CHICAGO – The Packers began the 2023 regular season with an uplifting 38-20 victory over the archrival Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday.
Here are five takeaways from the triumph:
1. Jordan Love answered the bell.
After a long offseason full of speculation and hype as to just how Love would perform as the Packers' new starting quarterback, the 2020 first-round draft pick came through big-time.
Not just by putting up a sparkling 123.2 passer rating, going 15-of-27 for 245 yards and three TDs, but by staying in command of a game that had a lot of ups and downs before the Packers pulled away in the fourth quarter.
"That's this game, right?" Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "You have to be resilient, and you can't allow one play to affect the next play … he's got the composure, the competitiveness.
"All in all, I couldn't be more proud of his performance."
2. Aaron Jones' value to the Packers' offense can't be overstated.
Jones had five carries on Green Bay's opening possession, helping set up a TD, and then he took over in the third quarter.
He took a throwback screen 51 yards to set up his own 1-yard TD plunge. Then on the Packers' next drive, he caught Love's quick throw on fourth-and-3 from the Chicago 35-yard line and took it to the house, pushing the lead to 24-6.
"He's a guy that tilts the field in your favor," LaFleur said. "He's so dynamic and explosive. You even take out the football stuff, he means so much to that locker room by his actions, but what he says and what he does on a daily basis. He's a real leader in that locker room. He inspires everybody."
On the crucial fourth down, Jones ran what's called a "choice route," where he reads the defense and selects his route based on what he sees. Love saw what the Bears' defense was doing, leaving man coverage on Jones with a linebacker, and thought the short throw had a chance to break big.
"I knew it was going to be open, I knew he was going to kill them (on that)," Love said. "It was an awesome finish by him the way he was able to split the defenders."
Jones finished with 127 yards from scrimmage (41 rushing, 86 receiving) with the two scores and didn't even play the fourth quarter, exiting with a hamstring injury on his second TD. LaFleur said after the game he's hoping it was "just a cramp."
3. The Packers' defense had some big moments, too.
On the opening drive of the game, the Packers stopped the Bears on fourth-and-short at the Chicago 40-yard line, giving Love and the offense a short field for the early TD.
Then in the fourth quarter, second-year linebacker Quay Walker intercepted Bears QB Justin Fields and weaved his way 37 yards for a TD on the return, putting the game away at 38-14 in Green Bay's favor.
It was the defense's second takeaway of the game, following a Fields fumble forced by Kenny Clark and Devonte Wyatt on a shared sack. The offense didn't cash in on the first one, and the defense took care of things itself on the second.
The Packers also stymied two Bears drives in the first half, forcing field goals, and the pick-six provided a great bounce-back after Chicago scored its first TD late in the third quarter.
Fields was the bulk of the Bears' offense, leading their team in rushing with 59 yards on nine attempts and throwing for 216 yards. But he needed 37 attempts and posted just a 78.2 passer rating.
LaFleur also gave credit to safety Darnell Savage, the defense's leading tackler, for encouraging him to go for the fourth down in Chicago territory in the third quarter, which resulted in the 35-yard TD catch and run by Jones.
"He's the one who kind of said, 'Gotcha coach,'" referring to the defense having his back no matter the outcome of the call. "I guess that made me a little more decisive in that situation to go for it."
4. Green Bay's rookies did their part.
Receiver Jayden Reed had two big receptions for 48 yards, plus a 35-yard punt return. Tight end Luke Musgrave had two catches for 50 yards, including a wide-open 37-yard reception when Love fumbled the snap but recovered to get the throw off.
Kicker Anders Carlson drilled a 52-yard field goal on the final play of the first half and was 5-for-5 on PATs. Two of the Packers' four sacks were turned in by Lukas Van Ness and Karl Brooks.
"I was really proud of our young guys," LaFleur said. "They'll continue to get better and better and grow along the way. We have to make sure to continue to push them.
"All those guys collectively, that rookie class, they love ball, and that makes it fun to work with guys like that."
The Green Bay Packers kicked off the 2023 regular season against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023.