Green Bay Packers defense breaks from the script, slows Bears down to spark comeback
GREEN BAY – Weather the storm. It was the mantra of the Green Bay Packers' defense, at least early on Sunday evening as they took on a new-look Chicago Bears offense at Lambeau Field. They knew the ship would get rocked by new Bears head coach and play-caller Matt Nagy, formations and plays they’ve never seen leaving them holding tight.
Weather the storm.
To win — let alone allow for Aaron Rodgers to come back from 20 points down — they had to keep the ship upright.
For 15 plays, the Packers’ new-look defense under Mike Pettine absorbed it all. Jordan Howard barreled through the line of scrimmage. Tarik Cohen left Packers defenders looking like toddlers on a frozen pond. Mitch Trubisky stood tall and delivered the ball with accuracy and confidence.
For 15 plays, the Bears nearly capsized the Packers.
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Those first plays, scripted throughout the week of practice by disciples of the West Coast offense like Nagy, totaled 140 yards of offense.
“Expect all the tricky stuff, all the motions, all the shifts in the first 15 plays,” Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark said.
There was the 10-play, 86-yard drive that encompassed 6 minutes, 2 seconds and ended with Trubisky in the end zone while two Packers collided in the backfield.
Trubisky then directed a 9-play, 60-yard drive that ended in a Cody Parkey field goal and a 10-0 Bears lead.
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“Obviously first 15 is always difficult,” Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews said. “A lot of unscouted looks, especially with a new coordinator. You know, a new team, really. They gave us a few things that I don’t think we anticipated. Not to say we weren’t ready or anything like that, it’s just that’s what you get when you play a new team, new coordinator and all that. A lot of college-style protections, slide. Made it difficult for the guys on the edge to really get involved. With all the misdirection and screens and this and that — whatever you want to call it — obviously they were able to march down the field.”
After the 15th Bears play — a 13-yard completion from Trubisky to Allen Robinson that drew a roughing penalty on Packers linebacker Nick Perry — an interesting thing happened.
Trubisky ended the drive with two consecutive incompletions, plays 16 and 17.
“It’s like man, they’re getting all these yards, but relax they only got 10 points, we score it’s a one possession game,” Packers cornerback Kevin King said. “Forget about what it sounds like or what it looks like — this is what it is. We’re still in this game. Everybody was kind of like, OK, c’mon, this is what’s in our reach. Then it’s like OK now, defense, we gotta step up.”
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The ship wasn’t only righted, it veered onto the course Pettine and his charges insisted they would take all week — dictating the game to the Bears, as opposed to vice versa.
The Bears’ final 51 plays of the evening, spanning three quarters, totaled just 154 more yards. They didn’t score another touchdown, settling for just two field goals.
The Bears went 3 for 4 on third down in those first 15 plays, just 4-for-13 the rest of the way.
“We expected a lot of man on third-and-short and they came out and played a bunch of zone,” Nagy said. “Credit to them for mixing it up. A lot of our calls were built for man. We had some risky calls that we just went with and we blew them and they just made plays that we didn’t. Just have to go back to the film, continue to learn and, like I said, it’s tough when we don’t have on-scout looks.
“We don’t know what they’re going to bring and you’ve just got to trust the play and hopefully our execution beats theirs. But, credit to them for coming up with those stops and we’ve just got to do better because those are big plays.”
Weather the storm.
“Once everything settled down,” Clark began, slapping a fist into an open palm. “It went perfect.”