GREEN BAY — The Green Bay Packers offense flipped the script Sunday, Sept. 15.
Then their script ran out of plays and, not coincidentally, their offense to ran out of gas.
Not that it mattered for a Packers team that relied on its improved defense to stiff-arm the onrushing Minnesota Vikings for a 21-16 victory in their home opener at Lambeau Field, pushing its record to 2-0 and marking it as one of the NFL's surprise early season teams.
Unlike their season-opening, 10-3 victory over the Chicago Bears, the Packers couldn't have looked better on offense at the start of the game Sunday.
Against Chicago, the offense had three-and-outs on its first three possessions and never got appreciably better.
Against Minnesota, the Packers scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions, racing to a 21-0 lead in stunningly easy fashion.
Once the Packers worked through their 20-play, game-opening script, however, the energetic home crowd was reminded that the shiny, new offense of first-year coach Matt LaFleur remains under construction. That's OK, the way the Packers defense is playing, the offense can take its sweet time coming together. Besides, scoring 21 points and rolling up 171 yards on the first three possessions was tangible evidence that progress is being made.
"We've had a couple good quarters out of eight," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "We've got a lot of work to do. The fun thing about it is, we have moved the ball at times very easily. I think we made improvements from Week 1 to Week 2, but the biggest thing is we're 2-0. We owe a lot of that to our defense. ... But I think there's still a lot of great potential in this offense."
Actually, the offense has probably played one good quarter out of eight, but what a quarter it was. Rodgers was completing passes at every level, running back Aaron Jones was grinding out yards and wide receiver Davante Adams kept getting open against a Vikings defense that is on a par with the Bears' elite unit.
For a brief stretch, the Packers offense was a sight to behold, a smooth-running machine that combined precision and deception to keep the Vikings defense on its heels. This was how the offense was supposed to look when LaFleur, with a sparkling offensive pedigree in hand, was hired to replace Mike McCarthy.
The offensive splurge didn't last, but it didn't have to. For a short time anyway, the promise and potential of LaFleur's offense was out there for all to see.
"It felt crisp, it felt clean," LaFleur said. "We were getting chunk plays both in the run game and in the passing game. I thought our operation was good. We were converting on third down. I think the two third downs that we did not convert in the first half were the two short-yardage situations. So, the operation felt smooth."
If the Packers can smooth it out for four quarters, there's no telling where this season could end up. But as good as the offense was at the start, it was just as ineffective the rest of the way, something that can't be discounted.
The Packers had 167 yards and 21 points in the game's first 16 minutes, 168 yards and no points in the final 44. At 21-0, Rodgers had completed 10 of 11 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns. For the rest of the game, he was 12-of-23 for 68 yards.
Still, it's hard not to look at the first three offensive series and imagine the possibilities because everything LaFleur talked about bringing to Green Bay was on display.
On the very first play, Rodgers used a play-action fake and found Adams deep for 39 yards. On second down, two backs — Jones and Jamaal Williams — were in the game, Williams went in motion and Rodgers threw a swing pass to Jones for 6 yards. Two plays later, they used the same motion, only this time Rodgers faked to Jones and found Williams with a screen pass on the other side, resulting in a 15-yard touchdown.
The Packers' second possession was highlighted by heavy usage of Adams. To free him from every-down coverage by the Vikings' best cornerback, Xavier Rhodes, LaFleur moved Adams into the slot or used him in bunch formations. Adams beat safeties for receptions of 21 and 6 yards, both of which converted third downs.
On the third scoring drive, LaFleur put Rodgers on the move. The quarterback rolled left and completed a 15-yard pass to Adams, then rolled right and tossed a 7-yard pass to Jones that he carried to the 2.
While all this was going on, LaFleur was also establishing the run with Jones, something the Packers couldn't do against the Bears.
"We came out hot," Jones said. "We thought we could do no wrong. We've just got to continue to work at it because the fourth drive, fifth drive, sixth drive, we want points on those as well. You want something positive to move the ball. We did come out with a great start though, which is what coach wanted, but we've got to continue to build on that."
They'll have to because once the Packers went off their script, things didn't go so well. The Vikings' zone coverage kept the Packers receivers from getting open and the offense was never able to adjust.
Still, this was the first time Packers fans got to see the dizzying array of motions and actions in LaFleur's offense and the big plays that result from them. For one quarter anyway, the fans had to like what they saw.
Packers trade Davis
The Oakland Raiders acquired wide receiver/returner Trevor Davis from the Packers, according to multiple reports Wednesday, Sept. 18.
The compensation for Davis has yet to be reported.
Davis, 26, was a fifth-round pick of the Packers in 2016. He has one catch for 28 yards through two games this season along with three punt returns for 1 yard.
He has 40 punt returns for 449 yards (11.2 average) and 35 kick returns for 791 yards (22.6 average) in his career, along with nine catches for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Davis had five receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders in a preseason game Aug. 22.