Despite winning just one game, there are several positives to take away from Green Bay’s upset opening season victory
By Tyler Job
Slugfest, ugly, rough, shaky, and gritty.
All of those words can describe the NFL season opener between the Packers and Bears Sept. 5. But if you are on the Packers, a win is a win.
Green Bay went into Soldier Field and stole an important upset victory over a tough division opponent by a 10-3 score, and start the regular season 1-0 for the fifth consecutive year. It was Matt LaFleur’s first regular season game as head coach of the Pack, and became just the second head coach in Packers history to win his first game at the helm against the Bears since Vince Lombardi in 1959.
The Packers did not play like a juggernaut by any means, but they played good enough against one of the best defenses in the entire league to beat their biggest rival.
Now Green Bay will get a mini bye week and shift its attention to the home opener against the Minnesota Vikings. With their big victory over Chicago in the rear view mirror, the Packers should be optimistic about what to expect in the near future. Below are five reasons why.
1) The defense looks really promising.
Brian Gutekunst’s eagerness to improve the defense proved itself in free agency when he snagged Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Adrian Amos. He continued to strengthen the defense by using his first two draft picks on Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage.
On Thursday, it appeared to come together as the Packers put on their best defensive performance in a long time. It really was tremendous all around. They allowed Mitch Trubisky to throw for just 228 yards on 45 attempts, the Smiths combined for 2.5 sacks, and Amos essentially sealed the game with an interception in the end zone against his former team. Green Bay should have corralled two interceptions if Kevin King did not drop a wide-open look earlier on.
Allen Robinson caught seven passes for 102 yards, but the fact that the Packers allowed a receiver to go off and still hold the Bears to three points is quite something. Chicago after all only put up 254 yards of total offense.
Many expected the Packers defense to be better, but I don’t think many thought they would play this good in the very first game of the season. The defense’s performance is a good starting point that many will pay attention to as the season progresses.
2) The offense will only get better.
Let’s be honest, Green Bay’s offense looked bad. The Packers opened the game with three 3-and-outs, Aaron Rodgers got sacked five times, and they went just 2-for-12 third down.
Their best drive lasted one minute, 35 seconds that resulted in a Jimmy Graham touchdown. Rodgers’ best throw was undoubtedly his 47-yard connection to Marquez Valdes-Scantling during that same drive. The offense for the rest of the game was not great.
The good news is that the Packers offense will only go upwards from here on out. Rodgers and Matt LaFleur will continue to communicate regularly and get a feel for the scheme. Some players showed some flash last night, including MVS, Graham, and of course, Davante Adams.
The offense will be a work-in-progress for a good chunk of the season. But in the end, Rodgers is the man under center, and he knows the offense needs to play better. Once they get going, they should score a lot of points. It’s what Rodgers is special at.
3) They won on the road against a good team.
The Packers last season won just a single game away from Lambeau Field, and it did not happen until late December against the New York Jets.
Well, they have now matched last season’s road schedule win total, and did so against the reigning NFC North champions in a very hostile environment. It’s a promising starting point for a Packers team that has played poorly on the road for the last several years.
By defeating a solid division foe away from Lambeau, the Packers should believe they can contend with any team on the road going forward. Good teams separate themselves from the bad ones because they play well away from home. Green Bay should have plenty of confidence in that regard as the season rolls along.
4) Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur are getting along just fine.
The main question coming into this season was whether or not Rodgers and LaFleur will get on the same page. After the Packers’ opening victory, I’d say all is well between the two.
You could just see connection between the two during the game. Rodgers and LaFleur were seen several times standing next to each other communicating the next steps. I don’t recall the last time Rodgers and Mike McCarthy did that.
After the game, Rodgers approached LaFleur in the locker room and handed his coach the game ball as a sign of congratulations for his first win as head coach. Rodgers even told LaFleur that he will be better. LaFleur told Rodgers the same thing.
As for the “drama” between the two, there is not much, if any at all.
5) A golden opportunity lies ahead.
Five of the next six games the Packers play will take place at Lambeau Field, including the next three against the Vikings, Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles. After Week 4, Green Bay travels to Dallas before returning to Lambeau to play against the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders. As the offense looks to improve, this is one of the best-case scenarios Green Bay could have asked for.
Aaron Rodgers usually plays very well at home, and the Packers have gotten the bulk of their wins at Lambeau. If they win most of their upcoming home games, they set themselves up nicely down the stretch when the schedule gets tougher.
I understand the Packers won just one game and there are sixteen more weeks of football to figure out their identity, but it is a good start for a completely revamped squad that is keen on bettering themselves in every facet of the game.