Here's an abbreviated look from Chicago.
1. Be careful. Don’t blame Matt Nagy for sitting his frontline players throughout nearly all of the preseason for the pitiful performance by his offense.
I’m positive that is what some folks are already doing, rationalizing a terrible showing by the offense on a little rust that wasn’t knocked off in preseason. The Bears were so bad on offense that it’s not something 40 or 50 snaps in preseason games would have cured.
It’s a best-case scenario that the reason the offense was disjointed and terribly ineffective on third down and suffered from communication breakdowns because the starters were observers throughout the preseason. But it’s really difficult to imagine how the Bears — who had since April to prepare for the rival Packers — could come out and look simply awful.
Credit is due to the Packers, who reshaped their defense in the offseason with some bold moves in free agency, including a $36 million, four-year contract for former Bears safety Adrian Amos. Green Bay also made moves to bolster the front seven, signing outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. But the Packers don’t have the 1985 Bears defense. Heck, they don’t have the 2019 Bears defense.
2. I wrote last season and in the offseason that Matt Nagy has appeared bored with the running game at times.
That sure seemed to be the case once again as the Bears handed the ball off five times on the first two possessions and then just seven times the rest of the game when they never trailed by more than seven points. It was a four-point game most of the way, but Mitch Trubisky dropped back to pass 53 times and there were a total of 12 handoffs.
Perhaps in Nagy’s evaluation he will determine that the running game needs to be a bigger factor, even if the flow of the game is choppy or worse.
3. Adrian Amos had a pregame lunch with outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, another free-agent signing for Green Bay— and Smith told him he was going to make a big play to help the Packers win.
Amos did just that and the irony is that if there was a consistent knock on Amos’ game during four seasons with the Bears, it’s that he didn’t make enough plays on the ball. This wasn’t a particularly difficult play. Trailing by seven, the Bears were facing third-and-10 from the Packers’ 16-yard line just before the two-minute warning. Allen Robinson ran a corner route and was fronted by cornerback Tramon Williams. Amos bracketed him on the back side and it was an easy catch for what turned into a game-sealing interception.
“I had a real feeling that play was coming and I felt right," Amos said. "I wanted to make a big play to help us win.”
Amos figured Robinson, lined up in the slot to the left, would try a corner route as he had earlier in the possession.
“He called it,” Williams said. “He came to the sideline and said it. He came up with the play. Big play for Amos, especially here in Chicago.
”We wanted to make Mitch play quarterback. We knew they had a lot of weapons. We knew they were dangerous. We knew all of those things. We knew if we could make Mitch play quarterback, we would have a chance. Plus we got some new toys up front. They did their thing today.”
The Packers did get good pressure on Trubisky and I think what Williams means is they wanted to keep the quarterback in the pocket and make him beat them that way. They brought only four rushers on a zone pressure on the interception.
“That was a frustrating one,” Trubisky said. “I wish I would have had that one back. It felt really good when it left my hand and I thought I put it in a good spot for A-Rob. Didn't keep my eyes on the safety (Amos) long enough, and it looked like there was a little contact there, that maybe I should have went in a different spot.
“But we kind of were in our stuff rolling there, and that's one where I've just got to protect the ball and try to find the completion, to allow us to stay on the field. That's one of the tough ones that I'm just going to have to look at on film, see what actually what happened, and then see if it was what I saw on the field at the time and just make a better decision next time and come back and can't put my team in a position like that. It's very frustrating. You don't want that stuff to happen.”
4. Eddy Pineiro delivered with a 38-yard field goal in his NFL debut, putting the Bears ahead 3-0 in the first quarter and drawing huge cheers from the crowd.
“It came off my foot real good,” said Pineiro, who practiced in the stadium during the week. “I got a great snap, great hold and made the kick.”
5. It was a big game for outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, who had two sacks and had a third wiped out by a penalty.
It’s his third multi-sack game in seven career games against the Packers. Floyd has always played well against Green Bay, even scoring a touchdown against them in 2016 at Lambeau Field. Getting Floyd more productive in the pass rush has been a point of emphasis for the new defensive coaching staff and this was a great debut for the former first-round pick.
6. You couldn’t help but notice defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris either, especially during the first half.
He was unblockable at times and while some of them may have been blown assignments by the Packers, Robertson-Harris had a sack, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits. But he was in no mood to celebrate afterward.
7. Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who is from Woodstock and attended Marian Central High School, said he didn’t detect much difference in the Bears’ front under defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.
The Packers were under siege at the outset as they had minus-12 yards after their first three drives, the first time with Aaron Rodgers they’ve been held to negative yardage after the first three possessions, according to ESPN.
“Not really a lot different,” Bulaga said of the Bears defense without former coordinator Vic Fangio. “Without seeing it, I can’t really tell you. When you’re out there, you’re playing. Aaron would probably know secondary-wise what they’re doing in the back end maybe a little bit better. We can’t see that. Upfront, they’re doing a lot of the same stuff. When you have guys like that, that are such good players, you don’t really have to have them do a bunch of crazy stuff. They don’t have to do that. They can win their one-on-one matchups or they can create pressure without having to do all of that stuff.
