Green Bay Packers

The Packers Set A Tone Of Quiet Confidence In Chicago

Photo Credit: Mark Hoffman via USA TODAY Sports

Being a Green Bay Packers fan who lives in Chicago meant that going to the Packers-Bears opener was a requirement. What I didn’t expect was that my overall game experience could largely be described as an encapsulation of the entire offseason dialogue between the Packers and Bears fans.

The beginning of the Jordan Love era was a hopeful thing for Bears fans. The boogeyman Aaron Rodgers was finally gone. No more bi-annual drubbings by their neighbors to the north. Wisconsin has fallen.

From Bears receiver Darnell Mooney saying “get ready to win,” to their defensive lineman predicting, “We’re not getting beat by [the Packers] anymore.” The Bears had a lot of bravado heading into the game.

That cocksure energy pervaded the atmosphere at Soldier Field. The pregame experience was electric, from a C-130 flyover and a powerful national anthem rendition from local Chicago legend Jim Cornelison. The stadium was abuzz. It was a pregame party. Bears fans had no fear entering the matchup.

On the leadup to kickoff, I had more than 50 interactions with various Bears fans, ranging from your run-of-the-mill trash talk to them telling me I’d want to switch jerseys by the end of the game. Admittedly, I was wearing a cheesehead, making myself a walking magnet for conflict, and most of these fans were friendly. But the Bears fans, like their players, certainly were willing to voice their opinions. There was a lot of yapping. Think of your younger sibling, or a chihuahua.

Comparatively, the Packers energy leading up to the season opener was more subdued. All the messaging coming from Titletown was about supporting Jordan Love and tempering expectations.At the 2023 NFL annual meetings in March, Matt LaFleur clearly set a tone for a Love-led Packers team, saying, “I don’t think any quarterback can truly do it on their own in this league. It’s going to be everyone rallying around him and trying to play at the best of their ability so that he can go out there and perform as good as he can.”

LaFleur’s message was essentially that the best way to support Love was to play to the best of your ability and show up for him. That was evident throughout the offseason with the Packers offensive skill players like Romeo Doubs, Aaron Jones, Christian Watson, Jayden Reed, and Dontayvion Wicks showing up in California before OTAs to build chemistry.

Similarly, Packers fans showed up at Solider Field to support their new quarterback. By my estimation, roughly a quarter of the crowd was in green and gold. Largely, Packers fans were fairly quiet, mildly anxious about this new chapter, but giving each other nods and fist bumps and exchanging chants of “Go Pack Go” throughout the lead up to the game.

The game was pretty tightly contested throughout the first half. Love and the Packers had the touchdown drive on their first offensive series of the game, then were largely inconsistent. Some rookie mistakes stunted their progress for the rest of the quarter. Meanwhile, the Bears found success thanks to Justin Fields’ ability to scramble, improvise, and make something out of nothing.

Then the Packers found their stride and dominated offensively, scoring on three out of their four first series if the second half. They also consistently pressured Fields and won in the trenches. Quay Walker capped the game off with a house call, returning an interception for a touchdown and sending Bears fans slouching toward the exits. “Go Pack Go” chants started to rain down.

Love summarized his view of the game well in his postgame presser. “I think all offseason our team’s been slept on, and it’s just one of those things that you can’t do anything about it until we go out there and prove it. I think we did that today.”

Ultimately, the game felt like putting a period on an offseason where the Packers expressed confidence in Love. However, they did not make any guarantees like the Bears players did.

LaFleur talked about his young players bouncing back after some early miscues, “You have to be resilient and you cannot let one play affect the next play.” The Packers relied on their preparation and each other, while frustrated Bears fans were booing their own team in the second half and started to leave the stadium with a full quarter of the game left. That was the difference between the two fanbases on Sunday, and it paralleled the experience on the field. The Packers kept their helmets down and let their actions speak for them, while the Bears dreams withered beneath the familiar feeling of futility.

 

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