The Green Bay Packers did not get their 2012 NFL season off to a good start, as the Packers were physically whipped on both sides of the ball and lost 30-22 to the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
There are a number of questions that have to be answered for the Packers going into their matchup on Thursday night at home versus the Chicago Bears.
I have asked five of the those questions in this article.
The Packers aren't used to losing. Not recently at least. The Pack only had one loss in the regular season last year, on the road at Kansas City deep in the 2011 season.
Plus, the Packers have rarely lost at Lambeau Field in the regular season. Going into last Sunday's game, the Packers had won 13-straight regular-season games at Lambeau.
So, can the Packers bounce back? Odds say they will. The Packers haven't lost back-to-back games since late in the 2010 season, when Green Bay lost two road games in a row to the Detroit Lions and the New England Patriots. Aaron Rodgers only played in half of the Detroit game, as he suffered a concussion that caused him to miss the New England game.
Even after those two defeats, the Packers went on a 6-0 run which brought back another Vince Lombardi trophy to Green Bay as the Packers won Super Bowl XLV.
The Packers have dominated the Chicago Bears for decades now. First it was Brett Favre who tormented the Monsters of the Midway and now it's Aaron Rodgers.
Favre was 22-10 against Chicago, while Rodgers is 7-2, including a 21-14 win in the 2010 NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field.
Rodgers is his usual very efficient self playing against the Bears. He has thrown 15 touchdown passes compared to just five picks for 1,976 yards and has a QB rating of 102.9.
Meanwhile, Jay Cutler is only 1-5 as a starter versus the Pack. He's thrown seven touchdown passes versus 11 interceptions for 1,441 yards and has a QB rating of 67.5.
The last time these teams met, receiver Jordy Nelson had six catches for 115 yards and a two scores.
The overall record of the Packers versus the Bears, which dates back to 1921, is 85-91-6. The two teams have also split two postseason games.
The Packers were physically dominated at the line of scrimmage in their game versus the Niners last Sunday, but the news wasn't all bad. Believe it or not, the defense of the Packers is ranked 21st in the NFL right now, which is a whole lot better than the dead last, 32nd-ranking the team finished with in 2011.
However, the Packers are ranked 31st in rush defense, as the team gave up 186 yards rushing and 5.8 yards per carry against the 49ers. The San Francisco offensive line controlled the defensive front of the Packers and you can bet that the coaching staff of the Bears watched that film intently.
The Packers are ranked sixth in pass defense in the NFL, again, a far cry from the team's ranking of 32nd in the league last year.
The Packers are also tied for second in the NFL with sacks, led by Clay Matthews, who had 2.5 sacks against the 49ers.
The big area for concern for the Packers was the lack of turnovers last week by the defense. The Packers led the NFL in turnovers created by their defense last year and that has to happen against the Bears on Thursday night if Green Bay expects a victory.
The Packers, as usual, threw the ball fairly well against the 49ers last Sunday, as Aaron Rodgers was 30-of-44 for 303 yards and two touchdowns. Rodgers threw a costly pick, however, and ended up with a 93.3 QB rating.
Overall, the Packers are ranked 11th in the NFL in passing offense, while the Bears are ranked third.
In terms of total offense, the Packers are ranked 19th, while the Bears are ranked sixth.
The big problem the Packers have is running the football. The Packers are tied for 26th in the NFL in rushing yardage as they were only able to rush for 45 yards against the Niners. Rodgers had 27 of those yards and running back Cedric Benson only had 18 yards in nine carries.
The Bears are ranked 14th in the NFL with a 114 rushing yards.
Bottom line, the Packers need to get more balanced in their offensive attack. The calling card of the Green Bay offense will always be the passing game, but the Packers need to blend in some effective running to keep the opposing defenses on their heels.
Early in the Mike McCarthy regime, the Packers were always among the NFL leaders in penalties committed. That has changed recently, as the Packers have become much more disciplined and the team only had 76 penalties total last season.
The Packers had 10 penalties for 77 yards last Sunday after being tied for the fewest penalties in the entire NFL last season. Why the discrepancy?
Was it a case of too many mistakes for the Packers? Was it the inept performance of the replacement refs? A combination of both?
I thinks it's a case of the latter. The Packers had two key pass interference penalties committed by Jarrett Bush and Charles Woodson which kept alive drives by San Francisco.
Now certainly the performance of the replacement refs didn't help, as the Packers and Niners played with a replacement crew which had thrown the most penalty flags per game this preseason.
Add to that all the obvious missed calls by the replacement refs, in addition to some very questionable penalty flags thrown.
Bottom line: the Packers need to focus on doing their specific assignments well and let the game play out. Hopefully, the replacement refs don't change the outcome of the game with their incompetence.