CHICAGO – It was crunch time. The Packers had a distinct advantage.
When the game was on the line, Aaron Rodgers played as you would expect a two-time MVP to play. He made big plays with his arm, his feet and his command of the game. He drove the Packers 78 yards in 16 plays to give the Packers a 24-16 lead.
His counterpart, Jay Cutler, who had been playing one of his best games against the team that has tormented him as no other has, all of a sudden reverted to form. He threw three consecutive incompletions from the 2-yard line, and then threw an interception to Clay Matthews the next time the Bears had the ball.
With that, the Bears' upset bid was over. They had rushed for a lot of yards and had held Rodgers company in check for most of the game, but when the outcome was on the line, the Packers pulled away. Why?
"I just think that's the way we're coached. We have a feeling in the fourth quarter we have to come through," Rodgers said.
This was not your typical Packers-Bears game. This one had an extra ingredient to it for the Packers. How would they respond from that heartbreaking loss in Seattle last January?
The message is loud and clear: That was last season; this is this season.
An offseason of change was celebrated by victory in Sunday's season opener. Let's go through the checklist:
- Improved special teams play? Check.
- Seamless play-calling transition? Check.
- Fast start? Check.
- Mike McCarthy's beard? Gone.
The Green Bay Packers opened their 2015 season slate in Chicago to face the Bears. Photos by Jim Biever, Packers.com.
"Tom called them and I ran them. It was very positive," Rodgers said of the change in play-callers from McCarthy to Associate Head Coach and former offensive coordinator Tom Clements.
All of the potential controversies were disarmed. Now, the Packers will have a chance to get one more sour taste out of their fans' collective mouths: Avenge that loss last January in Seattle by beating the Seahawks in Green Bay next Sunday.
Any thoughts about that game?
"Not yet," Rodgers said. "St. Louis got them in overtime. I'll get to the film tomorrow morning and be ready for them."
Oh, what about that mini-controversy that was the signing of James Jones? Well, he caught two touchdown passes and was one of Sunday's stars.
"No disrespect to James, but it wasn't that out of character. It's how he approaches his job. There's a comfort in this offense for guys who've flourished. I have no hesitation going to him; I told him that before the game. We had some one-on-ones on the back side for James and I went to him," Rodgers said.
Make no mistake about it, signing Jones was a very good move by the Packers.
The big negative in the win over the Bears is the rushing yardage allowed Matt Forte.
"They ran the ball very effectively at times and it was good to get our defense to the sideline," Rodgers said of the Packers' 16-play touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
Remember Rodgers' calf injury? No hangover there, either.
"It's a different offense when I can do those kinds of things," Rodgers said of two big scrambles in that 16-play drive. "We had some conversions with my feet. It gives an extra element to our offense. You can bust out a run like that and it can change the defense's calls because they have to put a guy on you."
After three consecutive opening-day losses, the Packers are celebrating the sweet feeling of 1-0.
"It's been a while. We have to start fast. Mike's been talking about it all spring and summer." Rodgers said.
"We are one win away from tying the series up," he added of the Packers-Bears rivalry.
Get ready for the Seahawks.