“You gotta settle down as an offense and eventually start playing. Against that defensive line, they’re gonna make some plays. There are a lot of good football players over there and we know that. It’s a matter of putting your head down, fighting through it and play fundamental ball. If you look at that front, there isn’t a weak link where you can say, ‘Hey, go at this guy.’”
What’s interesting is Bulaga said the crowd, which was raucous from the outset, was mostly checked out in the second half, likely a result of the Bears’ continued offensive struggles.
“We were able to do some things, normal cadence in the second half, which was nice, especially running the football and a couple pass plays we were able to get normal cadence and get off on the snap,” Bulaga said. “That’s a big deal against this defense.”
8. The last time the Bears were held to three points in a season opener was in 2007, a 14-3 loss at San Diego.
This one ranks worse, in my opinion, for the simple reason that the Bears performed so poorly at home. They scuffled in San Diego that day and Rex Grossman was hammered by outside linebacker Shaun Phillips on one of the hardest hits I’ve ever seen a quarterback take.
There are some similarities, though, as that Bears team was coming off a Super Bowl appearance and expectations were sky high. Expectations for this Bears team are massive, but there’s a difference between laying an egg on the road and doing it at home. That Chargers team had Ron Rivera as an inside linebackers coach and he had a good idea what the Bears were doing on offense. In that regard, you better believe Broncos coach Vic Fangio has an idea of what to expect next week when the Bears travel to Denver.
“There’s humility there just for the fact that I know that our guys — we feel really good, we felt good going into it,” Matt Nagy said. “I don’t know what the exact word is for it other than that what you can’t do and what you can’t fall into the trap of is all of a sudden making this seem like it was the Super Bowl and we just lost the Super Bowl. We didn’t lose the Super Bowl, we lost the first game of the regular season. We just need to make sure that we pull back and understand, okay, we’re 0-1, we were 0-1 last year, let’s go ahead and figure out how we rally together.”
9. Tight end Trey Burton was held out with a groin injury, one the team said he suffered last week and isn’t related to the injury that prevented him from playing in the wild-card round playoff loss in January and then put him on the path for sports hernia surgery in the spring.
The good news is that general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy both downplayed the severity of the injury as Burton was limited in practice on Monday and Tuesday. He warmed up on the field before the game with position coach Kevin Gilbride as athletic trainer Andre Tucker looked on. With a long weekend and extended time off until the Week 2 game at Denver on Sept. 15, perhaps Burton will be in a better position to play against the Broncos.
Injuries — or the lack of — turned into a huge storyline for the Bears in 2018 when they were third-best in adjusted games lost, per Football Outsiders, behind only the Ravens and Bills. That was a dramatic turnaround from 2017 when the Bears ranked 31st.
10. Jimmy Kempski of Philly Voice does some serious number crunching after the roster cuts to 53 on the first weekend of September every year. He determines the average age for every team’s roster, a figure that obviously has slightly changes for some with recent transactions. According to Kempski, the average age of the Bears roster after cuts was 26.2 years, ranking them the 11th oldest in the league. That’s a shift from a year ago when the Bears were at 25.7 and had the 12th youngest roster in the league. Older doesn’t necessarily mean worse. The defending Super Bowl champion Patriots have the oldest roster in the league (27.0) and next are the Eagles at 26.6. The youngest? That distinction belongs to the Dolphins at 25.2.
10a. The Packers were a runner-up in the Khalil Mack sweepstakes last September, making a strong bid to acquire him from the Raiders. The thinking is one of the reasons Oakland dealt with the Bears instead is that the Raiders figured draft picks they acquired in return would be better than those they’d potentially receive from Green Bay. Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst was asked earlier this week about missing out on Mack.
“We kind of talk about, there’s deals every week, over the last week every day, that you’re talking about,” Gutekunst told Green Bay media. “I’ve always looked at it, you just keep moving forward. The one thing whether it was (former Packers GMs) Ron (Wolf) or Ted (Thompson) that I learned, there’s always opportunities coming your way so you don’t know what the next one is going to be. You can’t really worry about the ones that were behind you, you just worry about the ones that were coming.
“And so, whether it be the guys we acquired this offseason or this year’s draft or next year’s draft, you just keep moving forward looking at your team and seeing how you can make it better. For every kind of door that’s shut, there’s a window that’s open, you know what I mean? That’s kind of how I look at it. Where we are today, if we would have made a move, we might not be where we are today. And I kind of like where we are today.”
10b. The Bears defense played well and so did punter Pat O’Donnell. He had eight punts and averaged 42.6 yards, with the Packers getting a total of only one yard on punt returns. O’Donnell landed three punts inside the 20-yard line with no touchbacks. It was a fine start for him.