National Football League
Packers-Bears rivalry is in a new era, but the story hasn't changed yet
National Football League

Packers-Bears rivalry is in a new era, but the story hasn't changed yet

Published Sep. 10, 2023 9:42 p.m. ET

This may be a new era in the rivalry between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears — but so far, we're seeing the same old story.

With Aaron Rodgers no longer being the boogeyman under center and Green Bay ushering in first-year starter Jordan Love, there was optimism in Chicagoland.

"I know I haven't gotten a win since I've been here against the Packers," said cornerback Jaylon Johnson. "I'm definitely looking forward to changing that around."

"I can't [wait]," safety Jaquan Brisker said. "I'm itching [to play] […] People hate Green Bay. I hate Green Bay. So I can't wait."


There are only three players on the Bears roster who know what it's like to beat Green Bay. After Sunday's matchup, those three remain. The Packers once again beat the Bears, this time by a 38-20 margin, to open the 2023 season at Soldier Field.

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur seemed to understand one very simple concept: surrounding your young quarterback with reliable talent will help him. Love has been in Green Bay for three years. He knows the offense inside and out. What he needed was to lean on veteran players as he got his legs under him.

So that's what Green Bay let him do.

Running back Aaron Jones was the team's leading rusher and receiver. Green Bay scored on their first drive of the game, in which Jones rushed for 24 yards, including on a third-and-2 when he scampered seven yards to keep the drive alive. 

The next time the Packers scored a touchdown, it was on a one-yard run by Jones. And then on the very next possession, Love hit Jones in stride on a crosser across the middle and Jones did the rest of the work, taking the ball 35 yards into the end zone. 

Throughout the game, Love kept relying on Jones. And it kept paying off. 

"Whenever my number is called, be that reliable guy, be that constant," Jones said after the game. "Whenever [my] number is called, they don't have to worry about anything and the job's going to get done. I guess a little bit more with Jordan, trying to take a little pressure off his plate."

'Hats off to Jordan Love and that offense' - Greg Olsen reacts to Jordan Love and the Packers defeating the Bears

Love was also mostly free from actual pressure with Green Bay's O-line standing tall. He was sacked just once. The team rushed for 92 yards and its pass-protection held up. 

"The O-line as a whole, the protection was great all night," said Love after the game. "There were a couple times when I was able to get through my whole read and there was still no one around. I was able to kind of look around. An area I can clean up is just being more comfortable back there and be able to not get out of the pocket on a couple of those that I tried to but protection was great."

Imagine being able to just sit in the pocket. In today's NFL. Wild.

I asked Bakhtiari if he felt a sense of pride that Love can rely on them so heavily. 

"Yeah, we better," Bakhtiari said.

"We have to all make sure we band together, give him whatever time he needs whether that's half a second or six seconds, doesn't matter," he continued. "We just have to protect him, let him make his reads and let him get comfortable in a game. And then obviously in the run game open up holes and do our job. Just be the unsung heroes that we love doin'." 

It wasn't a world-beating outing by any means, but there was noticeable improvement in Love's comfort level in the second half. Love led an eight-play, 75-yard drive that ended in that one-yard score by Jones immediately following halftime. Love then followed it up with a four-play, 42-yard drive, taking advantage of good field position. At the start of the fourth quarter, Love engineered a five-play, 61-yard drive that was capped off by wide receiver Romeo Doubs' second touchdown of the night. 

At halftime, Love was just 7-of-16 passing for 81 yards and a touchdown that came on the first possession of the game.

By the end of the game, Love was 15-of-27 for 245 yards and 3 touchdowns. That was good for a 123.2 passer rating. To put things in of perspective, that rating is better than all but two of his predecessor's games last season. The offense scored 31 points (seven points were from a pick six by the defense), which was more than all but three games last year.

Love was kept in the game for its entirety, but it wasn't out of necessity. The Packers led 38-14 well into the fourth quarter. The Bears got a garbage time touchdown but didn't end up converting the two point try after, which left the score at 38-20 where it would stay.

'We showed the world what we were about' — Jordan Love speaks after Packers' dominant win over the Bears in Week 1

Other takeaways

— Enough about the offense; the Packers defense found a pass rush. They sacked Bears quarterback Justin Fields four times. Second-year player Devonte Wyatt accounted for 1.5 of those as he's been touted a potential breakout defender for Green Bay this season. Wyatt is one of eight first-round picks on the defensive side of the ball and they played like it on Sunday. Not only did they register four sacks, but also six quarterback hits and seven total tackles for loss. They broke up five passes, too. 

Fields was uncomfortable for most of the game, evidenced by the fact he once again led the team in rushing yards. He rushed nine times for 59 yards and most, if not all, were not designed that way. 

Green Bay's defense also forced two turnovers, one fumble by Fields and one interception from him. Linebacker Quay Walker was the one who picked Fields off and was then able to scamper in for a defensive touchdown. 

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— Things seem much the same for a Chicago Bears team that invested heavily in its offense, hoping that Fields could establish himself as a franchise quarterback. The team got wide receiver D.J. Moore in a trade from the top overall spot in the draft last year but on Sunday, Moore had just two catches, both of which came back to back at the start of the second quarter, for a total of 25 yards. 

Moore gained a first down on both of them, but Chicago failed to get him involved for a few reasons. One, Green Bay had cornerback Jaire Alexander on Moore for a majority of the game. Two, the Bears offensive line was again shuffled due to injuries prior to Week 1 so they still had no continuity to lean on. Multiple players started at a position they weren't expecting to this season. Lucas Patrick, who is supposed to be a backup on this current roster, came in at center and moved Cody Whitehair, who was supposed to play center this season, back to guard where he played last year. 

After missing quite a few practices in training camp and the two weeks leading up to Sunday, free-agent acquisition Nate Davis started at right guard. Rookie Darnell Wright was brought in to man the right side, and he did, while Braxton Jones played left tackle.

The result was disastrous. The Bears managed just 14 points for most of the game in spurts of productivity before getting one more score in garbage time with Green Bay playing prevent defense. Fields was left to make plays out of nothing with his legs. No running back rushed for more than 30 yards. And after keeping the game close in the first half, the defense couldn't stop the bleeding in the second half. 

This Bears team still has a long way to go and Fields still has a lot to show before the Bears can be sure about his future with the organization.

Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.

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