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Wednesday Walkthroughs: Most memorable Packers season openers

With the Packers and Bears starting off the 2019 NFL season, APC’s writers discuss some of our favorite week-one games in recent memory.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers will open their 2019 schedule on the road against the Chicago Bears, which prompts many happy memories of the last time the Packers opened their season against the Chicago Bears. As exciting as that game was, we had to wonder: was it the most memorable season opening game we’ve ever seen?

After much debate, here is our conclusion: yes, depending on who you ask.

Here are the rest of our favorite season-opening games.

Jonathan E. Barnett: 2011

My favorite Packers season opener is the New Orleans game that kicked off the 2011-12 season. This is mostly due to the incredible optimism that came along with following the Super Bowl season. My son was just getting old enough to really start following things and know the players. Additionally, it was a matchup of the last two Super Bowl Champions on the very first game of the year in prime time. It was a very anticipated start.

The game itself was great. The Packers got up early with a 21-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. Drew Brees and the Saints just kept inching back into the game. The Packers held an eight-point lead with just over a minute remaining and the Saints went right down the field to the goal line. It got very intense as the Packers set up an untimed final play to see if the Saints could tie it. It was an intense game that lived up to the hype and set of a very exciting 15-1 season. Sure, the ending hurt, but it was a great opener.

Shawn Wagner: 2018

On the heels of the formal announcement that the Packers will be squaring off against Chicago to kick off the 2019 regular season, I am reminded about another awesome season-opener against the Bears.

Last year.

The Packers have enjoyed playing with the heartstrings of fans over the past decade, but this season-opener offered a full range of emotions. Shock in Green Bay losing Aaron Rodgers just over five minutes into the second quarter. Fear as he was carted to the locker room. Depression as the Packers entered halftime down 17-0 after a terrible turnover from DeShone Kizer. Relief as Rodgers re-took the field. Intrigue as the Packers cut the gap to 10 points near the start of the fourth quarter. Smiles as Green Bay cut the margin once again with under 10 minutes to play. Pure jubilation as Rodgers connected with Randall Cobb for a 75-yard touchdown on the eventual game-winning score.

Good luck to the 2019 season-opener coming anywhere close to the 2018 version.

Jon Meerdink: 2010

The 2010 season opener sticks in my mind not so much because of what happened at the time, but because of what happened later. So many things happened in that one game that set up significant moments later in the season.

Clay Matthews sacked (and injured) Kevin Kolb, opening the door for Michael Vick to take over in Philadelphia. The Packers stopped Vick on a key play in the fourth quarter, foreshadowing the end of the Packers/Eagles wildcard round game in the playoffs.

Ryan Grant broke his ankle, ending his season and setting up a late-season need for running back help, coinciding with James Starks’s arrival from the PUP list. Starks, of course, would play a key role in the Packers’ win over the Eagles in the playoffs.

Other facts from that game loom large only because of how much things changed by the end of the year. In that season opener, Jordy Nelson was the Packers’ primary kick returner and was targeted with just two passes, but he’d be Aaron Rodgers’ top target in the Super Bowl. Desmond Bishop was still firmly behind Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk, and Brandon Chillar in the linebacker pecking order; he didn’t even record a tackle in Week 1. Even Aaron Rodgers wasn’t quite himself yet. He threw two interceptions against the Eagles, setting the stage for a disappointing start to his season; he threw an almost unthinkable nine picks in the Packers’ first seven games of 2010.

But the Packers, of course, figured things out. Their Week 1 game is barely a footnote on that season, but looking back it shows exactly what had to happen to become the champions they were destined to be.

Evan “Tex” Western: 2010

I’m with Jon here, but this memory is more for personal reasons than for football-related ones. The 2010 football season was a big time in my life — I had just moved to a new city for a job and I was looking to find some friends and a community to be a part of. I had tried going to the local Packers bar for a preseason game on a Thursday night but found only two other fans in attendance. However, I decided to give it another go for opening week against the Philadelphia Eagles, just in case that experience was a fluke.

And what a fluke it was. Instead of three quiet Packers fans sitting together at the bar watching the game on one small TV, the entire place was filled wall-to-wall with fans wearing green and gold, cheering for every big play and blasting “Bang the Drum All Day” on the jukebox after each score. I immediately became part of one core group of fans, and that place became one of my first homes away from home. I only vaguely remember the game itself — Michael Vick taking over as the Eagles’ QB, Ryan Grant suffering a season-ending injury, and the Packers winning — but the experience of that day still calls to me from time to time. Although circumstances have changed in the years since I still look back fondly at that first game as a reminder of how a shared love of this team can bring people together.

Paul Noonan: 2002

I was lucky enough to attend Michael Vick’s first game in his first full season as a starting quarterback for the Falcons. He had seen some limited time in 2001 and flashed his potential as a runner, but this was the beginning of Atlanta letting him go gangbusters, and it was apparent immediately that Vick was going to be a problem.

It was hot as blazes for this game and while “establishing the run” doesn’t actually tire out a defense, chasing Vick around in unusual Green Bay heat definitely did. Both teams ground this out as Atlanta rushed for 150 yards while Green Bay countered with 205, led by Ahman Green’s 155. Brett Favre was also sharp, efficient, and in tune with Donald Driver, as the offense matched Atlanta punch for punch. But it was Vick, who seemed dead in the water over and over again, who dominated, repeatedly turning nothing into a big gain.

The game would eventually go to overtime, and Ryan Longwell would seal the victory with about 5 minutes remaining, but this game was a harbinger of bad things to come. It was clear that the defense had no answer for a mobile quarterback, and that only through Favre’s brilliance did they manage to escape. No one wanted to play this team again, especially in the playoffs, but the Packers did, suffering their first playoff loss at Lambeau in an embarrassing 27-7 loss. Vick was again a terror on the ground, and Bad Brett Favre showed up, throwing two interceptions. Mobile quarterbacks have been upending Packers playoff runs for a long time.