GREEN BAY, Wis. – What a difference a year makes. Or, more specifically, a year in a scheme makes.
Through the first three games of last season, the Green Bay Packers had 860 yards of offense, converted just nine of 36 third downs and scored 58 points.
Through the first two games of this season, the Packers lead the NFL with 1,010 yards of offense, have converted 12 of 23 third downs and scored 85 points.
That’s right. Green Bay’s offense has done more in the first two games of this season than in the first three games in coach Matt LaFleur’s inaugural season. If that’s not demonstrative enough of the progress made in Year 2 under coach Matt LaFleur, they’ve scored 85 points in the first two games of this season. They scored 85 in the first four of last season.
Still not enough? According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Packers and the 1991 Buffalo Bills are the only teams in NFL history to register 85-plus points and 1,000-plus yards in the first two games of a season.
There’s only one other time in franchise history when the Packers scored 40-plus points in each of their first two games. The other? That was 1919. Say what you want about the Packers feasting on the Vikings’ young cornerbacks in Week 1 or the Lions’ injury replacements in Week 2, but at least they’re professionals. In 1919, Green Bay beat Menominee (Mich.) North End 53-0 and the Marinette (Wis.) Northerners 61-0.
“Obviously, we missed a couple opportunities in the passing game. But I like where we’re at. I knew we were at a different place starting this year than last year, even though we didn’t have the offseason program and OTAs, and training camp was different. I really felt better about my feel within the offense and what we on paper had talked about doing. A lot of stuff has played itself out in the first two weeks. It was important. Today’s a game we expect to win.”
One week after Rodgers and Davante Adams demolished Minnesota’s revamped secondary, it was Rodgers and Aaron Jones who led the onslaught. Jones ran for a career-high 168 yards, led the team with four receptions and 68 receiving yards, and piled up a career-high 236 yards from scrimmage. After leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns last year, he scored three times against the Lions.
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“It was a lot of fun,” Jones said. “Coming in, Coach said we’ve got to marry the run and the pass and it all starts in the run game. For us, it all starts up front. Those guys did a great job of coming out and just getting after it and opening up lanes. Big Dog, Marcedes (Lewis), he told me just stay with it because at first it was a lot of 5-yard carries, 5, 4, 3 , and he was like, ‘You’re going to bust that big one. Just stay with it.’ He manifested it and it happened.”
Rodgers was exceptional again. He finished 18-of-30 for 240 yards and two touchdowns. A handful of drops prevented an even bigger day.
“I like the adjustments that we made from Week 1 to Week 2,” Rodgers said. “I think we did a good job in-game with our adjustments, as well, finding ways to move some guys around, get them touches. It’s my second year in the offense and I’m feeling comfortable with things, which has allowed us to do definitely more than we could last year two games in.”
Green Bay had two 40-point games total in the five seasons from 2015 through 2019. It’s got two this season, despite the elimination of the offseason program, truncated training camp and lack of preseason. With no instant-impact weapons added on offense, how has such a mediocre offense turned into such a dynamo?
“I’d say a lot of guys being on the same page and having a lot of good players,” LaFleur said in explaining the team’s offensive success.
But then, he switched gears. LaFleur loves to talk about “pressing the reset button” and going “1-0” every week. The offense has been fantastic but he’s not doing any victory laps.
“We’re two games into this thing,” he continued. “Am I happy with where we are? Yeah. I think we’ve done a lot of great things. Do I think there’s a lot to improve upon? No doubt about it. I think it was evident today. There were situations where we had the ball I want to say on the plus-28 going in and we kind of stalled and went back and ended up getting knocked out of field goal range. There’s a lot to like. There’s a lot to improve upon at the same time.”
Other than dropped passes, those items for improvement would be hard to notice without digging into the film. Green Bay leads the NFL in total offense and scoring. Rodgers has back-to-back games of 100-plus passer ratings after hitting that mark only once during the second half of last season. He’s been sacked only once, a combination of his decisive play and surprisingly strong pass protection from a jumbled offensive line. The running game roared through the Lions to the tune of 259 yards. They have zero turnovers. Third down, a real black eye last season, has been exceptional.
A bigger test is coming next Sunday night. The New Orleans Saints, a team built solely to win this year’s Super Bowl, will provide the true litmus test.
“Our guys put their heart and soul into it, and that’s why they see positive results,” LaFleur said. “But, again, we’re only two games into this thing. We know we’re going to have a really tough opponent in New Orleans next Sunday night. They’ve been consistently one of the best teams in the National Football League since Sean Payton’s been down there. We’re going to have our hands full, we’re going to have to hit the reset button and get back to work.”