The Green Bay Packers overcame a slow start and a shaky defensive performance to defeat the Chicago Bears 31-23 in their first game of the regular season.
Neither team had much of a problem on offense for most of the game. The Bears took their first possession 70 yards in 11 plays which resulted in a field goal and a quick 3-0 lead. After the teams exchanged punts, Green Bay marched down the field with a 10 play, 77-yard drive of its own, capped off with a 13-yard touchdown pass to James Jones.
Jones proved to be an incredibly valuable pickup for the Packers. In his first game with Green Bay since 2013, he recorded four receptions for 51 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He made a number of acrobatic grabs that came at big moments for the Packers.
After Jones’ first touchdown, the Bears once again went straight through the Green Bay defense. In a nearly eight minute drive, Chicago went 80 yards in 15 plays and finished the drive with a Matt Forte rushing touchdown. The Bears converted three third downs a fourth down on the drive.
The Packers struggled to get off the field on defense for most of the game. The Bears converted 11 of 17 third downs and 2 of 3 fourth downs. Chicago ran 18 more plays than the Packers, and had a four minute time of possession advantage.
The Bears kicked a late field goal just before halftime to take a 13-10 lead, but little else went right for Chicago the rest of the game.
Green Bay took its first possession of the second half 59 yards, and the drive concluded with Jones’ second touchdown reception of the game. That gave the Packers a 17-13 lead, and Green Bay would maintain its lead for the rest of the game.
Chicago cut the deficit to one with another field goal, but the Packers responded with a touchdown pass to Randall Cobb that culminated a 16-play drive that took nine and a half minutes.
That’s when things began unraveling for the Bears. On its ensuing possession, still down by just eight points, Chicago once again drove down the field without any issues, but turned the ball over on downs at the Green Bay 2-yard line.
The Bears were able to force a three-and-out from Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense, but Jay Cutler threw an interception, his 23rd against the Packers in just 13 games, to linebacker Clay Matthews. A pass interference against the Bears on a deep ball from Rodgers put Green Bay at the Chicago two-yard line, and Eddie Lacy rushed it in to conclude the Packers’ scoring.
Aaron Rodgers and the offense were efficient for the entire game. Rodgers completed 18/23 passes for 189 and three touchdowns and the Packers as a whole were forced to punt just twice. Lacy ended the day with 85 yards on 19 carries, while Davante Adams led the receiving corps with 59 yards.
While the offense was good, the defense has a lot of work to do before facing Seattle next week at Lambeau. Matt Forte rushed for 141 yards on 24 carries, and tackling was an issue throughout the game. Sam Shields led the team in tackles, but was penalized or beat badly in coverage a number of times.
Special teams was also a mixed bag. Ty Montgomery looks to be the real deal in the return game, averaging 35 yards on three returns, and Mason Crosby was perfect in field goals and extra points. But Tim Masthay averaged just 33 yards on his two punts, and a crucial fourth down penalty of a Chicago field goal attempt allowed the Bears to score a touchdown instead.
Overall, a win is a win for the Packers. They won their first season opener since 2011 and got off to a 1-0 record against the NFC North. Nonetheless, the Packers will need better rushing defense and more third down stops to have success throughout the season——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .