Finally, the NFL season has come and the players are ready to storm the gridiron once more. Taking the field to kick off the NFL’s 100-year anniversary, the historic rivalry between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears continued on Thursday, Sept. 5, at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was heavily discussed over the offseason regarding his involvement in the firing of long-term head coach Mike McCarthy, and his already public relationship with new head coach Matt LaFleur, had a lot to prove in the opener to silence his critics.
Linebacker Khalil Mack and the rest of the Bears’ star-studded defense stopped Rodgers and the Packers’ offense from lighting up the scoreboard in the first quarter. Green Bay netted a negative 16 yards on offense in the first quarter, the worst total of Rodgers’ career and the worst offensive output in a quarter since 1996.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears’ offense weren’t able to capitalize on their defensive power, outside of a 38-yard field goal from kicker Eddy Pineiro, as an impressive Packers front seven stifled the Bears ground game, while the young secondary stopped Trubisky and Chicago’s offense through the air.
Rodgers headed back onto the field in the second quarter, looking to capitalize on a blitzing Chicago front seven with a deep shot against a single high safety; he got his wish, and then some, on first-and-10 from his own 26-yard line. On a play-action fake to running back Aaron Jones, Rodgers rolled left back into the pocket, hesitated, and then fired a 47-yard dime down the field into the waiting hands of wide receiver Marques Valdes-Scantling, the longest passing play of the game. Valdes-Scantling beat single coverage against veteran corner Prince Amukamara, putting Rodgers in position in the Bears red zone to throw tight end Jimmy Graham a jump ball in the end zone for the lone touchdown of the contest.
Green Bay’s defense, in addition to Chicago’s defense, truly dictated the remainder of the game. Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s squad sacked Trubisky five times, including on Chicago’s final offensive play. Packers safety Adrian Amos, who signed with Green Bay in the offseason after spending the beginning of his career with the Bears, picked off an end-zone pass into double coverage with two minutes left in the game, the only turnover of the contest. Outside of the interception, the Packers held Trubisky to 26 completions on 45 attempts for only 228 yards.
The Packers’ signal caller was all smiles after the game.
“Yeah, it was fun to watch. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a [Packers defensive] performance like that. Obviously, a lot of credit to Mike Pettine and his staff, but to those players, just incredible,” Rodgers said after the Packers’ defensive 10-3 victory over Chicago.
Of course, that aforementioned defense had all that support Thursday night from the likes of newcomers in free agent linebackers Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith, who combined for two and a half sacks, giving Green Bay’s defense the boost that it needed.
It was a defensive battle also marked by sloppy offense and penalties. Surprising for both typically well-disciplined squads, each team committed 10 penalties. There was a total of 467 yards of offense, and several drops accounted for the lack of yardage. The flags hit an extreme at one point, as Chicago had three straight penalties to put their offense in a first-and-40, which the Bears failed to convert. In review of both teams, a lack of action in the preseason clearly left some rust on both offenses. While Trubisky struggled to make his reads in head coach Matt Nagy’s offense, Rodgers at times looked uncomfortable in coach Matt LaFleur’s new offensive system. Rodgers is still a two-time league MVP, and a lone game shouldn’t dictate the Packers’ offensive capability for the season, but Nagy’s relationship with Trubisky may strain over the course of the season.
Next week, the Packers will play host to the Minnesota Vikings, while the Bears will go on the road to face the Denver Broncos, both on Sunday, Sept. 15.