Wisconsin State Journal columnist Tom Oates grades the Green Bay Packers' performance in their 10-3 win over the Chicago Bears in the regular-season opener Thursday night at Soldier Field.
The line was basically overrun by Chicago's front seven. The Bears are good, but they're not that good. The running game went nowhere and the passing game yielded too many holding penalties. Once Aaron Rodgers started firing short, quick passes, the Packers moved the ball a bit. Kudos to Rodgers for taking what was there.
Kenny Clark destroyed his man while blowing up a third-and-1 play. The run defense was rock solid. Kevin King broke on a pass for an apparent interception but didn't secure the ball. Free agents Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith recorded sacks. That game-clinching interception must have felt good for ex-Bears safety Adrian Amos.
Special teams: B
Mason Crosby drilled a 39-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. Five of J.K. Scott's nine punts ended up inside the 20. Better yet, Scott kept pinning dangerous returner Tarik Cohen at the sideline with his directional punting. Tony Brown drew a penalty for a blindside block on a punt return that put the Packers on the 6.
Rodgers' 47-yard pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling that got the Packers going began with play-action and had great deception. The play was so good it made wasting a timeout worth it. Mike Pettine used a 3-3-5 scheme but still contained Chicago's running game. Matt LaFleur was 1-for 2 on replay challenges in the final quarter.
The defending NFC North Division champion Bears were expected to be as good as last year and they looked the part in dominating the first quarter. But the Packers withstood the Bears' initial surge, trailed only 3-0 and bounced back behind a stellar defensive performance to give LaFleur a victory in his first game as Packers coach.