In an old-school game reminiscent of the old NFC Central — also known as the Black and Blue Division — the visiting Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears 10-3 in Matt LaFleur’s coaching debut as the NFL kicked off its 100th season with the league’s oldest rivalry Thursday night.
The Packers hired LaFleur as coach to resurrect the Aaron Rodgers-led offense, but it was second-year coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense and a former Bears defensive back that helped Green Bay upset the defending NFC North champions.
“We’ve got a defense,” a smiling Rodgers said afterward on the NBC broadcast.
With Chicago in the red zone and trailing 10-3 with 2:03 remaining, Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky fired a pass into the end zone that was intercepted by former Chicago safety Adrian Amos, whom the Packers signed in free agency.
The Bears got the ball back at their own 14 with 1:33 and one timeout remaining, but Trubisky & Co. went four-and-out, with Preston Smith’s sack on fourth-and-8 clinching it.
The Packers led 7-3 at halftime, and that score held into the fourth quarter. Chicago crossed midfield early in the fourth, but three consecutive penalties made it first-and-40, and two dropped passes made it third-and-40.
Green Bay tacked on a 39-yard field goal by Mason Crosby with 5:15 remaining, a drive keyed by 28-yard completions to receiver Trevor Davis and tight end Robert Tonyan.
A key moment came on a second-and-10 from Chicago’s 49 with 4:16 remaining. Trubisky hit receiver Taylor Gabriel for a 24-yard catch while tumbling out of bounds. Trubisky rushed the offense to the line of scrimmage, but LaFleur threw his challenge flag, and the completion was overturned by review.
Chicago kept moving, though, before Amos’ interception on third-and-10 from the 16.
Chicago’s defense, which led the NFL in points allowed last season and returned four Pro Bowlers, dominated the start of the game. Green Bay’s first three possessions resulted in three punts and minus-12 yards.
With the Packers’ offense going in reverse, the Bears’ field position was on fast forward. They started their second drive at Green Bay’s 36 but settled for a 38-yard field goal by Eddy Pineiro. As the ball split the uprights, the Soldier Field crowd erupted, no doubt due to memories of last year’s double-doink miss by Cody Parkey in a playoff loss to the Eagles.
One big play changed everything, as Rodgers employed a fake end-around to receiver Davante Adams and hit fellow receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a gain of 47 early in the second quarter. Rodgers followed with short completions to tight end Marcedes Lewis and Adams before hitting tight end Jimmy Graham for an 8-yard touchdown, despite 12 defenders on the field.
—Field Level Media