More Ups Than Downs in Pack's Win Over Da BearsPosted:Sep 14th, 2015 2:36 am
There was much to like about the Pack's eight point season-opening victory over the Bears. There was also plenty to wring our hands and be concerned about. Virtually all of the latter revolves around the defense.
First, the good stuff. Despite virtually no live action since the preseason opener, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense needed just one drive to warm up. Following a three and out, Rodgers led the Pack on a smooth 77 yard drive, mixing run and pass and ending on a "welcome back" 13-yard TD pass to James Jones. They moved it well on the next drive, but a second Jones touchdown was called back on a holding penalty by David Bakhtiari and the team settled for three.
Rodgers was his usual brilliant self against the Bears. He becomes the first QB in NFL history to throw three TDs, no picks and put up a passer rating of 141 against a team three straight times. He mixed it up well, targeting the wounded Randall Cobb five times and connecting each time, including a lovely pass and catch for Rodgers' third TD of the day. He found Davante Adams four times and Richard Rodgers three times.
But it was his instant chemistry with James Jones that was the difference in the openers. It was as if #89 had never left. You get the feeling, as the season goes on, that we'll find ourselves saying often, 'what would the Pack have done without James Jones this season.'
Lacy was his usual solid self on the ground and the offensive line was strong, save a couple of untimely penalties. The yellow flags was something we were grumbling about all day. 10 penalties against the Pack? That's not what we're accustomed to. The most egregious was the defense's lapses on the Bears' second series. Three off sides penalties on the drive, the final one an indefensible one against Sam Shields on a field goal try, that took 3 points off the board and allowed the Bears to convert the touchdown.
It's game one so you don't necessarily expect teams to be razor sharp, but the defense was far from sharp. Penalties, missed tackles; they have a long way to go. Getting Morgan Burnett back will help, as will the return of Leroy Guion in a couple of weeks. But they need to figure out the run defense in a hurry, with Marshawn Lynch and Jamaal Charles coming to town the next two weeks.
They did make a few plays at critical times: like the goal line stand that turned the ball over inside the five and of course, the play of the game, Clay Matthews' inevitable pick of Jay Cutler to put the game away in the final five minutes. But for the most part, Dom Capers and his staff will need air sickness bags when they watch the tape of this one. They allowed the Bears to convert two out of every three third and fourth downs--that needs to get buttoned up in a hurry.
I was concerned about special teams heading into the opener (I'm sure you were, too); but they passed their first test. Ty Montgomery was a decisive, big play kick returner, the coverage units didn't allow any big returns and Crosby and Masthay were just fine.
For the first time in four years, the Pack won its opener. We'll take it. There's plenty of room for improvement, primarily on defense, and that's what we'll all be talking about all week. Sam Shields will need to be a lot better going forward. He was lucky the Bears receivers were nowhere near 100% healthy. He should gain confidence the next two weeks against the less than stellar receiving corps of the Seahawks and Chiefs.
Here come the Sea Chickens, at Lambeau, finally, fresh off an overtime loss in St. Louis. They can withstand an 0-2 start, but they'll come in angry and ready to show the Pack that they can beat the Green and Gold no matter where the game is played. If the Pack can't slow down Beast Mode and their electric rookie punt returner goes wild, they might just be right.
The Pack will need to be a better team in Week 2. And as you know, prime time games at Lambeau seem to bring out the best in them.