GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers dominated the second half of Monday night’s game against the Detroit Lions to post a commanding 35-17 victory. Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes, Aaron Jones scored four touchdowns and Joe Barry’s defense pitched a shutout over the final 30 minutes.
“I think there’s a lot to like but there’s certainly a lot to correct,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “It was a tough game. I don’t think necessarily the score was indicative of how that game went. Anytime that you win the turnover battle, you have a much better opportunity of winning the game, and I think that was the difference.”
Looking at the team by unit, here’s our Week 2 report card.
Passing offense: Last week, Rodgers’ 36.8 passer rating was the fourth-worst of his career. This week, his 145.6 rating was the 13th-best. Until a deep incompletion in the final minutes, he had as many touchdown passes (four) as incompletions. That’s efficiency. He made two sensational throws during the pivotal opening drive of the second half, a 50-yard bomb to Davante Adams on third-and-12 and the 22-yard touchdown pass to Robert Tonyan on third-and-6. Rodgers threw nine passes to Adams, which he turned into eight catches for 121 yards. Running back Aaron Jones, who made history with three touchdown catches, wisely was a featured part of the passing attack because he’s so good in that phase. Randall Cobb showed why he’s here with two key third-down conversions. On the downside, Rodgers was sacked three times – one each by left tackle Elgton Jenkins, new left guard Jon Runyan and rookie right guard Royce Newman – and he missed Marquez Valdes-Scantling on three potential touchdown throws. It didn’t matter against Detroit but it might against San Francisco.
Rushing offense: By the numbers, the running game wasn’t very good. Green Bay averaged just 3.1 yards per carry. Taking kneeldowns out of the equation, that improves to 3.7 – still not good enough but at least better. On 27 runs by the backs, the longest gain went for only 9 yards. The backs had to do a lot of the work. By our unofficial count, of the 93 rushing yards generated by Jones, AJ Dillon and Kylin Hill, 68 came after contact. Of Dillon’s 18 rushing yards, 21 came after contact. Jon Runyan Jr., who got the start at left guard after veteran Lucas Patrick missed most of the week with a concussion, played better against the Lions than he did in the preseason. If defenses are going to dare the Packers to run the ball, they have to make them pay a heavier price. Through two games, Green Bay doesn’t have a single run of even 10 yards.
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Passing defense: It was a tale of two halves. In the first half, Jared Goff was 13-of-16 passing for 137 yards, two touchdowns and a 141.9 passer rating. In the second half, Goff was 13-of-20 passing for 109 yards, one interception and a 58.1 passer rating. “We did make some necessary adjustments at halftime,” LaFleur said. “One of the things I talked to Joe (Barry) about was either play coverage or we have to pressure because, when we were doing our four-man rushes and playing man coverages behind it, we weren’t getting to the quarterback. We needed to affect the quarterback much more.” The Packers finished with 17 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus, led by Kenny Clark’s five. Last week, they had eight. Preston Smith forced an intentional grounding and Rashan Gary’s pressure had a hand in a fumble by Goff but they weren’t impactful enough. The pass rush has to be better because the coverage isn’t good enough. Instead of Jaire Alexander and Kevin King at cornerback and Chandon Sullivan in the slot, Barry went with Alexander and first-round pick Eric Stokes at corner and King in the slot. The sight of King flailing away in coverage on Quintez Cephus’ 46-yard catch on the opening drive was cringe-worthy, but so was the absolute lack of a pass rush on that play. The opening touchdown came on a coverage bust in which, again, Goff had all day to go through his reads on the right before moving across the field to find Cephus all alone in the end zone to the far left. Can the Packers survive against top passing attacks if Za’Darius Smith isn’t healthy and productive? That question might determine the success or failure of the season.
Rushing defense: The Lions rushed 19 times for 108 yards, a 5.7-yard average. Goff led the way with 46 yards. That includes a 17-yard run when he kept the ball on a read-option and a 26-yard scramble in garbage time. Detroit’s backfield tandem of D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams combined for 62 yards on 15 tries, a 4.1-yard average. That was an improvement over last week, an encouraging sign because the Lions do have good backs and a quality offensive line. Clark was active, as were linebackers De’Vondre Campbell and Krys Barnes, but the rest of the defensive line continues to get pushed around. Five of Campbell’s 13 tackles limited the play to 3 yards or less.
Special teams: After a so-so debut, punter Corey Bojorquez punted three times for a 46.7-yard average and a 43.3 net. Of his seven punts in two games, only one has been returned. On the bright side, Hill’s hurdling kickoff return covered 41 yards and set up the game-tying touchdown late in the first half. “It was probably one of the longest kickoff returns that I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Adams said. “I wish I didn't have to say that, but that just goes to show that he’s a great weapon for us, too.” On the downside, Gordon Igwebuike had a 33-yard kickoff return to the 41 and Detroit won the net punt battle by an average of 9.2 yards per kick.
Coaching: Give LaFleur credit for riding Jones after he carried only five times in Week 1. Jones got the ball seven times on the opening touchdown drive. On the second drive, three passes resulted in a three-and-out punt. So, LaFleur gave Jones the ball six times on the second touchdown drive. Barry made the right moves to get the Lions’ defense under wraps in the second half so Green Bay could pull away. Maybe it wasn’t necessary with a veteran roster, but LaFleur’s steady tone certainly didn’t hurt given what happened in Week 1. There was no panic in the week leading up to the game, and there was no panic when the Lions led at halftime.