Cheeseheads got a taste Sunday of what might lie ahead for the 2006 Green Bay Packers and it wasn't pretty. The Chicago Bears showed why they are the preseason favorites to repeat as North division champions as they easily defeated the green and gold by a score of 26 - 0. It was the first time the Packers have been held scoreless in 15 years.
The 2006 opener got off to a bad start as the Bears rolled down the field on their first possession and scored with a 49-yard touchdown pass when the Packer defense blew the coverage assignment. It was all over at that point"¦ three minutes into the game. The Packer offense could not get much of anything going as the offensive line struggled mightily against a very good Bear defense.
The Packer guard situation has to be driving Ted Thompson nuts. Two years ago the Packers had the best guard tandem in the entire NFL. Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera both left in free agency following that season and the Packers have been scrambling for guards since. Thompson's plan last year was to use a journeyman with an injury history and a low round draft pick. That proved disastrous and the running game all but disappeared. Brett Favre was chased and pounded. Those two duds are no longer playing professional football. The 2006 plan was to bring in rookie guards who were chosen relatively high in the draft. Jason Spitz and Tony Moll might someday develop into fine football players, but Sunday they were no match for the Bears talented defensive line.
The Packers' special teams were equally horrible. Dave Rayner's only field-goal attempt was pulled badly. A kick-off return was fumbled. A punt return for an 84-yard touchdown was allowed, and, for good measure, a roughing-the-kicker penalty was committed. The execution just wasn't there.
With the Packer offense unable to generate a single score, the Packer defense was on the field far too long. Chicago's strong running game was handled pretty well but the Packer pass defense was too loose and Chicago's mediocre combination of quarterback/receivers looked like pro-bowlers Sunday.
To state the obvious"¦ Coach Mike McCarthy has a lot of work to do to get the 2006 Packers competitive. If there was a sliver of daylight in an otherwise miserable beginning to the season, it was the effort put forth by running back Ahman Green. In spite of the offensive line's shortcomings, Green proved Sunday that he still is a special back. A premier NFL back since 2000, Green ran hard and tough. He still has a burst. Perhaps "¦ just perhaps"¦ the Packers can somehow get their zone blocking assignments figured out and rally behind the running game that Green can still provide.
Next week the New Orleans Saints visit Lambeau. The Saints aren't nearly as talented as the Bears, but they won their opener against Cleveland. They also drafted the multi-talented Reggie Bush. There are no aspects of the Packers' opening performance that could not be improved upon. Let's see if that happens next week.