Packers’ new-look defense carries offense in opening win
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers presented Matt LaFleur with the game ball Thursday night after the Green Bay Packers‘ 10-3 victory over the Chicago Bears. It was LaFleur’s first regular-season victory as an NFL head coach.
“I’ve got such a high regard for him, not only as a football player but as a person,” LaFleur said Friday. “I can sit up here and talk all day about how much fun I enjoy working with him. But I think that really shows our relationship, how it is. I told him I need to be better for him, too. And not only him, but for all our guys.”
The Packers’ offense — LaFleur’s offense — has to be better. The unit had minus-12 yards in the first quarter before finally opening things up at the start of the second. LaFleur needed to use some post-snap misdirection/deception on his first play call of the quarter to move the chains.
Even still, the 10 points the Packers mustered tied for the fewest Green Bay has scored against the Bears since Rodgers became quarterback.
LaFleur said the ability of the Chicago defense is no excuse for how poorly Green Bay executed offensively.
“That defense is legit. There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “… Even if you’re going against a good defense like that, your standards from an offensive perspective don’t change. I think we all have higher expectations and higher standards for our offense to operate.”
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst spent a lot of money over the offseason retooling and reshaping defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s side of the ball, and it’s paying off.
Gutekunst acquired safety Adrian Amos and linebackers Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith in March through free agency. Za’Darius Smith had three tackles for loss on Thursday, Preston Smith had the game-sealing sack, and Amos, who signed a four-year contract with Green Bay after spending his first four seasons in Chicago, picked off former teammate Mitch Trubisky in the end zone late in the fourth quarter.
“We have a lot of confidence,” linebacker Blake Martinez said about the defense. “I think for us it’s just being consistent. I think going from here, every single day we gotta keep bringing it at practice, walkthroughs, in the meeting room to make sure we don’t get complacent.”
WHAT’S NOT WORKING
LaFleur has stressed from day one the importance of establishing the run. Green Bay had just 47 yards on the ground in the win. Aaron Jones had 39 of those on 13 carries.
“I thought in the second half there were some moments where it felt like we were starting to get the run game going,” LaFleur said. “We just gotta be a little more consistent with it.”
Punter JK Scott booted the ball nine times for 428 yards and pinned the Bears inside their own 15-yard line on three separate occasions. Two of Scott’s punts traveled 63 yards, including a clutch kick in the final two minutes that sailed from his own 16 to the Bears 13.
Geronimo Allison was seen as the guy who could step up and be Rodgers’ No. 2 option behind fellow receiver Davante Adams. But Thursday night’s opener was not encouraging for Allison, who only played in 50 percent of the offensive snaps (32 of 64). He finished with zero catches and wasn’t targeted once.
5. The Packers play five of their next six games at home at Lambeau Field.
Green Bay has 10 days to get ready for another division foe in Minnesota. The Packers went 0-1-1 against the Vikings last season, playing Minnesota to a 29-29 tie Sept. 16, 2018, at Lambeau.