CHICAGO — Don’t misunderstand, the Green Bay Packers are thrilled with their 3-0 start. They are happy with their 27-17 victory over the Chicago Bears Sunday at Soldier Field. They are pleased they could pick apart a fierce division rival in a hostile environment with a balanced offense and gritty, playmaking defense.
But as they left the locker room and walked into the Chicago night for their trip home, the Packers couldn’t help but wonder how much better they are capable of playing.
“It’s an interesting feeling in that locker room,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who passed for 297 yards and three touchdowns.
“We just won a big division game against a rival on the road, and I think there’s a feeling of, we could have played a little bit better. It’s fun to be 3-0. It’s exciting coming to work with these guys. And we got, I think our best football is still in front of us.”
If the Packers ever put it all together, their opponents might need to run for cover. As it is, the Packers are doing more than enough to get by. With some tweaking here and cleaning up there, they might be unstoppable.
“No doubt about it, we felt like that since Day 1,” said cornerback Tramon Williams. “To be 3-0, with that much room for improvement, is exciting. We’re going to get those things cleared up.”
Those things include the Packers’ inability to bury their opponents when they have the chance.
Against New Orleans and Carolina in their first two games, the Packers held double-digit leads but needed late-game onside kick recoveries to help secure victories. Against Chicago, they led by 17 points in the fourth quarter before getting sloppy and giving the Bears some hope.
But not even a series of Packers blunders in the final 12 minutes — a fumble, interception, blown punt coverage and secondary breakdown — could save the Bears.
In the end, it was all good for the Packers. But there’s a strong feeling that they want more and won’t stop until they get it.
“If we’re going to do the things that we want to do this season, we’ve got to get better,” said cornerback Charles Woodson. “We’re nowhere near hitting our stride as a team. But we have gutted out some tough wins, made some big plays when we needed to, to win those games, so we feel good about that but we definitely got to get better.”
Packers coach Mike McCarthy holds his team to high standards, so the mistakes against the Bears will serve as motivation.
“We have a ton of room for improvement,” said McCarthy. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
McCarthy scoffed at the notion the Packers were in control of the NFC North, and you can be sure he will carry that message to his team this week.
“People that talk about leading the division after three games, I think it’s nonsense,” said McCarthy. “There’s a lot of football left to be played.”
But the Packers should be encouraged by how effectively they ran the ball against the Bears, with Ryan Grant gaining 92 yards in 17 carries (5.4 average). That was complemented by the dominating receiving performances of Greg Jennings (nine catches, 119 yards) and Jermichael Finley (seven catches, 85 yards, three touchdowns). Any offense would kill for that kind of run-pass combination.
The Packers can also take satisfaction in a defense that held Bears running back Matt Forte to 2 rushing yards.
Now it’s a matter of fine-tuning and eliminating costly errors. If the Packers can do that, there’s no telling how good they can be.
“I think we have the potential to get better,” said Rodgers. “I don't know how many wins that means or the playoffs or whatever, but I just think that we can play better football. The standard that we’ve set around Green Bay is excellence, so until we’re at that point, there’s going to be a lot of hard work during the week.”
Green Bay is one of the few places around the NFL where 3-0 isn’t quite good enough.
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