The Green Bay Packers kicked off the Matt LaFleur era with a bang, riding a dominating defensive performance to a key divisional road win over the Chicago Bears in the NFL’s opening game.
The Green Bay Packers have been perennial contenders in the NFC North, but they haven’t made the playoffs in two years, which is an eternity in Titletown. That slump cost Mike McCarthy his job, leading Green Bay to name Matt LaFleur as their new head coach, and his first game was a tremendous success with the Packers toppling their arch-rivals, the Chicago Bears, 10-3 on opening night.
Surprisingly, the key to the Packers’ success wasn’t a dominant offensive attack led by future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers was without a doubt efficient, completing 18 of 30 passes for 203 yards and the game’s lone touchdown, an eight yard strike to Jimmy Graham, but the key to this win was the Packers’ defense.
The Green Bay D, coordinated by the returning Mike Pettine, absolutely throttled the Bears’ offense all night long. Bears’ quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who many assume would take a huge leap forward in his third year as a pro, looked completely lost for most of the night.
The Packers sacked Trubisky five times and picked him off late in the game, with the Bears’ signal caller completing just 26-of-45 passes for 228 yards. That averages out to a dismal 5.1 yards per attempt, and the poor showing should set off alarm bells in Chicago for the next ten days.
The story here, however, is the fact that the Packers looked like Super Bowl contenders again after just one game of the LaFleur era. LaFleur entered an unenviable situation in Green Bay, being tasked with reinventing the offense that living Packers’ legend Aaron Rodgers has run for his entire career to this point, and so far it looks like Green Bay has bought in to what LaFleur is selling.
LaFleur also deserves credit for his decision to retain Pettine as his defensive coordinator, a move that paid off in spades for the Packers tonight. Pettine is one of the best defensive minds in the NFL, and keeping him in Green Bay allowed the Packers to maintain continuity on the defensive side of the ball, which is huge since the unit had to integrate a ton of new talent over the summer.
The Packers also got a huge jump on the NFC North race by picking up a road win in Chicago, which won the division a year ago, and have a chance to build a nice cushion for themselves with their next three games at home. Week 2 will see the Packers take on the Minnesota Vikings, and picking up another win there could signal the start of a magical first year for LaFleur.