Every Packer fan should have lower blood pressure readings after Sunday’s road victory at Soldier Field. Most of us should be chuckling at ourselves for the laundry list of worries we had before this game.
Last year’s porous run defense, hamstring injuries to our top two receivers. Rookies Musgrave and Reed starting at tight end and slot receiver respectively. Our best pash rusher just back from a serious knee injury.
A rookie kicker who missed as many as he made in camp. And, of course, Jordan Love starting his first game without Aaron Rodgers on the roster. So many torments. Why do we do it to ourselves?
But this Packer team produced stellar performances in all three phases of the game while snuffing out any Bear hope of victory before the fourth quarter began. That, Packer fans is a statement.
Now, did they get some help from a poorly executing Bears team? Yes. But, they still had to execute in a hostile environment and respond to swings in momentum. And they did, all game long.
The poorest run defense in the NFC last year stopped the Bears on 3rd and one and 4th and one on their first offensive possession. The Packer defense held Bear running backs to 67 yards and Justin Fields to 59 with a long of 10 yards.
They kept the Bears out of the end zone in the first half and if not for an unfortunate offsides penalty they would have kept them out in the third. The defense also provided two turnovers, a fumble strip by Devonte Wyatt recovered by Rasul Douglass and a pick six interception by linebacker Clay Walker that was a highlight real catch and run.
Nobody was more critical of Clay Walker in his rookie year than this writer. Which made it even sweeter to watch him have a great game to start 2023. Not only was the pick six a highlight to replay for years to come, but he was also recognizing screens and misdirection and making solid tackles at or near the line of scrimmage.
Savage also was much improved in his angles and tackling producing 10 total tackles leading the team. And when was the last time the Packers got two sacks from rookies in their first game? Both Lukas Van Ness and Karl Brooks sacked Fields. Devonte Wyatt and Kenny Clark had two more between them.
In all the Packer defense tallied seven tackles for loss and seven plays of no gain or only 1 yard. That totals 14 out of Chicago’s 70 plays that were stuffed by the Packers defense.
Jordan Love had himself a day. His numbers impress. (15-27 / 245 yrds./ 3 TDs / 0 int. / QBR:123.3). Another key, only one sack.
Love got good protection, but he also helped his offensive line by getting the ball out in rhythm and making good decisions when he needed to pull the ball down and run. The other truly impressive take on Love’s day was how he did not get flustered when plays were disrupted.
The Packer first drive started with two negative plays setting up third and long. Love calmly dropped back and fired a laser that caught Doubs in his hands for a first down.
His first touchdown throw was a coaching clinic on read progression and accuracy. And when he ran, he fought through tackle attempts, an inspiring debut. When the offense was clicking it felt like a great combination of good play calling and execution.
Romeo Doubs might have been a 4th round draft pick but he is a big-time player in the making. His second touchdown catch with a defender all over him on the back shoulder pass was impressive.
Aaron Jones played the offensive spark plug to perfection. Luke Musgrave and Jayden Reed had their rookie moments, but their 5 catches contributed. Reed’s route running was particularly impressive for his first NFL game.
Musgrave’ s deep catch was a game changer. Love picking up a fumble and having the cool to look downfield finding Musgrave speaks volumes to Love’s readiness to handle the pressure. Musgrave’ s run after the catch…. give him a break, it’s his first game.
Special teams were also big contributors to the team win. Carson hitting a 52 yarder to start his career was epic. He was perfect for the day with punter/holder Daniel Whelan smoothly corralling two high snaps.
Reed totaled 35 yards on 3 punt returns and Nixon was strong on kick returns. And the coverage units did not give up a big play, helped by Carlson’s long kickoffs and Whelan’s booming punts.
The first test of 2023 was passed with flying colors. Next up, the undefeated Falcons who beat the Panthers 24-10.