Football is back! In an effort to celebrate the 100th season, the NFL decided to forgo the usual kickoff game format. Instead of the defending champions playing in the first game of the season, the league chose to represent the oldest rivalry in its history: the Packers and Bears. Here is the week 1 recap for Packers @ Bears.
Final Score: GB 10 – CHI 3
It was a defensive showdown, to say the least. The Bears had arguably the best defensive unit last season, so it does not necessarily come as a surprise for them to be involved in such a contest. However, having an Aaron Rodgers led team only score 10 points is something else. Let’s examine exactly what occurred.
Potent Pass Rush
For both teams, the pressure provided by the defensive fronts was a huge success. During the 1st quarter, the Packers offensive line had no answer the Bears. Khalil Mack was running free and making plays.
Eventually, Green Bay adjusted by setting up the offensive line so that Mack was always blocked by an offensive tackle. Billy Turner was a great addition in free agency, but there is a reason that he plays right guard right now. When he was tasked with blocking Mack, it turned into one of many sacks for Chicago. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga won some battles against Mack and at other times was able to do enough to walk him past Rodgers. When David Bakhtiari was blocking Mack, there seemed to be nothing that the All-Pro defender could do. In fact, it was Leonard Floyd who seemed to get the best of Bakhtiari in the 3rd quarter, culminating with a sack on 3rd and 15.
Looking at the other side of the ball, the Packers pass rush also made its mark. Free-agent signees Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith were dominant throughout the game. Each managed to get 3 QB hits and they combined for 2.5 sacks. They were both making plays from their outside linebacker spot, although frankly, that position name is misleading. For expected passing downs, Mike Pettine had both Smiths line up on the line of scrimmage, acting more as defensive ends. This was regularly seen on 2nd and certainly 3rd down.
The other Packers defender that had a lot of attention his way was Kenny Clark. After a certain fellow lineman was released, Clark became the go-to guy up front. The good news is that he made plays at key moments. That includes a tackle for loss on 3rd-and-1 on the ensuing possession after the Packers touchdown drive. A conversion on that 3rd down could have turned the momentum in the Bears favor. Instead, they punted once again.
Later on, Clark was also in on a 3rd down sack during the 3rd quarter. The only negative with Clark is that he sometimes lost 1-on-1 battles. For a player who is expected to be double teamed by offensive linemen, the need to win in 1-on-1 situations is imperative.
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In the first quarter, the Packers could not survive the barrage of Bears pass rushers. On top of adjusting the blocking on Khalil Mack, Arron Rodgers himself made a change. He started getting out of the pocket more often. That was the case on the biggest play of the game, a 47-yard reception by Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The offensive line blocked toward the right and Rodgers faked the hand off. It certainly looked like a zone run. But then, Rodgers kept it and rolled to his right where he found time and space to huck it up to Valdes-Scantling.
The pass was very accurate, showing that Rodgers does have some timing with the young receiver. It is these type of misdirection plays that Matt LaFleur wanted to make part of the Packers arsenal. The fake run managed to draw a safety to the line of scrimmage which allowed Valdes-Scantling to be 1-on-1 downfield.
However, there were signs that things still need to be worked on. Late in the 4th quarter, when the Packers were in a clock-killing drive, Rodgers threw an incomplete pass to Valdes-Scantling. It was designed as a quick out with Valdes-Scantling faking like he was going to block in. However, the receiver did not have enough time to get in and out of the fake block and turn around before the ball was at his feet. This is concerning because these are the type of plays that should have been run throughout training camp. So even the absence of pre-season reps for Rodgers should not have affected him that much. Things wll need to be worked on in practice this week.
The Bears offense was no more consistent. Mitch Trubisky made some very accurate throws throughout the game. There was a 27 yarder to rookie running back David Montgomery, a 15-yard strike to Taylor Gabriel, with Jaire Alexander draped all over him and several plays to Allen Robinson. However, Trubisky overshot some passes at times. Also, whenever he was scrambling, he would lose sight of his receivers and miss some opportunities. At one point, Robinson was wide open along the sideline for what would have been a first down. However, Trubisky missed that as he was scrambling to try and gain some yards on the ground.
These inconsistencies plagued Trubisky last season, especially early on. The young quarterback will need to improve upon that quickly if they do not want to fall too far behind in the divisional and playoff race. The good news for the Bears is that they also lost the opener last year and still managed to win the NFC North.
Slot Him In
An effort was made by the Packers to get Davante Adams into space more often. In this Bears game, he was lined up in the slot often. While this did help, Adams was nonetheless held to under 40 yards for the first time since October 2016. That may have more to do with the Bears excellent defense than anything else. Still, more was expected out of Adams.
Throughout training camp, it appeared that Geronimo Allison would be the primary slot receiver. In this game, however, he was used often on the outside, to the detriment of his production. Allison was not even targeted once as Rodgers preferred to exploit the tight end matchups against the Bears. The Packers tight ends combined for 72 yards on 6 catches, including a Jimmy Graham touchdown. Look for Allison to be more involved in future games.
The 11 personnel (1RB, 1TE) was popular with the Packers in this game, it was another grouping that was getting a lot of love. Green Bay employed 2 tight end sets often, but not only in the running game. Using a formation typical of run plays, the Packers were able to get some mismatches for the tight ends to get open.
Arguably the most consistent unit for the Packers was special teams. They certainly were excellent at covering punts. There was constantly multiple gunners meeting at the returner (usually Tarik Cohen) and forcing fair catches. What aided them were the booming punts by J.K. Scott who averaged 47.6 yards on 9 attempts. The most impressive of which was saved for the end of the game. Inside the 2-minute warning, the Packers had the ball deep inside their own territory. Needing to flip field position to make it more difficult for the Bears to score a touchdown, Scott kicked a 63-yard punt that had enough hang time for the gunners to get down and contain.
New Faces For the End
With the understanding that football is the ultimate team sports, it is difficult to point toward any addition as being more important than others. However, there were three key free agents who came through at the end of this long-fought contest. First, there was former Bears safety Adrian Amos. Chicago was in a position to tie the game just before the 2-minute warning as Mitch Trubisky drove the team into the red-zone. Unfortunately for Bears fans, he stared down Allen Robinson and threw into tight coverage. Amos read the play perfectly and got to the spot he needed to get the interception.
After the Packers went 3-and-out following the only turnover of the game (strangely considering all of the QB hits and forced throws) the Bears had one more shot. It was ended on 4th down when both Smiths (Preston and Za’Darius) managed to take Trubisky down. It was a fitting end to such a gritty defensive performance.
Thank you for reading this Packers @ Bears recap for week 1. For more NFL content and game recaps, be sure to check out Full Press Coverage daily.