They are the only one among eight NFL teams with new head coaches to win their season opener.
Matt LaFleur earned the distinction Thursday night in the season’s grand opening with a 10-3 victory over the Chicago Bears inside Soldier Field — though, LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers were both quick to credit Mike Pettine’s defense for holding Mitchell Trubisky and the offense to just three points and 254 total yards.
The former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator didn’t premiere a terrific Packers offense as the line allowed Rodgers to get sacked five times for 37 yards, mustering just 10 points that were mostly the consequence of Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s big catch. But once again in sync with his start quarterback, LaFleur promised improvements on the way starting this Sunday at noon C.T. when his team hosts the Minnesota Vikings.
“There’s going to be a lot to learn from, and it starts with myself,” LaFleur told reporters during Thursday night’s postgame. “Just can’t tell you how proud I am of the effort that we gave, though, and to come out of here with a victory.”
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Joining new Broncos coach and former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio in losing their opening game with their new team was also Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals), Freddie Kitchens (Cleveland Browns), Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins), Adam Gase (New York Jets) and Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
Former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury didn’t win or lose, but looked good late in his NFL debut as his Kyler Murray-led Arizona Cardinals erased an 18-point deficit and fought to draw with the Detroit Lions in overtime.
LaFleur, though, isn’t basking in the moment. He said he wasn’t thinking about the emotions of the Bears-Packers rivalry coming into the week, and he admitted after the game that they never really caught up to him. Once the win was over, he said he was concentrated on one thing.
“My sole focus is the Minnesota Vikings, and it goes no further than that,” LaFleur said.
Minnesota on LaFleur’s Mind
LaFleur has already watched his next opponent’s “impressive” performance for the week. Running back Dalvin Cook ran all over the Falcons, going for 111 yards and two touchdowns to guide the Vikings to a 28-12 opening victory. Kirk Cousins also looked solid in his limited throws, completing 8 of 10 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown.
Much like the Packers, the Vikings also featured a much-improved pass rush that sacked Matt Ryan to the turf four times and saw Atlanta’s run game gain just 73 yards on 17 carries. It brought back plenty of memories for LaFleur.
In his one and only season as the Rams offensive coordinator in 2017, LaFleur’s offense was held to its fewest points total of the entire year as the team skidded to a 24-7 loss in Minnesota. Todd Gurley, who finished with a career-high 1,305 rushing yards and won NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors, was held to just 45 yards on the day.
“He stresses you,” LaFleur said of Zimmer. “He presents a lot of similar looks and they do a lot of different things out of those looks. And then you combined that with the talent — and again, at all three levels of that defense they’ve got Pro Bowlers everywhere — it certainly is going to be a good task for our offense and a good measuring stick to where we’re at and how much we can improve from last week.”