Who said Aaron Rodgers needed more weapons for the Green Bay Packers to be successful?
He sure didn't in the Packers' season-opening 43-34 win over the Minnesota Vikings at a fanless U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Rodgers seemed as happy as ever heading into his 16th NFL season even though the team drafted his possible eventual successor, Jordan Love, in the first round instead of adding a playmaking weapon. And he relied on an old favorite and a couple of young receivers he talked up this summer.
The result was the first four-touchdown-pass game in a season opener for a Packers quarterback since Brett Favre in 1999. Rodgers threw two to Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams and one each to up-and-comers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard -- the two other starters who benefited from Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst's decision to ignore the position in the draft even though most outsiders viewed it as the team's biggest weakness.
It was Rodgers' most touchdown passes to receivers in a game since Week 4 of the 2017 season. He finished 32-of-44 for 364 yards without an interception, and the Packers scored their most points ever in a season opener.
"I [saw] that laser focus come since the beginning of the week," Adams said of his quarterback. "Obviously, he's always extremely focused, but there's a certain type of look in his eye he has, and he definitely had that going into the week, walk around wearing his headphones and doing some stuff that you don't necessarily see all the time.
"... We talked a lot this week just about how we wanted to attack this game, starting fast, just because we know the team goes as we go. So, we try to make sure we put as much as we can on us and just lead the way."
It didn't hurt that Rodgers had the Vikings' young cornerbacks, Mike Hughes and Cameron Dantzler, to pick on.
Rodgers targeted Adams, last year's receiving leader, time after time, feeding him nine times for 103 yards and a touchdown in the first half alone. Forget that Adams dropped a touchdown on a failed fourth-and-1 play on one of three failed red zone trips early in the game. Adams caught touchdown passes of 24 yards in the second quarter and 1 yard in the third on the way to 14 catches for 156 yards.
Adams' 14 catches tied the franchise record held by the legendary Don Hutson, who set it in 1942.
"I thought Aaron did what he always does, just goes out there and executes at a high level each and every week," Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. "He's one of the most accurate quarterbacks out there. And then [Adams], it's a credit to him for his ability to beat man-to-man coverage."
Rodgers also trusted in Valdes-Scantling, even though the deep-threat receiver all but disappeared in the second half of last season, and Lazard, a late bloomer last year after starting the 2019 season on the practice squad. Valdes-Scantling caught four passes for 96 yards and a touchdown, while Lazard had four catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Rodgers and Valdes-Scantling connected on a 45-yard bomb just days after the quarterback heaped praise on the third-year receiver.
"I would say that the receiver that I've been most impressed with, especially the last week, 10 days of camp is Marquez," Rodgers said leading into the regular season. However, in a stretch that exemplified Valdes-Scantling's maddening inconsistency, he dropped two balls in the third quarter -- one on third down that would've extended a drive and another that might have gone for a 61-yard touchdown on a perfectly thrown deep ball -- before hauling in a 39-yard pass on a free play.
Rodgers also showed off his mastery at the line of scrimmage once again, drawing three neutral-zone infractions or defensive offside penalties Sunday. That's tied for his most in a game over the past eight seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He turned one of them into the 39-yard completion to Valdes-Scantling in the third quarter.
Keep in mind, Rodgers did this as the road quarterback, albeit in a stadium without fans. Rodgers' four touchdown passes moved him past Eli Manning and into seventh place on the all-time list with 368. Last year's touchdown machine, Aaron Jones, scored his first one of the season. He'll need 18 more to match last year's NFL co-leading total.
In all, Rodgers had one of his best days in years throwing to his receivers, completing 22 of 27 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns to the group. It was his highest percentage (81.4) and most yards to the receiver position in a game since 2016.
He completed five passes that went 20-plus yards downfield Sunday, including a pair of touchdowns, to match his most completions on such throws in a game during his career. He was pressured on seven of his 44 dropbacks (16%) and was not pressured on his final 18 dropbacks.
"The big focus of this offseason for me in training camp was, I've talked about seeing some stuff in some old film, but a lot of it was the comfort in the offense," Rodgers said. "I feel like I can deal the ball as quickly as I want to, and today was a good start for that. I feel like I was on time with my throws. There wasn't the need for a lot of extended plays, and the couple that we had turned into pretty good plays. I'm feeling good about the tempo that we had, feeling good about the rhythm and the balance that I had in the pocket as well."
It also was the Packers' seventh straight NFC North win after they ran the table (6-0) in division games last year on the way to their 13-3 regular season. It's their longest division winning streak since the 2012 season, when they ran their streak to 12 straight.
The Packers' offense flourished despite finishing the game with a makeshift offensive line. Already without preferred starting right tackle Billy Turner (knee), they lost left guard Lucas Patrick (shoulder) and right guard Lane Taylor (right knee) to in-game injuries. Elgton Jenkins, their regular left guard, started at right tackle but moved back to his old spot after Patrick's injury, and Rick Wagner finished the game at right tackle. Rookie Jon Runyan replaced Taylor at right guard.
With Love watching as the inactive third quarterback, neither the Packers' injuries nor their lack of additions at receiver was an issue on Sunday.