GREEN BAY – It might not have been the start the Packers had in mind to usher in the Mike Pettine era on defense, but it'd be difficult to script a sweeter finish to Sunday night's regular-season opener against Chicago.
While Aaron Rodgers powered Green Bay's offense to four second-half scoring drives, the Packers' defense put the clamps down on the Bears during the final two quarters to make the come-from-behind 24-23 victory possible.
After allowing 10 points and 146 total yards on the Bears' first two possessions, the Packers' defense didn't relinquish a first down on five of its next six series to keep Green Bay within striking distance going into the fourth quarter.
When Rodgers finally put the Packers ahead with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb with two minutes, 13 seconds remaining, Pettine's defense stopped the Bears twice on the final series of the game to seal the victory.
Green Bay appeared to retake possession after forcing three straight incompletions, but a roughing-the-passer penalty on Clay Matthews on fourth-and-9 gave the Bears one last shot at an answer.
It didn't matter. After three more incomplete passes, Trubisky was stripped of the ball on a sack from Packers linebacker Nick Perry. Defensive lineman Kenny Clark jumped on it, closing the book on Green Bay's first win of the season.
"It was great knowing we got a W on the way as long as we took care of business," Perry said. "Obviously there were a lot of ups and downs throughout that game and we pushed through. We didn't stop, we had to finish the game. We came out victorious."
After so much offseason speculation about what form Pettine's defense would take, the Packers' new coordinator didn't disappoint. Green Bay revealed a barrage of unique sub-packages, with seven defensive backs rotating throughout.
The Packers used anywhere from one to three defensive linemen in their pass-rush packages, while Blake Martinez was the only inside linebacker on the field throughout most of the game.
Chicago capitalized on some early opportunities against the Packers' defense, but the unpredictability began to wear on Trubisky, who threw for only 61 yards in the second half against a defense that consistently cycled Josh Jackson, Jaire Alexander and Jermaine Whitehead in the slot cornerback positions.
"They had linemen out at wide receiver spots, three guys in the backfield, a bunch of different things like that where we had to get adjusted," Martinez said. "Those first couple drives, we were trying to do too much. Then, we settled down and we just focused in on one play at a time, one tackle at a time, one breakup at a time. As we kept stringing those together, we started making plays."
After racking up 146 total yards on the first two series, Chicago managed only 148 on its next eight series to finish with 294 for the game. In addition to Perry, defensive lineman Mike Daniels and safety Kentrell Brice also were credited with sacks.
There were some tense moments, particularly down the stretch, but the defense passed its first test of the season.
"A lot of adverse situations occurred in that second half," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "We played well, got off the field, got penalties to get back on the field and got off the field to win the game. It was a great team win. I was proud to see what we did as a defense. We just have to go back and watch the tape now to see how we get a quicker start."
Point of emphasis: Matthews knows the margin for error is smaller than ever for NFL pass rushers, which made his personal foul in the waning moments of Sunday night's game even more difficult to swallow.
Hot in pursuit of Trubisky scrambling out of the pocket, Matthews made contact with the Bears quarterback shortly after he threw what turned out to be an incomplete pass intended for Taylor Gabriel downfield.
"I think I was just coming on the back side, and, I mean, I'm really kind of beating myself up over that," Matthews said. "Because that's not a mistake that I generally make, especially on fourth down. I think last year they might've given me a nice warning, but it's changing this year."
Up to the challenge: Bryan Bulaga knew he'd likely be asked to stand toe-to-toe with Khalil Mack and the Packers' right tackle was up for it.
While there admittedly were "two or three plays" the veteran right tackle would like to have back, Bulaga and the entire offensive line settled in after Rodgers returned to the field in the second half against Mack, Akiem Hicks and the rest of the Bears' defensive front.
"It's just a matter of getting settled in, especially against a guy like that," said Bulaga of Mack. "Once we got into the second half, I got a little more comfortable with the technique I was trying to use on him and kind of settled into the ballgame a little bit more, and was able to execute the plan that I had in my head going forward."
Stepping up: Jamaal Williams led the Packers with 47 rushing yards against Chicago, but perhaps made his biggest play of the night on Rodgers' 51-yard pass to Davante Adams in the third quarter.
Operating out of the shotgun, Williams stood up to the bull rush of blitzing inside linebacker Danny Trevathan to give Rodgers the extra second he needed to find Adams down the sideline.
"I could tell all their linebackers, they really wanted to bull rush…but we were ready for it," Williams said. "We knew what they were going to do and knew it was going to be some hard hitting in the gaps, but we're always ready for the challenge. We're always ready to go in there and put the lick on them."