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Game recap: 5 takeaways from Packers' opening loss to Vikings

Plenty of regrets all around for Green Bay

QB Aaron Rodgers and the offense walk to the sidelines during Sunday's 23-7 loss to the Vikings.
QB Aaron Rodgers and the offense walk to the sidelines during Sunday's 23-7 loss to the Vikings.

MINNEAPOLIS – The Packers dropped their 2022 season opener to the NFC North rival Vikings, 23-7, on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Here are five takeaways from the defeat:

1. It felt like Week 1 déjà vu.

It wasn't as bad on the scoreboard as last year's 38-3 opening loss to the Saints, but it didn't feel any better. The Packers fell behind from the jump and never got going, a frustrating repeat for an 0-1 start.

"Obviously wasn't very good, and that starts with me," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "We definitely have to have a better plan for our team and get our guys prepared better.

"Two years coming out in Week 1 and not look prepared, all of us will look inward."

2. Justin Jefferson has become a nightmare of an opponent.

Jefferson's big game last November allowed the Vikings to squeak out a walk-off win here over the Packers, and he was even better this time.

The third-year star caught nine passes for a career-high 184 yards and two touchdowns, running wide open on a handful of his receptions. He helped Kirk Cousins put up a sparkling 118.9 passer rating with 277 yards.

"They put him in premier spots and attacked our coverage well," LaFleur said. "Certainly we had a couple blown coverages where we cut him loose, and if there's anybody you don't want to cut loose it's No. 18.

"We didn't stop their big-time playmakers and allowed them to make big plays, and if you do that, you're not going to win very many games in this league."

That goes for the other side of the ball, too.

Former Packers Za'Darius Smith got a measure of revenge against his former team, with an early third-down sack and a lot of time in Green Bay's backfield.

3. The Packers know it should've been a different game.

Green Bay thought it had answered Minnesota's opening-drive TD on the Packers' first offensive play, but rookie receiver Christian Watson dropped a deep ball for what should've been a 75-yard touchdown.

Later in the first half, running back AJ Dillon got stuffed on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line when the Packers were looking to tie the score at 7.

Those failures were absolutely haunting as the game wore on.

"We had a lot of chances today, not taking anything away from their defense, but we hurt ourselves many times, myself included," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "We had a lot of opportunities to score more than seven."

Everyone was fired up about dialing up the deep shot early to showcase the speed of Watson, the second-round pick from North Dakota State. He ran a great route and got well behind the defense, but "he just has to finish the play," LaFleur said.

On the fourth-and-goal, while LaFleur wishes he would've called another play he was thinking about, Rodgers was kicking himself for not improvising. It wasn't part of the run-pass option design, but he believed if he'd pulled the ball back and not handed it off to Dillon, he would've "walked in" for a touchdown on his own.

Instead, Smith crashed down from the outside unblocked and helped hold up Dillon.

"Just trust it," Rodgers lamented.

"I don't really like playing those what-if games, but games usually do come down to a few plays here and there … 14 points and we'd have been right in it."

4. Injuries and youth were definitely a factor in the game, but no one wants to make excuses.

The Packers were without tackles David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins, along with No. 1 receiver Allen Lazard. Rodgers mentioned mental mistakes occurring across the board, as well as some bad throws of his own.

Rodgers was sacked four times, threw a jump ball that was picked off, and was pressured regularly into a 67.6 passer rating.

Both the head coach and quarterback wished they'd gotten running backs Aaron Jones and Dillon involved more. While Dillon had 15 touches for 91 total yards (45 rushing, 46 receiving), Jones had just eight touches despite putting up 76 yards (49 rushing, 27 receiving), an average of better than nine yards per play.

"Anytime Aaron Jones comes out of a game with eight touches, that's not good enough," LaFleur said. "We have to lean on those guys."

"Early touches, too, probably," Rodgers added.

See scenes from the Sunday matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sept. 11, 2022.

5. It doesn't get any easier.

The Packers weren't at full strength going in and got even more banged up, as guard Jon Runyan (concussion evaluation), linebackers Quay Walker (shoulder) and Krys Barnes (ankle) and cornerback Keisean Nixon (shoulder) all left the game. Barnes was taken off on a cart with an air cast on his lower leg.

On top of that, next week it's yet another division rival, as the Bears visit Lambeau Field for the home opener coming off a rainy upset win over the 49ers in Chicago.

"There's no time to feel sorry for yourself in this league," LaFleur said.