The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, fittingly, opened up the NFL’s 100th season with some old-fashioned football.
The definition of a defensive struggle, both teams had something to prove on that side of the ball. But the brunt of proving worth fell on the visiting team.
There is always so much to unpack after Week 1 matchups, so here is a surface-scratching dive into what the Packers play proved in Chicago on Thursday.
The offense has some kinks to work out
First-year head coach Matt LaFleur was brought in to change the culture on offense and work with Aaron Rodgers to keep it firing on all cylinders. That did not happen last night.
Rodgers was 18-30 with 203 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions in Week 1. Good enough to win the game, but not good enough to inspire confidence that this pairing will set the league on fire. It is worth noting that Rodgers did sit the entire preseason, but fans are right to believe all of the offseason work should have translated to more than 10 points.
Also worth noting is that the Packers played one of the best defenses in the league last night. But the game-planning left a little to be desired, as the coaching staff should be well-versed in division opponents, regardless of the defensive talent.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling had the most receiving yards at 52, although 47 of those came on one play. The always-trustworthy Davante Adams had four receptions for 36 yards. And Jimmy Graham showed flashes of his old self, hauling in three passes for 30 yards and a touchdown.
Apart from that, the offense did not have much to be proud of. The rushing game was near non-existent as Aaron Jones carried the ball 13 times for 39 yards, while Jamaal Williams ended up with zero yards on five rushes. The offensive line, on top of not being able to create running space, allowed Rodgers to be sacked five times.
Again, the Bears defense is formidable, to put it lightly, but the offense looked a little lost and out of sync on Thursday. Rodgers, LaFleur, and the rest of the offense have some work to do before Week 2 against another divisional opponent with another good defense.
Green Bay may finally have a defense
While the offense struggled against last year’s top defense, Green Bay’s own came to play. On the road, no less.
The new-look defense under coordinator Mike Pettine was excellent in the season opener. Apart from holding the Bears’ offense to just a field goal, they collected five sacks and an interception.
The five sacks translated to 37 yards lost. The newcomers Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith collected 2.5 collectively (1.5 for Preston and 1 for Za’Darius). The interception came in the clutch from another offseason acquisition, Adrian Amos. The former Bear plunged the dagger into the hearts of his former team
Defensive stalwart Blake Martinez also collected a sack, and seven total tackles, 5 of them for a loss of yards. Not to mention two near-picks by the back end of the defense that could’ve changed the game even more.
Detractors will say that the Bears’ offense is more anemic than expected, but let’s not take away from this performance. There are plenty of takeaways here, but the most important one is the potential this unit has.
In 2010-2011, the Packers had a top 10 defense. That same year, they won the Super Bowl. Since then the defense has suffered a steady decline, with few exceptions, and have failed to make the Super Bowl since. One game is the smallest sample size possible, but if the D continues to play well, a deep playoff run is almost assured.
J.K. Scott may be the secret weapon
It is never often enough that sports media praises punters. But credit where credit is due, J.K. Scott did his job last night, and then some.
Scott punted the ball nine times in the game, a busy night to say the least. He averaged 47.6 yards per punt, kicking for a total of 428 yards. Five of his punts were inside the Bears’ 20-yard line. The Alabama product also booted two 63-yard punts, the second of which pinned Chicago back at its 14-yard line with just 1:33 left to play in the 4th quarter.
Last year, his first in the NFL, Scott averaged 44.7 yards on his 71 punts. Only 19 of those landed inside the 20-yard line, so he is on pace to smash his previous mark.
Understandably, their team’s punter is not someone fans want to see on the field. But a great one is the key to turning that field around quickly. The Packers seem to have one, and he should not be taken for granted.
This was a team win through and through.
The defense played a truly outstanding game, holding the Bears to only 3 points in their lowest-scoring season opener since 2007.
However sloppy the offense seemed, all 10 of the Packers’ points came because of their play. The only turnover of the game did not set up a score, so all credit goes to Rodgers and his unit.
And the special teams delivered in a big way. Not just the aforementioned punting greatness, but all-time leading Packers scorer Mason Crosby drilling a 39 yard field goal and hitting the extra point.
The offseason additions collected sacks, and delivered two daggers. One in the form of an interception late (Amos), and the second manifesting as a sack on 4th-and-8 to put the game away for good (P. Smith and Z. Smith who combined for the sack).
There is so much to look forward to in Green Bay in 2019. If the offense irons out the kinks, which NFL fans have to expect will absolutely happen, this could be one of the most dangerous teams in the league, bar none.
Featured Image courtesy of Associated Press
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