Analysis: Green Bay Packers defeat Bears 21-15

This is the 3rd straight season that the Green Bay Packers have won their 1st game of the season.

Although, in each of those opening season wins, the offense has come out flat. The offense wasn't awful against the Bears but there wasn't a lot of passing or rushing yards. No turnovers, but awful pass protection. If you look back at last season, QB Aaron Rodgers was crisp in his first NFL start, but something did seem wrong with RB Ryan Grant. I was an optimist at the time, but in hindsight, Grant wasn't the same runner he had been at the end of 2007. Speaking of 2007, the Packers could have lost the season opener to the Eagles except the special teams bailed them out. The offense is usually behind the defense at the start of the season. They've just got to fix that offensive line. I wonder what Mark Tauscher is up to?

The defense really impressed me. I was concerned they might get beaten up front, but they really controlled the line of scrimmage. All of the linebackers (except my least favorite one) were great. The return of DE Cullen Jenkins made a big difference, and they should be even better once DT B.J. Raji is fully recovered from his ankle injury. 

Bears vs Packers coverageBears vs Packers recapBears vs Packers boxscoreWindy City Gridiron

As usual, the play descriptions are from the play-by-play at NFL.com.

First Quarter

(13:04) 25-R.Grant right end to CHI 32 for 1 yard (55-L.Briggs, 53-N.Roach).

(12:27) 25-R.Grant left tackle to CHI 31 for 1 yard (55-L.Briggs, 44-K.Payne).

Mike McCarthy wants to improve the strength up front because they switched from a zone blocking to a man block scheme. The idea was to open more running lanes for RB Ryan Grant. After they got into FG range, they ran two straight plays to nowhere, and settled for a missed FG attempt. The good news was that the blocking got better as the game went along.

(8:53) 12-A.Rodgers sacked at GB 35 for -7 yards (93-A.Ogunleye).

This was the first of two sacks allowed by RT Allen Barbre, although he seemed to be operating a revolving door for most of the game. He beat out RT Breno Giacomini this preseason, in part, because of a sack allowed by Giacomini that led to the shoulder injury for QB Matt Flynn. But Barbre did redeem himself on the game winning TD drive, NBC showed a good replay of him keeping the DE well outside the pocket. I expect the coaches will stick with him, but he'll need a lot of work this week in practice. And I bet they don't leave Giacomini inactive again.

(7:37) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass incomplete deep right to 80-D.Driver (24-A.Afalava) [54-B.Urlacher].

Oh, that was so close. QB Aaron Rodgers just threw it a little too far. After watching such a crisp preseason from the 1st team offense, it was surprising to watch them struggle with their timing. 

(7:13) 6-J.Cutler pass deep left to 23-D.Hester pushed ob at CHI 38 for 20 yards (31-A.Harris).

I guess I keep expecting WR Devin Hester to fail as a receiver, but he made a nice move to stay inbounds. He should have a big season.

(4:17) 6-J.Cutler pass deep middle intended for 88-D.Clark INTERCEPTED by 36-N.Collins at GB 12. 36-N.Collins to GB 43 for 31 yards (22-M.Forte).

QB Jay Cutler was rattled by the pass pressure the entire 1st half, but he was also forcing it. I'm sure he wanted to prove himself to everyone. This pass couldn't get there before S Nick Collins jumped the route. Of course CB Tramon Williams dropped two INTs before Collins finally took one of the gifts Cutler was handing out.

Second Quarter

(10:22) 25-R.Grant right end pushed ob at CHI 8 for 25 yards (44-K.Payne). PENALTY on GB-72-J.Spitz, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at CHI 33 - No Play.

The refs didn't do the Packers any favors in this game, but penalties were still a problem. The box score only shows 6 penalties for 45 yards, but this one was a 35 yard swing. 

(8:13) 6-J.Cutler pass deep right to 13-J.Knox pushed ob at GB 8 for 68 yards (21-C.Woodson).

This is why I'm not a blitz fanatic. Maybe Collins couldn't have gotten there in time to break it up, but the weak side blitz didn't get to Cutler and CB Charles Woodson couldn't keep up with the speedster (even with a little tug of his jersey). There was one safety back to cover the entire deep field, and he fell down. I'm probably too conservative, but I prefer it when there are two safeties playing deep and outside the hash marks.

(6:54) 6-J.Cutler pass short middle intended for 22-M.Forte INTERCEPTED by 97-J.Jolly at GB 12. 97-J.Jolly to GB 14 for 2 yards (57-O.Kreutz).

Watch the replay if you missed it. Just an amazing play by DT Johnny Jolly.

(5:58) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers sacked in End Zone for -11 yards, SAFETY (38-D.Manning).

OK, the Bears were taking advantage of Barbre's struggles, but what the hell was Rodgers doing? He can't scramble that far back when he's so close to the end zone.

(4:56) (Shotgun) 6-J.Cutler pass deep middle intended for 13-J.Knox INTERCEPTED by 38-T.Williams at GB 32. 38-T.Williams pushed ob at CHI 1 for 67 yards (80-E.Bennett). Chicago challenged the fumble ruling, and the play was Upheld. (Timeout #2 at 04:39.)

The recap says Knox was the intended receiver, but he wasn't in the same area code. Cutler was pressured again on the play and rushed it, but he's obviously expecting Knox to run a different route. He still has to get familiar with all his new receivers.

(4:40) 25-R.Grant left end for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN. PENALTY on CHI-96-A.Brown, Unnecessary Roughness, 15 yards, enforced between downs.

