Monday, September 14, 2015

Packers beat Bears in 2015 NFL season opener

The Green Bay Packers did what they were expected to do yesterday in their 2015 NFL season opener in Chicago: beat Da Bearz. The final tally was 31-23 (our pre-game prediction was 34-24 Packers for those keeping track). For the betting folk out there, the Pack covered the spread. For the rest of us, it's enough to know they won and are 1-0 heading into the home opener Sunday evening against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field. We'll talk more about the Seattle game later this week. For now, let's take a quick look at yesterday's highs and lows from the point of view of this writer.

The Good Stuff
In no particular order of importance, here are a few of the things we saw as positives coming out of yesterday's game:
  • The Packers won (OK, that definitely is the most important thing coming out of the game.)
  • Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, James Jones, Randall Cobb and Clay Matthews sustained no significant injury (as far as we know so far).
  • QB Aaron Rodgers is already looking in MVP form. He didn't rack up big yards yesterday but, in beating the Bears for the 13th time in 16 tries, he completed 18 of 23 passes for 189 yards, three touchdowns, and a quarterback rating of 140.5. Not a a bad start to the season for A-A-Ron.
  • WR James Jones looks as if he never left the Pack. He and Rodgers teamed up for two touchdowns, including a tough contested catch on the first TD. If memory serves, a possible third TD catch was taken away because of a holding penalty.
  • RB Eddie Lacy is more than just a two-down back; he's worked hard on his receiving skills and it showed big-time yesterday on the improvised flip pass from Rodgers to Lacy who made a very athletic one-handed catch.
  • The Packers may have solved their kick returner problems. WR Ty Montgomery looks every bit the part, averaging 35 yards a return on three returns (if I recall correctly...look it up!).
  • LG Clay Matthews is one of the most instinctive linebackers in the league, demonstrating exactly that on an amazing -- and crucial -- interception of Jay Cutler late in the game. Yes, we're used to Cutler throwing INTs to the Pack; he has done so at least once in every game he's played against the Packers. But this one was more about Matthews and less about Cutler...amazing as that may sound, particularly as regards the latter part of that statement.
  • The Packers' generally inept run defense held Chicago out of the endzone despite a 1st-and-goal situation ...although that might have more to do with Chicago trying to pass in that series than run.
The Not-So-Good Stuff
While the Packers won and there was much to be pleased about in terms of the offense's performance and, generally, special teams' play, there is also more than enough for head coach Mike McCarthy to "get cleaned up" this week.
  • Let's begin with the Pack's defense. It was...oh, pretty horrible overall. It gave up 189 yards on the ground to Da Bearz. Certainly not as bad as 235 yards on the ground given up last Sept. 28 at Lambeau Field (that ranked as the NFL's worst in mid-2014), but still nothing to feel good about. Chicago RB Matt Forte ran for 141 yards in 24 carries. Head coach Mike McCarthy said months ago that stopping the run was his most important objective on defense this season. Well, it still looks as if there's work to do: since leading the NFL in run defense in 2009 (defensive coordinator Dom Caper's first year with the Pack), the Packers have been middle of the road or worse in this category every year since.
  • CB Sam Shields was more of an asset for Da Bearz during this game than for the Packers: arm tackling and multiple penalties -- including an offside on a field goal attempt which gave Chicago a first down and ultimately led to a TD. Not Shields' best game by any stretch of the imagination.
  • The defense had a great deal of difficulty stopping Chicago on third down, allowing Da Bearz to convert 11 of 17 third-down attempts, and convert two out of three on fourth down. Not good, and for a good chunk of the game Chicago dominated the time of possesion as a result.
  • The Packers nearly let Da Bearz back into the game late. That onside kick with about a minute or so remaining in the game, with just an 8-point lead, created a great deal of "Seattle 2014 NFC Championship Meltdown" anxiety throughout the Packersphere. The defense needs to dominate...and that's something we haven't seen for a while.
So, that's the good and the bad as we see it coming out of Week 1 of the season. Next up: Seattle. Yeah...those guys. Time for revenge. More on that later. For now, savor beating Da Bearz and being 1-0 in the division.

Go Pack Go!!!