A work of art it was not. For most of the football world, the Packers-Bears game that kicked off the NFL’s 100th season felt like a game featuring Sid Luckman and Curly Lambeau, with 17 punts booted over the 60 minutes.
But for Packer fans, it was a masterpiece. Taking down the Bears in their house to kick off the season, the Pack’s ninth win at Soldier Field in their last ten games, is a monumental way to start the season. The fact that the defense led the way gives hope that this team can be a factor into January.
Yes, it was ugly. Neither team could run the ball. Both quarterbacks spent much of the night on their backs. Each team was flagged ten times. Defenses have the advantage in the first few weeks these days, with offenses spending the month of August in bubble wrap. That would give the Bears the advantage–usually–but Mike Pettine’s unit was more than up to the challenge and was the story of the game.
It’s just one game and it is the Bears, but they were a top ten offense a year ago and most expect them to take another step this season, with all of the talent surrounding their third year quarterback. But it is Trubisky who holds the keys to their championship hopes and he looked a lot like virtually every other QB the Bears have trotted out since the Favre-Rodgers era.
Matt Nagy’s play calling provided an assist. Having Trubisky drop back 45 times is ridiculous. They abandoned the running game, despite having electric rookie David Montgomery, the dangerous Tarik Cohen and Mike Davis at his disposal–and that played right into Pettine’s hand.
The defense had a lot to do with that. Three three defensive free agents all made their mark with Za’Darius and Preston Smith wreaking havoc all night and Adrian Amos delivering the dagger with the pick in the end zone, that assured the Packers would leave with yet another win on the Chicago lakefront.
Rookie Darnell Savage had a strong debut and there was even a Kevin King sighting. Yes, he dropped a sure interception early, but he played and he was not carted off at any point in the game, so that’s progress. My only concern on that side of the ball was the three penalties amassed by Tramon Williams. Overall, the defense looks like an entirely new animal and with Kirk Cousins and Joe Flacco up next, they have a chance to flex in front of the home crowd the next two weeks.
Now for the ugliness. The offense was a disaster and gives reason for concern. It wasn’t a huge surprise that they got out of the gate slowly, but -12 yards in the first quarter is unacceptable. You don’t want to read too much into a week one performance, and the Bears defense is obviously as tough as it gets, but Rodgers’ play raised some red flags. His arm strength doesn’t seem to be there. The big play to MVS that led to the game’s only touchdown was a pass that was under thrown a bit. His Hail Mary to end the half didn’t reach the end zone. He didn’t have the same mustard we’re accustomed to seeing. Is that rust or age? We’ll find out as the season moves along.
I can’t decide if I’d give the game ball to Pettine, Amos or JK Scott. The punter was absolutely massive in this game, consistently pinning the Bears deep, assuring that Tarik Cohen couldn’t tilt the field with a big return. He carried over a strong training camp with a performance that went a long way in helping the Pack win this game.
Another observation: the Pack’s run blocking was abysmal and it’s only a matter of time before Elgton Jenkins replaces Lane Taylor at left guard. I understand why Taylor got the nod, with three tough defenses to start the season (Bears, Vikes, Broncos). But Taylor got dominated and the whole unit needs be a whole lot better. Yes, the Bears front seven is tops in the league, but this offense is predicated on running the football effectively and they were inept on Thursday night.
We had no idea what to expect from Matt Lafleur on opening night, having been dealt a brutally tough assignment for the opener. He stubbed his toe a bit, like having to call timeout before the first play to open the second quarter, like wasting a challenge on a Bears completion that wasn’t even close to offensive pass interference. Like running the ball on third and five on the Pack’s last offensive play, when a completion for a first down would have ended the game.
But there were more hits than misses and he clearly has much more in his offensive arsenal than he showed. With ten days to prepare for the Vikings, look for him to install lots of new stuff that the Purple didn’t see in the opener. It was nice to see production from the tight ends and MVS, but I was surprised that Geronimo Allison wasn’t targeted once and that Danny Vitale didn’t get a little run in the offense.
But the story on this night was Pettine’s squad. If they have indeed turned a corner and become a top ten defense in 2019, the Pack will be back. This team one just once on the road last season (in OT over the Jets). For now, we’ll take a divisional road win over the hated Bears and get ready to play five of the next six games at home.