Takeaways From the Bears-Packers Season Opener
The good news is that we got to watch NFL football last night. The bad news is...well, the first game of the 2019 season barely resembled NFL football – or at least the modern version of it – for the majority of the evening. On a night where the league was celebrating the beginning of its 100th year, the Packers and Bears played a dud of a game that almost looked like something from the mid-20th century (albeit with a lot more forward passes).
Ultimately, the Packers don't care what it looked like, as they escaped with an important 10-3 road win in Matt LaFleur's regular season coaching debut. Let's run through a few takeaways from a Vikings perspective after getting to watch Minnesota's two biggest obstacles for a division title go at it.
Trubisky Struggles in Year 3 Debut
If Mitch Trubisky is going to "make the leap" in 2019, he didn't get off to a promising start on Thursday night in front of a national audience. Trubisky was inconsistent with his accuracy and decision-making, much like he has been for the past two seasons. His final line (26 of 45 for 228 yards and a pick) looks bad on paper, but even that doesn't tell the whole story; Trubisky should've been intercepted on at least one other occasion and had some inexcusably bad missed throws to open receivers. He had chance after chance to get the Bears back into the game and came up short every time.
Trubisky did have a few excellent throws that offered reminders of his potential, including a couple dimes up the left sideline to Allen Robinson, who was getting separation at will all night long. Robinson had 7 catches for 102 yards and his night could've been even bigger if not for Trubisky's struggles. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen should be able to get open against the Packers' corners (at least those not named Jaire Alexander) in Week 2.
As for Trubisky, if the Vikings can put pressure on him the way the Packers did, they should be able to fluster him into tough throws and mistakes. There's time for the Bears' QB to improve, especially since he didn't attempt a single pass in the preseason, but he looked a lot more like a rookie than a third-year budding star last night.
The Packers Defense Looks Legit
Trubisky's play wasn't the sole reason for the Bears being held to a field goal. Green Bay's defense was highly impressive all night, recording five sacks and holding Chicago to 3.1 yards per carry. The success of the Packers' defense starts with Kenny Clark, who is an absolute monster in the middle of Mike Pettine's 3-4 front. Check out how easily he sheds this block and blows up the play.
This is a defense that brought in a lot of talent this offseason, and it showed. Free agent OLBs Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith were constantly in Trubisky's face and combined for 2.5 sacks. Another free agent acquisition, safety Adrian Amos, had an outstanding game against his former team, capped off by the big interception. The Packers can be beaten through the air, but Minnesota's offensive line will have their hands full trying to give Kirk Cousins time to find his receivers down the field.
Rodgers did just enough against the Bears' fearsome D
Early on in this game, it looked like neither team would be able to get anything going. The Packers went three and out on each of their three possessions in the first quarter, finishing the period with negative 12 yards of offense. Despite losing defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, the Bears' front seven looked just as scary as it did a year ago.
Then Aaron Rodgers started to get some pass protection in the second quarter and got hot. He completed his first eight throws of the quarter, including a perfectly-placed bomb to Marques Valdes-Scantling. The game's only touchdown came on a Rodgers jump ball to Jimmy Graham, who is past his prime but can still out-muscle just about anyone for a catch if he's facing single coverage.
The Vikings will, as expected, have to play well to beat both of these teams on their way to re-claiming the NFC North title. Both defenses looked great, and Rodgers is still capable of doing Rodgers things. However, I don't think Mike Zimmer will be losing any sleep over the performances of the two offenses at Soldier Field.
With the road win, the Packers have taken (very) early control of the division. Week 2 at Lambeau Field is going to be big.