On Sunday night, the Green Bay Packers played essentially a dime defense all night long. Without speedy rookie linebacker Oren Burks available and the Chicago Bears throwing a host of varied receiving options on the field, the Packers eschewed the use of a second inside linebacker for almost the entire game, preferring to play with six defensive backs and daring the Bears to run the ball.
And Chicago did find success on the ground, as they averaged over five yards per carry on the night. But it was the Packers’ pass defense, which had been maligned for years under Dom Capers, that came up big when the team needed it most. The new-look secondary didn’t intercept Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, but it actually kept him to fewer yards per pass attempt than Chicago averaged on the ground.
That defensive performance over the final 45 minutes combined with Aaron Rodgers’ return from what initially looked to be a serious knee injury to lead the Packers to a thrilling 24-23 comeback victory in the first game of the franchise’s 100th season.
OFFENSE (60 plays)
Aaron Rodgers 46, DeShone Kizer 14
Rodgers’ injury was and will always be the biggest story of this game. With him out, Kizer turned the ball over twice to Khalil Mack, once on a strip-sack and then on a pick-six that was a horrible decision. Of course, Rodgers’ ability to return after halftime kick-started an ugly offense, and the quick passes helped make sure he didn’t take many more hits once he returned.
Kizer did have a few decent completions, most notably a 29-yarder to Randall Cobb that put the Packers on the edge of the red zone prior to his fumble. But his decision-making under duress remains his biggest issue.
Jamaal Williams 37, Ty Montgomery 23
As usual, Williams was uninspiring in the running game, averaging just 3.1 yards per carry. However, it is his pass protection that continues to keep him on the field, as he had multiple critical blitz pickups to keep Rodgers upright. Montgomery did show some excellent explosiveness as a receiver — he had two catches for 21 yards on the stat sheet, but had a 48-yard catch-and-run on the Packers’ first drive wiped out by a holding penalty.
Also, it’s a bit absurd noticing that there are no snaps for fullbacks in this group.
Davante Adams 59, Randall Cobb 52, Geronimo Allison 42, Marquez Valdes-Scantling 2
The top three wideouts did practically all of the damage for the Packers in the passing game, as the team lined up with three wideouts on at least half of the team’s snaps. Each of the top three had at least eight targets and five catches, while no other player had more than four targets. They all had explosive plays, as well. Rodgers’ dime to Allison for the Packers’ first score was magnificent, while Adams and Cobb both had huge runs after the catch — Adams for a 51-yard gain to set up the second score and Cobb on the 75-yard touchdown to take the lead.
Interestingly, MVS was the only other receiver to see the field. Equanimeous St. Brown played just two special teams snaps, while J’Mon Moore and Trevor Davis were inactive.
Jimmy Graham 59, Lance Kendricks 19, Marcedes Lewis 7
The Packers got little to no production out of Graham, who caught just two of four targets for eight yards. He seemed to be kept on the line to help block regularly, helping on occasion with Khalil Mack and company. Still, Kendricks did more with his one target (13 yards) than Graham did all game. Lewis was basically an afterthought — expect him to see more playing time in the future when the matchups suit the Packers’ 12 and 13 personnel better.
David Bakhtiari 60, Lane Taylor 60, Corey Linsley 60, Justin McCray 60, Bryan Bulaga 60
The Packers got a complete game from their starting line; the right side struggled brutally early on, with Bulaga getting beaten by Mack and McCray being entirely unable to handle Akiem Hicks. A stunt by Hicks and Roy Robertson-Harris resulted in the sack that sent Rodgers to the locker room.
However, they were much better after halftime, as Rodgers did not take a single sack after returning. The playcalling helped considerably, as he was getting the ball out quicker, but there were still a few extended plays, including the winning touchdown to Cobb.
Oh, and as usual, Bakhtiari was a fortress against the pass rush of Leonard Floyd. It’s almost an afterthought at this point.
DEFENSE (70 plays)
Kenny Clark 54, Muhammad Wilkerson 43, Mike Daniels 33, Dean Lowry 15, Montravius Adams 2
Daniels must still be getting healthy, because it is unusual for him to line up on fewer than half of the team’s snaps. That said, Wilkerson helps to pick up some of that slack, and both had solid games. Clark was a monster, picking up where he left off; he landed a hit on Trubisky, was generally occupying multiple blockers and collapsing the pocket, and even recovered a fumble at the very end of the game.
Clay Matthews 60, Nick Perry 41, Reggie Gilbert 37, Kyler Fackrell 4
Perry played a little more than half of the team’s snaps, but he put up quite a stat line, notching the big strip-sack of Trubisky to seal the game. However, he had a total of five tackles and another hit on the quarterback. Matthews was a virtual non-factor for most of the game and was arguably a net negative, as his roughing the passer penalty negated a fourth-down stop after the Packers took the lead, requiring Perry to bail him out. Gilbert looked good for much of the game, though he had just two tackles; his biggest play, however, was sticking in coverage with Tarik Cohen into the end zone, which ended up forcing a field goal.
Blake Martinez 70, Antonio Morrison 11
This is probably the most glaring set of numbers in the whole breakdown. Morrison played a lot on the first Bears drive but was kept off the field almost entirely after that as the Packers preferred to go into a dime alignment with six defensive backs for the remainder of the game. And it worked — of the Bears’ final eight drives, only two went for more than eleven yards, as those two ended in field goals.
Martinez didn’t get off to the start that he might have hoped for on his quest for an all-time record in tackles, as he had six solo stops, but one of those was for a loss. Meanwhile, Morrison did pick up three combined tackles in his brief action on defense.
Kentrell Brice 70, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 70, Jermaine Whitehead 25
In lieu of a traditional inside linebacker, the Packers ended up using Whitehead as a dime linebacker for much of the game, and he played mostly solid, recording a tackle and a pass breakup. However, Brice and Clinton-Dix led the team with nine and seven tackles, respectively. Brice even technically added a sack of Mitchell Trubisky, though it came on a scramble for no gain when Brice pushed him out of bounds.
Kevin King 70, Tramon Williams 70, Jaire Alexander 49, Josh Jackson 46
Playing with six or more defensive backs for most of the contest led to some holes in the running game, but that was by design. The four corners all played a ton and mostly held up very well against the Bears’ varied group of receiving options.
King seemed to get better throughout the game, and he had a few very nice plays in the second half, including a TFL. Williams racked up five solo tackles and an assist. Although Alexander was beaten for a 33-yard reception by Allen Robinson on the first drive, he had excellent coverage; Robinson just made the play on a really tough, contested catch. Otherwise, the first-round rookie looked very good, and he made a shoestring tackle on Tarik Cohen to stop him for a short gain rather than letting him turn the run into a big play. Jackson got into the act as well, matching Alexander with three tackles and adding a TFL.
Notable Special Teamers
Jermaine Whitehead 23, Kyler Fackrell 22, Antonio Morrison 19, Korey Toomer 19, Davon House 15, James Crawford 15, Geronimo Allison 14
These players were in on at least half of the special teams plays, but note that all but one (Allison) are defensive players. Also, three of them — Toomer, House, and Crawford — didn’t see the field on defense at all. Oh, how House has fallen, as he is clearly #5 in the cornerback rotation now, behind the rookies.