RIVALRY GAME KICKS OFF 2009 IN PRIME TIME
- Green Bay kicks off its 91st season of professional football – its 89th as a National Football League franchise – at Lambeau Field Sunday night against its most storied rival.
- No truer rivalry exists in the NFL, and no two teams have met on the gridiron more than Green Bay and Chicago. Sunday marks the 178th game in the all-time series.
- Names like Halas and Lombardi, Nitschke and Butkus, Starr and Payton only begin to define the history of the series. Currently, the Bears own a 90-80-6 advantage in regular-season play, in addition to the lone playoff win in 1941.
- Green Bay opens the season at home for the fourth consecutive season. The Packers are 49-36-3 (.570) all-time in season openers and 2-1 under Head Coach Mike McCarthy.
- It marks the 21st time Green Bay plays Chicago in the season opener. Amazingly, 18 of the previous 20 have occurred in Green Bay, with the lone Windy City openers coming in 1979 and '81. The Bears hold a slight 10-9-1 advantage in openers against the Packers.
- For the second consecutive season, the Packers will open in prime time against a division opponent. Green Bay defeated Minnesota 24-19 on Monday Night Football to open the 2008 season. The Packers are 4-0 all-time in prime-time openers, all of which have come on MNF.
PACKERS, BEARS NEVER LACKS FOR STORYLINES
- In such a tradition-filled rivalry, there is no shortage of topics covered in the week leading up to the game.
- For Green Bay, it will be its first chance to put a disappointing 2008 season behind and begin anew.
- Though opposing teams have seen the Packers' new 3-4 scheme in the preseason, this will be its first true test in live action.
- On offense, a unit that has ranked in the top 10 each of the last three seasons will look to make the jump into the NFL's top echelon, becoming one of the game's most dangerous units.
- For Chicago, it marks the debut of Pro Bowl QB Jay Cutler, traded to the Bears this offseason from Denver.
- And for both clubs, neither of whom made the playoffs a year ago, it marks the first step toward claiming the NFC North crown.
- Sunday night will go down among the more noteworthy season-opening games between the Packers and Bears. Of the previous 20, here's a look at some of the more memorable in Green Bay:
Date: Result (Notes)
Sept. 29, 1957: W, 21-17 (First game in Lambeau Field history)
Sept. 27, 1959: W, 9-6 (Vince Lombardi's head-coaching debut)
Sept. 15, 1963: L, 10-3 (One of Lombardi's two career home losses to the Bears (also 1960 opener))
Sept. 13, 1964: W, 23-12 (Paul Hornung returns to the gridiron after 1963 gambling suspension)
Sept. 7, 1980: W, 12-6 (Chester Marcol takes deflection of blocked FG 25 yards for overtime TD)
Sept. 1, 1997: W, 38-24 (Packers begin title defense on MNF)
Sept. 10, 2006: L, 26-0 (Bears spoil McCarthy's debut)
- As per team tradition, the Packers will select game captains each week.
- For the season opener, the game captains will be WR Donald Driver (offense), CB Charles Woodson (defense) and CB/S Jarrett Bush (special teams).
- Packers alumni Jerry Kramer and James Lofton will be in attendance and introduced on the field prior to kickoff.
- National Guard officers will unfurl a large American flag during the National Anthem. Blackhawk helicopters will perform a time-synced fly-by as well.
- Head Coach Mike McCarthy, like all NFL coaches, stresses the importance of getting out to a quick start in the early portions of the 2009 schedule in order to springboard the team to greater successes.
- This offseason, one of the main goals was an added emphasis on starting fast – literally – in the first quarter through an increased tempo at the line of scrimmage and ultimately more point production.
- The Packers produced a total of 13 points (one TD, two FGs) on their first offensive possessions a year ago, second fewest among all NFL teams (Detroit, 10). Despite ranking No. 5 in total scoring (419 points) in 2008, the Packers produced their lowest output (61 points) in the first quarter. That total ranked tied for 20th.
- So far this offseason, it looks as though that emphasis has paid off, as the No. 1 offense was clicking early and often.
- QB Aaron Rodgers led an offense that scored touchdowns on nine of 13 possessions as he registered an NFL-best 147.9 quarterback rating during the preseason.
- Not to be outdone, the defense finished its preseason action with 13 takeaways (eight interceptions, five fumbles) and 12 sacks. The No. 1 unit allowed only 13 points.
- With the third preseason game being as close to a dress rehearsal as there is in the NFL, Green Bay's starters stormed out of the gates in a road contest against defending NFC champion Arizona, building a 38-10 halftime advantage before giving way to the second units.
- All told, Green Bay's starters outscored opponents 76-13 in just over six quarters of play. But, to a man, each has acknowledged that it will mean nothing if it is not carried over into the regular season.
- "When we do our job we're hard to stop," RB Ryan Grant said. "It's definitely preseason so you keep things in perspective, but we should feel confident about where we are and where we can start as an offense."
u"It is only preseason, but I think we've put together some dominating quarters," CB Charles Woodson said. "Even as dominant as we've been, we still made a lot of mistakes. We feel like we can get better, and I think we will."
WEARING THE STRIPES
Tonight's officiating crew includes referee Ron Winter (14), umpire Bill Schuster (129), head linesman Jim Mello (48), line judge Tom Stephan (68), field judge Jim Howey (37), side judge Tom Hill (97) and back judge Rich Reels (83).