CHICAGO (AP) — To open its celebration of its 100th season, the NFL got a throwback to, well, the 1920s.
You know, one of those knock-down, dragged-out defensive confrontations that ends up 10-3.
That’s the score the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears by on Thursday night. And while it was ugly on offense, likely in great part due to the lack of action so many regulars on that side of the ball got in the preseason, it was a thing of beauty for the defenders in green, gold and white. On this night, the Packers were the Monsters of the Midway.
“I think we woke a lot of people up,” defensive end Montravius Adams said. “A lot of people didn’t believe in us. They had us ranked low, but we don’t care about that outside noise.”
There was plenty of noise heading into Soldier Field about Chicago’s D, which was dominant in 2018 as the Bears won the NFC North. And it played quite well against Aaron Rodgers and the Pack, sacking Rodgers five times and yielding only 213 yards.
But the Packers were stingier.
“Yeah, it was fun to watch,” Rodgers said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a performance like that. Obviously, a lot of credit to Mike Pettine and his staff, but to those players, just incredible.
“We didn’t do them a whole lot of favors with our performance on offense. I mean every time we needed something, a stop, they came up with some really big plays.”
Including five sacks of their own on a clearly befuddled Mitchell Trubisky. Plus the only turnover of the game, a fourth-quarter pick in the end zone by former Bears safety Adrian Amos.
“It’s just sweet. It really is,” Rodgers added. “I hold myself to a high standard and I didn’t play great tonight, but to watch a defense like that, man, that gives you a lot of confidence about where this team can go.”
Green Bay went into the end zone on an 8-yard jump ball reception by tight end Jimmy Graham — a former college basketball player who boxed out to perfection on the play. That was the difference, thanks to the stingy Packers D.
“Before we started, we came together as a team, I told everybody, ‘Let’s shock the world on three,’” said linebacker Za’Darius Smith, a free agency addition. “And I felt like we did that tonight.”
The game also was marked by sloppy offense and penalties. But the Packers made the fewest mistakes and now lead the league’s longest series 98-95-6. Green Bay has won 16 of the last 19 regular-season meetings, and Rodgers is 17-5.
Chicago’s defense hardly slacked, getting five sacks — tying the most it has had against Rodgers. But it could do little with the ball and Trubisky never found his stride. He even was sacked on Chicago’s final offensive play.
“I think it was just sloppy by myself and as an offense as a whole,” Trubisky said. “Just going through all our procedures, it was just tough. We couldn’t find a rhythm.”
Mason Crosby made a 39-yard field goal in the final period for Green Bay, while Chicago got a 38-yarder from Eddy Pineiro. Bears fans rejoiced in relief on the first score of the season: Pineiro’s first-quarter field goal. The last such kick on Soldier Field was Cody Parkey’s double-doink off the goalpost and crossbar that sent Chicago home from the wild-card round. Pineiro, a second-year player from Florida, was an immediate hero in the Windy City.
Each team had 10 penalties, there was a total of 467 yards of only offense, and several drops. At one point, Chicago had three straight penalties to put it in a first-and-40. No, the Bears didn’t convert.
New Packers coach Matt LaFleur made an ill-advised challenge, claiming offensive pass interference on a catch by Chicago’s Taylor Gabriel. He lost in the first such challenge in NFL history after interference calls were added to replay reviews this season.
INEPT, THEN IN FRONT
The opening series couldn’t have been uglier for Green Bay. A run and a pass netted zero yards, then Rodgers was sacked heavily by Roy Robertson-Harris for a 10-yard loss.
Well, maybe it could. Rodgers was sacked again on the next three-and-out and Chicago took over at the Packers 36 after a punt. Chicago had forced 17 yards in losses on those series, and the Packers had minus-12 yards through one period.
Rodgers erased such ineffectiveness quickly at the start of the second quarter, launching a 47-yard completion to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Two more completions got the Pack to the 8, and Graham then scored.
By halftime, Green Bay had outgained Chicago 119 yards to 98.
Chicago was a pitiful 3 for 15 on third downs and 0 for 2 on fourth downs. Green Bay was even worse trying to convert, going 2 for 12 on third downs.
“I am not in panic mode,” Nagy said.
Packers: Host Minnesota on Sept. 15.
Bears: At Denver on Sept. 15.