CHICAGO – This time the Packers caught the onside kick, the change in play-calling was seamless, and the Packers are off to a fast start. It was a very good offseason for the Packers, which they punctuated with a 31-23 win over the Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday.
"It's a good way to start the season. Playing this game is always a huge challenge. This is our starting point. This is who we are as a team today," Coach Mike McCarthy said following the win.
Who are these Packers? They aren't the team that ended last season in heartbreak. This time, they finished the game. There is no hangover from that loss in Seattle.
The Packers overcame their inability to stop Bears running back Matt Forte by forcing Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to throw three consecutive incompletions during a critical goal-line stand in the fourth quarter, and then intercepting Cutler the next time the Bears had the ball.
"Taking the ball away in the second half was going to be a deciding factor. It was the turning point in the game," McCarthy said of Clay Matthews' interception as the Bears threatened to drive for a potential game-tying touchdown.
Aaron Rodgers overmatched Cutler when it meant the most, in the fourth quarter. When the game was on the line, it was the quarterbacks that decided it.
"Offensively, the plan was to establish the run and the pass. I thought the offense did that," McCarthy said.
Rodgers was precision-like in passing for 189 yards, three touchdowns and a 140.5 passer rating. Eddie Lacy added 85 yards rushing and one touchdown in an impressive display of balance between run and pass.
Matt Forte rushed for 141 yards, 105 of those yards in the first half. Cutler was having one of his best games against the Packers, until the fourth quarter.
"The run defense was a bit of an issue in the beginning. We'll have some things to learn from that," McCarthy said. "I thought our run defense definitely improved in the second half."
Newly acquired wide receiver James Jones shared the star's role with Rodgers. Jones made two touchdown catches, the first of which was an extraordinary effort to reach around the defender and catch the ball.
"James looked like he never left. I'm not surprised at all J.J. stepped right in and was able to play," McCarthy said.
The Packers clinched the win when Davante Adams caught the Bears' onside kick attempt.
Tom Clements, the team's new play caller, put on a McCarthy-like effort. The change from McCarthy to Clements was seamless.
"It's all about communication. We have a group of men who have spent a lot of time together. I was never concerned," McCarthy said.
McCarthy is now the second-longest-tenured coach in Packers history.
"I love working in Green Bay. It's a great organization. This is a great rivalry. It's a privilege to be a part of all this," McCarthy said.
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