MINNEAPOLIS — In the 10 previous times the Vikings had faced Aaron Rodgers with Mike Zimmer at the helm, Minnesota's defense had found a way to get to the future Hall of Famer.
Without counting the lone 2017 matchup in which Rodgers played just eight snaps and was injured at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings had racked up multiple sacks in nine of the 10 games.
Vikings defenders sacked Rodgers at least four times in half those games, always seemingly finding a way to get him on the ground.
But in the season opener Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, Rodgers' jersey was virtually as clean after the game as it was at the start of it. For the first time in the Zimmer era against Rodgers, the Vikings defense did not record a sack against the quarterback in a full game.
"We didn't get much pressure on him, that's for sure," Zimmer said after the 43-34 loss in Week 1.
As a result, Rodgers and the Packers offense simply had their way against the Vikings.
"I think any time you play Aaron Rodgers, you've got to know that's possible," said safety Harrison Smith. "He made some good throws today, some great throws today – a lot of them – and we didn't do our part to stop it."
The 43 points scored by Green Bay were the fifth-most the Vikings have allowed in a Border Battle. Even worse, Minnesota allowed its most points under Zimmer and the most at U.S. Bank Stadium since the venue opened in 2016.
Rodgers' final line — 364 passing yards, four touchdown passes and a passer rating of 127.5 — told most of the story on Sunday.
But not all of it. There were hidden stats, too, as he got the Vikings to jump offsides twice on third downs to move the sticks for the Packers.
"I think we made too many mistakes, obviously. We didn't cover them very good. I know we gave up some big plays," Zimmer said. "Probably more upset about the jumping offsides on third downs. We know Rodgers is a hard-count guy.
"Probably wouldn't happen if we have fans in the stands, but that's no excuse," Zimmer added. "And we let him out of the pocket. We know that when he gets out of the pocket that bad things happen."
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday.
A pair of veteran Vikings defenders concurred with Zimmer's frustration about the free yards.
"Got me today. Got a couple guys. His hard count is very convincing," said Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. "He's one of the best in the league at it. You just got to be disciplined, got to hold your water, got to look at the ball as much as you can when you're in that position and not jump and put your team in some tough situations."
Smith added: "I think [it happened] at least two [times]. And you've got to know coming in that he's the best at that. It's one thing to talk about it, but we've got to take it out on the field. That's on us."
Rodgers zipped the ball around to his favorite targets, especially Davante Adams. The wide receiver finished with 14 receptions for 156 yards and two scores.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling had 96 yards on four catches, including a 45-yard score over rookie cornerback Cameron Dantzler. Allen Lazard had 63 yards and a score on four receptions.
Valdes-Scantling's score came with just 14 seconds left in the first half, and helped give Green Bay a 22-7 cushion.
"Dantzler was in good position," Zimmer said. "He looked back – kind of eased up, looked back for the ball – I think that was the touchdown right before the half."
Perhaps it's no surprise that the Vikings defense couldn't get to Rodgers as the game wore on. After all, they were on the field for a whopping 41 minutes and 16 seconds. (Minnesota's 18:44 time of possession Sunday was its lowest regular-season total in franchise history).
That surpassed Green Bay's previous time of possession at U.S. Bank Stadium, which was 37:32 in Week 16 of the 2019 season.
"I think that was telling as far as the yards we gave up, the points we gave up, not getting off on third down," Smith said of the possession disparity. "We kept allowing them to drain us, and that's what happens when you do that. You're not going to win a lot of games that way."
The Vikings are now 0-1 after allowing 522 yards on defense, the second-most in the Zimmer era. The loss also snapped a four-game win streak in Week 1 for Minnesota.
But the last time the Vikings lost in Week 1? That would be back in 2015 against the 49ers on
Monday Night Football.
Minnesota ended up going 11-5 that season and winning the NFC North.
"We've got smart guys, No. 1," Zimmer said about not overacting to the loss. "Obviously, we have to play a lot better. I think we [lost at] San Francisco on Monday Night [Football in 2015] and we won the division or something like that.
"There's a lot of football left to be played," Zimmer added, "but we have to get better quick."
Added Barr: "Obviously, we have to be better in a lot of facets of the game. But it's one game, hopefully we can correct these mistakes and move on. We'll be better going forward."
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