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Stats That Stood Out: Vikings-Packers Week 1

The Vikings opened their 60th season at home with a 43-34 loss against the Packers Sunday absent the normally raucous atmosphere.

Minnesota struggled to pressure Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and get off the field on defense, allowing the Packers to possess the football for 41:16.

That means the Vikings only held the pigskin for 18:44, which is a franchise low in a game, according to Elias Sports Bureau (stat tracked by the NFL since 1977). Minnesota scored on its opening drive but hit a rough patch in the second quarter.

Here are three stats that stood out:

1. Holy improbable completions, Batman!

Rodgers completed 32 of 44 passes for 364 yards and four scores. Kirk Cousins completed 19 of 25 passes for 259 yards with two scores and a costly interception.

Out of those 51 combined completions, Next Gen Stats calculated that the quarterbacks combined to complete eight of the 20 least likely passes in Week 1 (excluding the Monday Night Football double header). No other game had more than two combined passes by quarterbacks.

The completion probability takes into account air distance, air yards and receiver separation while also leveraging "other previously unrecorded metrics such as receiver distance from sideline, and more. Improbable Completions looks at passes with the lowest Completion Probability each week with a minimum of 10-plus air yards, and all scoring plays."

Rodgers was able to connect with Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard on a total of five such passes. Adam Thielen was on the receiving end of all three of the completions from Cousins.

Table inside Article
Connection Play Result Likely Comp. %
1. Rodgers to Adams 40-yard touchdown 14.3
2. Rodgers to Adams 24-yard touchdown 16.2
3. Cousins to Thielen 19-yard touchdown 19.1
5. Cousins to Thielen 37-yard touchdown 22.8
6. Rodgers to Valdes-Scantling 45-yard touchdown 23.2
14. Rodgers to Lazard 4-yard touchdown 28.9
16. Cousins to Thielen 25-yard reception 31.6
19. Rodgers to Valdes-Scantling 39-yard reception 32.2

Cousins' completion percentage of 76 percent was 15.3 points higher than expected (third-highest above expected in Week 1), and Rodgers' rate of 72.7 percent was 14.2 points higher than expected (fourth-highest above expected in Week 1).

2. Loaded and unloaded boxes

After Green Bay running back Aaron Jones totaled 270 rushing yards and three touchdowns against Minnesota last season, including a career-high 154 at U.S. Bank Stadium last December, it could be understood that the Vikings would want to prevent that this time around.

Instead of the 6.7 yards per carry that Jones racked up in December, he averaged 4.1 yards (66 on 16 rushes), but at what cost?

According to Next Gen Stats, Jones faced an 8-man box on 43.75 percent of his plays, which was more than any other qualifying running back.

As for Dalvin Cook, who rushed 12 times for 50 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and two scores, "The Chef" faced an 8-man box on 16.67 percent of his plays (tied for 13th).

3. Speed on display

The Vikings have generally been fast on their home turf at U.S. Bank Stadium since the venue opened in 2016, but the Packers showed their speed on multiple plays Sunday.

Green Bay carded four of the 20 fastest speeds by a ball carrier:

Table inside Article
Player Play Speed
3. Valdes-Scantling 45-yard touchdown 21.11 mph
13. Tyler Ervin 21-yard rush 20.29 mph
14. Lazard 19-yard rush 20.27 mph
19. Adams 40-yard reception 20.11 mph

The Packers two sacks also were among the 20-fastest of the Week. Za'Darius Smith ranked 11th by getting to Cousins in 3.64 seconds, and Jaire Alexander's blitz that resulted in a safety ranked 18th with a time of 3.94 seconds.

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