some--this seems to be a theme for the HCs under the McVay coaching tree...and how did that turn out for him last night?), but they've got a new coaching staff and new schemes on both sides of the ball--including a shift from base 4-3 to 3-4. Expecting a really sloppy game on Sunday, but if the Packers can limit big plays from the Vikes, I like their chances.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 09, 2022 at 12:14 pm

I'm not expecting the Packers to be sloppy. Rodgers and Jones/Dillon are vets who know how to protect the ball. Our offensive linemen are all vets. Our starting WRs are vets. Our TEs are vets.

We might have a pre-snap penalty or two, but we're not going to see sloppy ball-handling or poor execution.

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Starrbrite's picture

September 09, 2022 at 01:43 pm

I have to be careful because most of close friends and my brother are Vikings fans. But,”Packer wannabes” is exactly right and for years I’ve said the same thing.
In the past, it has appeared to me there draft room is focused on the intentions of the Packers rather than there own draft board—if they have one?
Every year they sellout to beat the Packers and melt against other opponents.
Wannabes!!!

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Leatherhead's picture

September 09, 2022 at 04:03 pm

If God didn't hate you, why would He make you a Viking fan? I mean, it's perpetual suffering. It's gloom, despair, and agony. Excessive misery.

Look at the Vikings roster on one of the sites that shows this, and you'll see that the roster has several people who were relatively high picks and the original team gave up on them while they were still on their rookie deal. And they've got old guys....Peterson, Schmidt, Kendricks (yes, he DID order the Code Red). The bulk of their roster is UDFAs, rookies, and Day 3 guys on their rookie deal.

They're all happy right now. Cousins is in the MVP talk. That's why squashing them is going to be so enjoyable. Then I'm going to go to Footballsfuture.com and enjoy their tears.

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Minniman's picture

September 09, 2022 at 02:40 pm

Start fast? Maybe

For me - Start consistent = optimal

Games are 60 mins - and the only time the score matters is at the end of the 60th minute.

For the first game I'd rather see a well executed gameplan and adjustments that survive past half time (when most good coaches see their oppositions tendencies and adjust accordingly).

Strategy - win the defensive parts of the game and force Kirk Cousins to win the game with his arm

MY METRICS:

1. O-line holds the point of attack and allows GB's seasoned RB's to do their thing
2. D-line holds their respective point of attack and constrict the pocket on Cousins (he's prone to brain snaps when he's rushed)
3. OLB's seals the edge (negating Dalvin Cook and his easy chain-moving yards)
4. ILB's controlling the seam and middle of the field (don't give Thielen and Irv Smith Jr easy completions)
5. Remain disciplined - Do Not give away unnecessary, pressure relieving penalties
6. Rodgers sticking to the game plan - No expecting the rookies to be Davante Adams and pick up subtle play change cues or make ridiculous contested catches. Also, cut the head shake\bobbling passive-aggressive BS (that TV coverage loves) when they make (inevitable) mistake(s). They'll already lack confidence (being their first game).

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Leatherhead's picture

September 09, 2022 at 03:35 pm

You said the only time the score matters is at the end of the 60th minute, which is true, of course. League wide, the team that leads at the end of the first quarter wins a surprisingly high percentage of the time. Much better than 50%.

Which shouldn't be surprising. Teams that have two or three possessions SHOULD have some points on the board if they execute and don't turn the ball over.

As regards your metrics, I totally agree with #1. We should keep the ball in the hands of our dependable vets and if the blocking is there, we're going to be fine. I'm looking forward to see if our interior line....which I think is pretty good on paper......can push that moose they have in the middle.

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Minniman's picture

September 10, 2022 at 02:22 am

Thanks Leatherhead, I'd like to see those stats pared back to see teams that make the finals.

The commonality of teams that win consistently is that they respect the football - and by respect I mean they don't turn it over, and capitalize when the other mob do.

Case in point the recent Rams-Bills game - first quarter was (expectedly) loose, with both teams coughing up possession. The Bills got their act together and respected the ball, and went on with the game.

LOL re your moose comment - Harrison Phillips was a draft crush of mine a couple of years ago. My #1 crush was Vita Vea, but with him off the board the Packers didn't fare too badly with JA that year. Phillips might have been an upgrade on Josh Jackson or Oren Burks (who were both selected before him).

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Tundraboy's picture

September 09, 2022 at 07:14 pm

Anyone remember the last time we came roaring out of gate?

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