by Mark Metzler
Thursday’s Bears and Packers game was the rightful kickoff to the NFL’s 100th year. It was a throwback to the times when defenses ruled. It wasn’t any surprise to see the Bears step up defensively – the team was the top-rated defense last year and will likely be again this year – but the pleasant surprise was the way the Packers’ defense played in a hard-fought 10-3 win.
The Packers’ improvements on defense were evident. The Smiths as new linebackers/edge rushers showed strength and speed. Adrian Amos was solid at safety, and he made a big interception at the end of the game. Darnell Savage also showed up well in his first NFL start. And kudos to punter J.K. Scott for an excellent game.
It was a game that seemed to be waiting for a mistake, and it really came up as the lack of focus on the part of Bears’ quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the Bears’ offense late in the third quarter getting two delay penalties and taking the team out of field goal range.
The Packers made their own mistake when veteran Tramon Williams tackled a Bears’ player out-of-bounds. It was a crucial mistake, but the Bears started to destruct with a series of penalties. It got to the point where it was first-and-40. After that, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers got the ball back inside the 10 and a big throw to Trevor Davis took the team out of a hole. The team was able to continue the drive, and Mason Crosby connected on big field goal.
It was a first half of tough football, too. The Packers gave up three early points after having to defend bad field position because of an ineffective offense.
The offense came alive briefly in the second quarter, sparked by a long completion from Rodgers to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and then ending with Jimmy Graham wrestling a touchdown reception. It was good to see throws to Graham, Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan. Having them involved will help in the team’s success as the season moves on.
The emphasis on the running game for the Packers was not evident other than a few runs near the end of the third quarter. I think it had more to do with the Bears’ defense than the Packers’ offense.
I know the Bears didn’t click offensively, but the Packers’ defense was part of that. All in all, it was a good win against a good team.
On to the Vikings and another good defense.
This weekend the Packers will host their Alumni Weekend and include a tribute to Bart Starr. Throughout the season the team will be wearing a No. 15 decal on their helmets to honor Starr’s legacy.
On a team full of players who would eventually end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Bart Starr was the guy, the leader of the team on the field. When my parents wanted me to eat something I didn’t like, they’d say: “Bart Starr eats carrots.” I’d eat them. Of course, they wanted me to be a quarterback like Starr, and I’d be out in the yard practicing my footwork and gripping the ball just like Starr. I’m sure that was the same for thousands of kids growing up in Wisconsin.
When Starr died over the winter, several generations of football fans grieved, each in his or her own way. For me, I re-played the end of the “Ice Bowl” and Starr’s famous quarterback sneak for the winning touchdown. I was thankful for the Packers and Starr’s contribution in making my childhood so happy and one filled with the expectation that anything is possible. After all, if a small-town team from Wisconsin led by a 17th-round draft choice can win all these championships, what couldn’t be overcome?
Starr was a great player, but he never did find success as a head coach. The teams he coached lacked talent and the vision to make the right selections in the draft. Packers fans hoped the best for him, and we were convinced he could return the team to glory, if anyone could. When it didn’t work out, the fans forgave him and quickly returned him to icon status.