My new favorite lead blocker is TE Spencer Havner. Once I saw him come in, I expected a TD run, which was something that wasn't a sure thing last season at the goal line. He wasn't directly responsible, but he tied up a blocker or two in the middle that couldn't go outside and tackle Grant.

Third Quarter

(14:21) 22-M.Forte left guard to CHI 32 for 10 yards (74-A.Kampman).

This was the longest run by RB Matt Forte of the game. He's never killed the Packers, but he couldn't get anything going on the ground and had zero receptions. Despite all the offseason talk about the pass rush in the new 3-4, what I really watched was how it would hold up against the run, and they were great in this game.

(13:50) 22-M.Forte left tackle to CHI 29 for -3 yards (77-C.Jenkins, 36-N.Collins).

Welcome back DE Cullen Jenkins! He was great in his first game back since last September, and had a sack too later in the quarter, but this was my favorite play. The sack was great; he split two blockers and got to Cutler. But on this play, he tossed one of the Bears top free agent pickups, LG Frank Omiyale, to the ground before getting into the backfield to stuff Forte.

(10:19) 6-J.Cutler pass deep right to 23-D.Hester for 36 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Cris Collinsworth was going crazy trying to figure out why Collins didn't get over in time. Apparently he had cramps and he just couldn't move fast enough. Collins was held out for at least one series, he was replaced by S Aaron Rouse, but then returned later in the game.

(9:00) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass incomplete deep right to 87-J.Nelson.

Another deep pass where the timing was off. Rodgers just had to put a little bit more air under it, although WR Jordy Nelson might not have been running the crispest route.

(8:55) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass incomplete short left to 42-D.Wynn.

This was the 2nd or 3rd attempted screen pass. They seem to like calling them on obvious passing downs to slow the pass rush, but they always seem to get busted. I wouldn't be heartbroken if the screen pass vanished from the play book.

(1:10) 42-D.Wynn left end to CHI 43 for -2 yards (96-A.Brown).

This was only the second possession of the 3rd quarter, and McCarthy had really noticed that LB Brian Urlacher was out of the game. But this was the 5th running play in a row, and the Bears jumped all over it. It turned a 2nd and 5 into a 3rd and long. There was not a good rhythm to the play calling, and it did not keep the Bears off balance.

Fourth Quarter

(12:43) (Punt formation) 25-G.Wolfe up the middle to CHI 30 for 4 yards (16-B.Swain, 55-D.Bishop). Chicago challenged the too many players on field ruling, and the play was Upheld. (Timeout #2 at 12:39.)

Oh, boy. There's going to be hell to pay on Chicago talk radio next week for that little stunt. And to make matters worse, they wasted their final challenge and another time out on it.

(8:39) (Shotgun) 6-J.Cutler pass incomplete deep middle to 80-E.Bennett (21-C.Woodson). PENALTY on GB-31-A.Harris, Illegal Contact, 5 yards, enforced at CHI 40 - No Play.

Yep, the ref screwed up badly. WR Earl Bennett was actually lined up in the backfield, it should have been an illegal formation on Chicago. But then the ref saw CB Al Harris check Bennett over 5 yards from where Bennett was illegally standing, although still within 5 yards from the line of scrimmage, and called a penalty on Harris. There would have been hell to pay, if it had cost them the game, but luckily it didn't. 

By the way, I expected Bennett was a bust since he didn't catch a single pass in his rookie season, but he made some nice catches in this game. He also made a couple penalties, one that was even caught by the ref, so he still needs some more experience.

(7:16) (Shotgun) 6-J.Cutler pass short right to 82-G.Olsen to GB 23 for 8 yards (37-A.Rouse).

For everyone looking for a breakout performance from TE Greg Olsen, it sure didn't happen in this game. This was his only catch. Hardly his worst game against the Packers, he had a two fumble disaster a couple seasons ago, but he either kills the Packers or sucks. He's just inconsistent.

(6:34) 6-J.Cutler pass short left to 37-J.McKie to GB 15 for 8 yards (31-A.Harris).

I couldn't figure out the Packers linebacker rotation. LBs A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett, and Brandon Chillar all played inside, but it seemed like the plan was to rotate Hawk on running downs and Chillar on passing downs. Although for week 1, they also seemed to rotate Barnett out, probably to take it easy as he comes back from his torn ACL. LB Clay Matthews wasn't expected to start, but he played a lot at outside LB, and seemed to rotate with LB Brady Poppinga. Matthews didn't have a flashy game, but he didn't give Chicago anywhere to run outside. On this play, Poppinga bit inside and left FB Jason McKie wide open in the flat. Hopefully Matthews plays more and more as the season goes on.

(3:11) 22-M.Forte left end to GB 3 for no gain (79-R.Pickett, 77-C.Jenkins). GB-97-J.Jolly was injured during the play.

Congratulations run defense! Last season, this goal line stance would have failed, and the opponents would have scored a big game winning TD while exhausting the clock. Instead they stuffed the Bears and forced them to settle for a FG with 2 minutes left. Plenty of time...

(1:18) 12-A.Rodgers pass deep left to 85-G.Jennings for 50 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

It's hard to feel sorry for a Bear, but CB Nathan Vasher had a great game, until he allowed the game losing TD. On the other hand, hopefully he's still in their starting lineup for the next game in Chicago. Also, they finally got the timing on a deep pass right.

(1:06) (Shotgun) 6-J.Cutler pass short left intended for 13-J.Knox INTERCEPTED by 31-A.Harris at CHI 43. 31-A.Harris pushed ob at CHI 14 for 29 yards (6-J.Cutler).

I loved this play. Not only because it was a game ending INT, but because the veteran Harris jumped a route that the rookie Knox went soft on. A great veteran move.

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