A Clumsy Start to the 2019 NFL Season for the Packers and Bears
CHICAGO — Adrian Amos called the play that led to his game-sealing interception.
Earlier in the matchup, he saw the Bears’ offense run a play where Chicago’s No. 1 receiver Allen Robinson runs a 7 route, a corner route. And on the sidelines before the series that ended in his interception, Amos told fellow safety Tramon Williams that he felt like it would be called again. Sure enough…
They ’bout to run this play, they ’bout to run this play!
Amos followed Trubisky’s eyes to Robinson, snuck behind him in the end zone and caught the ball. It was the perfect finish to a defensive scrum of a game—the ex-Bear picking off his old team for the first time while wearing the rival green-and-gold.
In the first game of the NFL’s 100th season, with the Packers outlasting the Bears 10–3, the defenses stole the show while both offenses struggled. Despite not tallying any turnovers (something that only happened in two games last season), the Chicago D looked to be in 2018 form, combining to sack Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers five times, and holding the Packers to negative yards through the first three drives of the game.
Green Bay’s defense looked like a drastically improved unit, making the Bears offense look so inept that fans loudly booed Chicago’s players off the field several times in the second half. The Bears failed to convert two third-and-ones, and Trubisky got lucky when Packers cornerback Kevin King dropped a near-interception early in the second quarter even though King had positioning on the intended receiver Cordarelle Patterson.
“I think we threw a lot of stuff at [Trubisky], we mixed it up a lot with the looks, so he had a hard time seeing initial looks,” King said.
The Packers defensive free-agent acquisitions had big debuts: Amos with the winning interception, and Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith each had a sack and pressured Trubisky several times.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a [defensive] performance like that,” Rodgers told reporters after the game.
Now in his third season, Trubisky is expected to improve his field vision and cut back on his reliance to use his legs to bail him out when his first read is covered. He struggles when he’s kept in the pocket, and Thursday night’s out-of-sync offensive performance didn’t do much to change that perception.
An example of Trubisky missing open receivers: On second-and-seven on Chicago’s 18-yard-line with 38 seconds left in the first half, Trubisky rolled left out of the pocket to avoid pressure. Robinson found himself with plenty of space along the left sideline and waved his hands to catch his quarterback’s eye. But instead of throwing to Robinson, Trubisky ran out of bounds to stop the clock.
“If his first read isn't there, then he will turn and run,” Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander said.
”We wanted to make [Trubisky] play quarterback,” Williams said. “We knew they had a lot of weapons. We knew they were dangerous. We knew all of those things. We knew if we could make [Trubisky] play quarterback, we would have a chance.”
Trubisky said he can play better, but thought he threw the ball well. Nagy said this as part of his post-game assessment: “I think he saw the field OK.”
The highly anticipated reveal of Rodgers in new head coach Matt LaFleur’s offense was mostly disappointing. Rodgers threw for just one touchdown, on a four-play, 74-yard drive that took just 1:35 off the clock. It seemed like the Packers’ offense would take off from there, but Chicago’s defense wouldn’t allow Green Bay to find a rhythm, forcing the team to settle for a field goal in the fourth quarter for the final score of the game.
For those closely monitoring Rodgers and LaFleur’s relationship and communication in games (sadly, NBC did not dedicate a relationship cam to showing us closeups of their interactions), there was one quote from Rodgers post-game press conference that stands out. When asked about the two big plays that went to two backup players, tight end Robert Tonyan and receiver Trevor Davis, Rodgers directed credit to LaFleur.
“Yeah, that was, again, a really nice call, I thought, by [LaFleur] there coming out,” he said. “Almost a one-man route there with Trevor at a really important time.”
A change of pace from last season, when Rodgers singled out the play caller for less positive reasons. Rodgers also took a chance to throw more shade at last season’s offense, mentioning that it was good to get Jimmy Graham a touchdown pass because, “he's a guy who was much maligned last year with his role in the offense. Good to get him some throws tonight.”
Both teams played a sloppy game, racking up ten penalties each. On one possession, Chicago committed three consecutive offensive penalties, pushing them back to first-and-40. “I don’t have a playcall for third-and-40,” Nagy admitted. “It was absolutely terrible. It’s unacceptable, there’s no excuses. Every fan that showed up today should be upset. That’s not who we are, we’re better than that.”
Green Bay also got flagged for delay-of-game penalties, as Rodgers and the Packers offense also struggled to get in sync. “That defense is going to give a lot of teams fits,” Rodgers said. “But stuff that we can controI, I can do a better job, a little more urgency out of the huddle. We got a lot of snaps late. We're trying to get them to show their hand at times, but we had too many up against the clocks and a couple of delays. We've just got to get in and out of the huddle a little bit better.”
Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro nailed his only field goal attempt, a 38-yarder in the first quarter, though he clearly hasn’t earned the full trust of the coaching staff. Nagy decided to go for it on fourth-and-ten from the 33-yard-line instead of kicking what would have been a 51- or 52-yard attempt. Pineiro is known for having a big leg and was good from 57 in warmups. But at that point, Chicago’s offense had converted just 1-of-11 third-down attempts. The offense had provided very little proof they could get the job done.
Nagy defended his decision to go for it because the team wasn’t at the distance that special teams coach Chris Tabor determined was their field-goal range for that situation. “He does have a big leg,” Nagy says. “I am just putting trust in what our specials teams coaches are saying, so if they feel like one end [of the field] is different than the other. That’s just what he told me and we have to stick by it. If we start reaching and he kicks a 51-yarder and misses it, it just breaks our rules. I have trust in him making that, He has made multiple kicks past that, but there are certain situations, whatever it is, the wind, whatever, Tabs gives me that number and I go with it.”
Pineiro scored the team’s only points, an ironic outcome after the team spent much of the offseason obsessed with finding a kicker to replace Cody Parkey, and at times, treated the kicker position as if it was it’s most important flaw.
Members of the ‘85 Bears team, a group of players known for its partiers and personalities, walked out onto Soldier Field waving rally towels just before kickoff, but the franchise’s funnest bunch didn’t get to enjoy Chicago’s Club Dub during their stay. If the Bears offense doesn’t find a way to match the play of the defense, Club Dub may not reopen anytime soon.
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