The Green Bay Packers bounced back after a Week 1 loss, beating the Chicago Bears 27-10 in their home opener. Although it wasn’t perfect, Green Bay’s offense looked at ease moving the ball downfield. The defense also showed significant improvement. They were able to hold the Bears to just three points after their first drive of the game.
The Packers now are 1-1 on the season and 12-1 in their last 13 games against the Bears. (Copyright notice: The Chicago Bears are a wholly owned subsidiary of Aaron RodgersCorp.)
After another disconcerting Week 1 loss, it seems the Packers have found their rhythm. They asserted their dominance over a division foe, albeit one that has largely been their punching bag for the last decade. Matt LaFleur continued his unbeaten streak in games following a loss. Just south of Wisconsin, the Italian beef sandwiches are drooping at half-mast, and tears are puddling atop the world’s most overrated pizza.
Here are five numbers that tell the story of Green Bay’s win over the Bears.
Aaron Jones stole the show on Sunday night, recording 170 yards from scrimmage. In the uncomfortable week following the loss to the Minnesota Vikings, fans wondered how the offense would find ways to get the running game more involved. In Week 1, Jones only got eight touches in a game where he proved highly effective as a runner and a pass-catcher.
This week it looked like there was a clear emphasis on getting Jones the ball. He ran it 15 times for 132 yards and a score while also catching three passes out of the backfield for 38 yards and another touchdown. It didn’t matter how many players the Bears stacked in the box; Jones was easily able to turn the corner on them by using his speed to get outside. He finished with an incredible 8.8 yards per carry in a game where fellow running back AJ Dillon couldn’t get anything going.
With the Packers still looking for someone to lean on in this post-Davante Adams offense, they might turn to Jones as a runner and pass-catcher until someone in the receiving corps can separate themselves.
The Packers deployed many more two-back looks on Sunday against, running 10 plays with Dillon and Jones on the field simultaneously. With most NFL offenses shifting to a more pass-happy style, with running backs becoming less valued, it is surprising to see the Packers move away from this trend.
Though it is partly out of necessity, with Jones and Dillon being the two best non-Rodgers players on the offense and the receivers being questionable, it is still good to see these two talented backs on the field together. Their versatility allows Jones and Dillon to change up the looks. Since they are capable pass catchers, Jones and Dillon can split out wide if needed. They can even line up as true running backs next to Rodgers in a shotgun formation. Green Bay’s two running back sets will be something to watch.
Edge rusher Preston Smith showed out on Sunday night, recording five pressures. It was no surprise Green Bay would try to exploit the relative inexperience of Chicago’s offensive line. Smith did exactly that, recording two of the Packers’ three sacks while accounting for half the pressures.
Smith wasn’t just living in the backfield. He made his impact known all over the gridiron, recording seven tackles. Smith was able to contain Justin Fields and quickly react to the QBs movements without getting deceived by play action.
Rodgers didn’t need ayahuasca for clarity on Sunday night, picking on Bears rookie Kyler Gordon by targeting him 13 times. Over the years, Rodgers has developed an instinct for finding the weak link in the secondary and piling it on early and often.
It looked like Rodgers identified Gordon as his victim early in the game, and Gordon allowed 10 catches for 162 yards and a touchdown. Last week on The Pat McAfee Show, Rodgers talked about how the coverages the Vikings threw at him confused him a little bit, saying he had to hold on to the ball an extra second or two. On Sunday night, he didn’t seem to have any such problem.
The Packers need to take better care of the ball. They fumbled three times, although they were fortunate to keep possession on two occasions.
The problem with these fumbles is that the Packers could have easily avoided them with better communication on the offensive side of the ball. While the Amari Rodgers punt muff might be less avoidable, both fumbles on offense seemed due to miscommunication.
During the first fumble, Rodgers and Dillon looked like they were on different pages regarding the play call. They couldn’t exchange the ball cleanly on the handoff because they turned in different directions and tried to make their way back to one another with awkward footwork. The result was the ball falling loose for the Bears to recover.
The Packers were fortunate later when rookie Christian Watson nearly caused another fumble. Watson was in motion when the snap hit him as he passed in front of Rodgers. They managed to hang on to it. While these plays don’t usually happen with Green Bay’s offense, and they didn’t have major implications this week, the Packers need to iron out the communication problems ASAP.