Packers used no fans to their advantage in beating Vikings

On the road, Aaron Rodgers’ hard count was a weapon

The Packers offense lines up for a play against the Minnesota Vikings in an empty U.S. Bank Stadium

"Weird," "strange," and "different" were the main three descriptions.

That's how Davante Adams, Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur all described playing in U.S. Bank Stadium without any fans and, hence, no noise.

There was a lot of speculation leading up to Week 1 just how much small or absent crowds would affect home-field advantage in 2020, and it certainly was a factor in Green Bay's 43-34 win at Minnesota on Sunday.

Not needing to use a silent count in a normally deafening venue, Rodgers drew the Vikings offside with a hard count on the third snap of the game, a third-and-4, to get a gift first down. That drive ended with a field goal.

He did it again in the second quarter, on third-and-3, leading to a touchdown.

Most damaging, he did it a third time late in the third quarter on a crucial third-and-5 with the Packers leading 22-10 and the Vikings looking for a big stop. This time, the Packers got the snap off for a free play after linebacker Anthony Barr jumped, and Rodgers hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling down the seam for a 39-yard gain to the Minnesota 2.

Two snaps later the Packers were in the end zone for a three-score lead, and the Vikings never got the ball back down only two scores the rest of the game. That turned out to be their best shot.

"The cadence was obviously a big factor," Rodgers said. "Definitely was a weapon for us today, keeping them off-balance."

It was the type of command at the line of scrimmage almost no team is ever afforded on the road. Rodgers would have enjoyed even more of that command had he gotten the plays faster from Head Coach Matt LaFleur and gotten the offense out of the huddle quicker.

The effectiveness of Rodgers' cadence and surveying powers makes it all the more paramount the Packers smooth out the communication and make it more efficient, not just at Lambeau Field.

"This is one of the toughest buildings to play in the National Football League, there's no question about that," LaFleur said. "It definitely benefited us from an offensive standpoint in terms of being able to use that hard count."

That doesn't change how just plain odd the experience was for everyone involved, though.

Adams talked about not knowing whether to get up and signal first down after a big catch because no one was there to watch it. Rodgers added how he usually reads the crowd noise for the first read on play results, good or bad, and that didn't exist.

To roll up 522 yards of offense, convert better than 50% on third downs (6-of-11) and dominate time of possession by more than 22 minutes, on the road, especially in a division rival's indoor facility, is impressive.

But it also helps to underscore how level the playing field could be this season regardless of location. In other early games Sunday, the Bears rallied for three fourth-quarter touchdowns at Detroit, and the Seahawks put up 38 points in Atlanta, two other normally loud indoor venues.

The Packers will get their first taste of the other side of that coin next week in their home opener. It probably won't be easy to get accustomed to, but they saw against the Vikings how the home-field advantage can be negated, so mentally it could prove valuable to have played on the road in Week 1.

"One of the strangest experiences I've had in the NFL to be in a stadium like this and have memories of some really rockin' times," Rodgers said.

"Just a different atmosphere. This is a tough place to play with the noise, as is Lambeau, so it's going to be strange next week to not hear our fans either."

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