Aaron Rodgers: 'We've got a defense'

Packers QB promises to be better

QB Aaron Rodgers
QB Aaron Rodgers

CHICAGO – Aaron Rodgers couldn't have said it any more matter-of-factly.

Because the truth is straightforward.

"What we did on defense, I think we showed the league and folks watching that we're not just an offensive football team anymore," Rodgers said. "We've got a defense."

It's a good thing, because Rodgers and the Packers' offense were nothing special in the 10-3 season-opening win over the Bears at Soldier Field on Thursday night.

Taking on one of the league's vaunted defenses in Chicago for the debut of new Head Coach Matt LaFleur's offense proved to be a tall order, which was anticipated going in.

But Rodgers and LaFleur still expected better and took their share of the blame. They know there's plenty to work on, but the two-time MVP quarterback's face just kept lighting up every time he talked about the Packers' defensive effort.

"Yeah, that was fun to watch," he said. "It's been a long time since I've seen a performance like that."

Sometimes the truth hurts, too, and Rodgers had every right to say that. The distance the Packers' defense has traveled in 17 games under the coordination of Mike Pettine and the personnel changes of GM Brian Gutekunst is extensive.

Rodgers even harkened back to a victory over the Bears by the same score, 10-3, back in the 2010 regular-season finale. That one, of course, got the Packers into the playoffs and on their way to a Super Bowl title. Rodgers called this one "meaningful as well."

"It was one of those NFC North throwback wins," he said.

The Packers don't want their offense to sit in throwback mode too long, though. Starting a game with three straight three-and-outs, with two sacks, for minus-12 total yards is no regular recipe for success.

Rodgers' thought as the second quarter began was "it can't get any worse." It did get better, for two scoring drives at least, and another that didn't produce points but got the Packers out of a field-position hole.

Penalties didn't help. Rodgers wants to get the ball to Davante Adams more. LaFleur said he needs to stay more committed to the run game early.

All that is for next week, after the Packers catch their breath a bit following this whirlwind of cutting the roster and playing the opener in a span of six days.

The Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears kicked off the NFL's 100th season at Soldier Field.

At least the next defense they face won't be the Bears', though Minnesota's is no slouch of a unit. In his quick, postgame analysis, Rodgers suggested more urgency in and out of the huddle will produce more efficiency.

If there's one thing the Packers can hang their hat on offensively, it's that everyone was ready to make a play, even if not more than a few were made.

The first ball thrown Marquez Valdes-Scantling's way was a 47-yard rainbow deep over the middle, and he hauled it in with a defender right on him. Veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis nearly matched last year's reception total (three) already (with two).

Fellow tight end Jimmy Graham is halfway to last year's touchdown total of two. Robert Tonyan and Trevor Davis, whom Rodgers believes "turned a corner" this summer, each had just one pass thrown their way. They turned them into 28-yard gains on a key fourth-quarter scoring drive. When Valdes-Scantling was sidelined with cramps, other guys cashed in.

That's not a lot to shout about, but it was enough on this night, and Rodgers knows if the defense can keep this up while the offense keeps building, the Packers will be in good shape.

"I told (LaFleur) I'm going to be a lot better moving forward," Rodgers said. "I'm excited about the season. I'm excited about these guys."

After kneeling out the final seconds, Rodgers made sure to hold onto the ball and get it to LaFleur as a keepsake for his first win.

Both will get back at it on offense, because neither was thrilled with the struggles, fits and starts, and missed opportunities. It wasn't the start they hoped for, clearly.

But Rodgers wasn't about to call this win bittersweet. No, nothing bitter about it.

"It's just sweet, it really is," he said. "I hold myself to a high standard, and I didn't play great tonight.

"But to watch a defense like that, it gives you a lot of confidence where this team can go."

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