EAGAN, Minn. -- Aaron Rodgers was quick to point out immediately after Green Bay’s 10-3 victory over the Bears in Chicago in last week’s NFL season opener that these aren’t the same Packers we’ve seen of late.
“We showed folks watching that we aren’t just an offensive football team anymore,” said Rodgers, who has spent much of his career carrying the team with his future hall of fame talents. “We got a defense.”
To say the Packers’ defense was dominant is an understatement. Not only did it hold the Bears to 254 yards of offense, it lived in the head Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, making him miserable from the first play to the last.
The offseason additions of edge rushers Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith paid dividends immediately, wreaking havoc in the Bears’ backfield, while new safeties Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos held things down in the secondary. Add in the improvement of holdovers like nose tackle Kenny Clark, middle linebacker Blake Martinez, and cornerback Jaire Alexander, and it’s not hard to see a world in which the Packers will actually be led by their defense this season.
And yes, the Minnesota Vikings have taken notice heading Sunday’s game at Lambeau Field.
“They have some better players,” coach Mike Zimmer said, rifling through a handful of players that caught his eye. “They added a lot of good players this offseason. They gave a lot of different looks last week. We’ll have to see what they do against us.”
Obviously, the fact that Trubisky has looked so-so at points throughout his career has to factor into the narrative. It’s not like the Packers just shut down Tom Brady.
“It’s kind of hard to say,” wide receiver Stefon Diggs said when asked about the Packers’ defense as a whole. “As far as watching tape, the thing that jumps out is that they are more athletic and faster on the outside. It’s a different team from last season.”
As impressive as the Vikings looked in their opening 28-12 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, especially the ground game, a revved-up pass rush by the Packers is something that could throw the whole operation out of sync.
“You have to block them,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “They signed some good players on the edge there that are pretty stout. It starts with blocking them in the passing game and in the running game. They’re going to try to defeat blocks all game long, so that’s where it starts and really where it ends for us.”
If the Vikings don’t get a solid effort from the offensive line, there’s a chance Cousins could end up looking a lot like Trubisky this weekend.
“They are playing with good energy and flying around and makings plays,” running back Dalvin Cook said. “It’s going to be an intense game, so we have to expect their best. It’s the second game, so we never really know what to expect from teams. There are still a lot of things that they can do. We just have expect it all and go out there and play by our rules.”