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Jordan Love era begins with, of course, a Packers-Bears clash

NFL’s oldest rivals meet for 25th time to open a season


GREEN BAY – At long last, his time has arrived.

"It's been a waiting game," Packers QB Jordan Love said this week, three years and four-plus months after he was drafted. "Yeah, I'm definitely excited to finally get my shot."

As Love officially takes over for Aaron Rodgers at 3:25 p.m. CT Sunday to begin the 2023 regular season, it seems only fitting it's against the Bears.

Not just because the two clubs are the NFL's oldest rivals, but also due to the significance of a number of Packers-Bears openers, including the launch of Matt LaFleur's head coaching career four years ago, also at Soldier Field.

"The intensity, I can still remember our first year opening up on the road there in '19 and how crazy it was," LaFleur said. "So I would imagine it being the same."

That defensive slog of a victory for the Packers marked the 24th time Green Bay and Chicago opened a season against one another. Sunday will be the 25th. But more on the history in a moment.

Don't get LaFleur started on that inaugural contest beginning his eight-game winning streak without a blemish against Chicago, which he declared means "nothing" this week.

And for how "excited" Love professes to be, don't expect him to show it outwardly. That's just not his style, though those close to him can sense it.

"He just has a very good demeanor about him, very confident, very relaxed," offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich said. "I can feel his excitement this week. You can just see he's champing at the bit to get out there and go for it.

"He's done a great job handling himself really well around the guys. I'm really excited about Jordan and watching him grow."

So is the entire organization and its fan base. New era, new slate, new season.

"It just has a playoff-like feel in Week 1 because everybody's geared up," LaFleur said. "The fans are geared up. Our players are geared up. Everybody's ready to roll and kick off the season."

So with that, here's a rundown of the rivalry as it pertains to the 24 previous season openers, highlighting the games that carried historical import for one (or both) of the franchises, or were particularly memorable for one reason or another:

The two teams met six times in the 1940s in the first game of the season. The Bears won in '42 on their way to an undefeated regular season but eventual loss in the NFL title game to Washington. The '43 opener was a tie, but the Bears won the rematch later on to win the Western Division over the Packers by one game (8-1-1 vs. 7-2-1) and ultimately avenge the previous year's defeat to Washington for the NFL championship.

The Bears also won the '46 opener on their way to another NFL title, the franchise's seventh at the time, but the Packers knocked off the defending league champs in the '47 opener.

In the 1950s, the Packers opened what is now Lambeau Field with an upset in the '57 opener over the defending Western Conference champion Bears. Two years later in '59, the Packers once against surprised the favored Bears with a down-to-the-wire 9-6 triumph in Vince Lombardi's first game as Green Bay head coach.

In '63, the Packers were the two-time defending NFL champs, but the Bears won the opener, then beat Green Bay again despite the Packers' eight-game winning streak in between. Those turned out to be the Packers' only losses in an 11-2-1 season, but the Bears posted an 11-1-2 mark and went on to capture their eighth NFL crown.

The 1980 opener had probably the single most unforgettable play of them all, as Packers kicker Chester Marcol caught his own blocked field goal in overtime and ran for the winning touchdown. Sadly, all the excitement quickly wore off as the Packers lost their next three games. The Packers won the opener again in '81, too, and also proceeded to lose three in a row (and six of their next seven) right after.

The Packers began defense of their Super Bowl XXXI title with a win over the Bears in the '97 opener, and they'd eventually make it back to the Super Bowl that year, only to come up short.

Green Bay's Mike McCarthy era began in the '06 opener with a shutout loss to the Bears, who would go on to reach their first Super Bowl in 21 years but fail to win it all. McCarthy would win 19 of his remaining 25 games against the Bears.

The '09 season began with Rodgers throwing a 50-yard TD pass to Greg Jennings with just over a minute left, which became Rodgers' first fourth-quarter comeback victory. Green Bay's win in the '15 opener also began what became a 6-0 start to that season.

The '18 opener was Matt Nagy's first game as Bears head coach, but it became the Packers' second-largest comeback ever at Lambeau Field. Rodgers got hurt, Chicago took a 20-0 lead, and Rodgers returned to rally Green Bay to a 24-23 win, capped by a 75-yard catch-and-run by Randall Cobb with just over two minutes left. The Bears would go on to win the NFC North that year, though.

Last but certainly not least, the LaFleur era began in '19 with a defensively dominant 10-3 Packers win at Soldier Field, which gives the Packers a 7-1 mark in the last eight openers against the Bears, dating back to 1980, and a 13-10-1 edge overall.

But don't bring that up. The message has been delivered it means as much as LaFleur's 8-0 run in the rivalry as a whole.

"We're not looking into the past," running back Aaron Jones said. "It's about now. We've got to go out there and write our own start, and it starts Sunday."

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