Last week, I attempted to be the voice of caution for excited Packers fans and pundits ready to anoint the Packers as the favorite in the NFC. After an underwhelming offensive performance and a narrow victory, it should be clear why I was so reserved in my judgment.
That being said, Packer fans need not panic. The offense was sluggish and play calling unimaginative at times. The pass protection was poor, after a preseason where Aaron Rodgers basically stood in the pocket for as long as he wanted, surveying the field to throwing whenever and wherever he desired.
With the Bears' pressure, Rodgers was out of rhythm and missed a ton of open receivers. To be fair, his pass catchers didn't give him much help as they dropped some catchable balls.
The offense we saw Sunday night looked nothing like the offense we saw in August, but we couldn't expect it to be. That Bears' defense is much better than expected and boasts a pass rush considerably more fierce than anything the Pack had faced in preseason.
This is the first time the young O-line has had to face that kind of aggressive pressure. Allen Barbre struggled with Ogunleye, but most tackles do. This offensive line has not played together as a unit in the regular season, and we had to expect some growing pains.
As I mentioned last week, teams don't scheme in the preseason, so once a team gets film on you, they're going to create matchup problems. Coaches and scouts get paid just to do that.
There was bound to be more pressure in the regular season than the preseason. That's just the difference in intensity. It will only increase in the playoffs, should the Packers wind up there.
The offense will come around. The real story from the game is the defense. They stuffed Matt Forte and, with the exception of the big play to Hester, held the Bears' offense in check. Corners are going to get beat like Woodson did, but the Packers' defense held on that drive. That kind of play-making was non-existent last year.
The Packers turned Jay Cutler into a JV quarterback, forcing off-balance throws and bad decisions to the tune of four picks. If Tramon Williams hadn't had a case of the "dropsies," it could have been even more. The Packers could have conceivably picked half a dozen from Cutler, as Dom Capers defense lived up to its preseason billing.
That was the question mark. Aaron Rodgers is in control of the offense, as long as McCarthy grows a pair and picks up his aggressive play calling back up where he left off in the preseason.
But the defense's ability to matchup with offenses was the big question. Could Al Harris and Charles Woodson adjust to playing zone? Could the Packers get pressure from their front seven without giving up big plays? Could Nick Collins be the same game-changer he was last year, without giving up as many big plays or missing as many tackles?
The answer seemed like an emphatic "Yes," (with the exception of the Hester TD on which Collins cramped up, whether physically or mentally) after Sunday's performance.
We watched some of the best teams in the league struggle opening weekend, and the Packers were no exception.
But in the NFL, a win is something to be savored no matter how you come by it or against whom. Luckily, the Packers will get a chance to do a lot more right this Sunday against cellar-dwelling Cincinnati, and they won't really be tested until that massive Monday night matchup against the Viqueens.
Getting the Bears in Week One was a blessing for the Pack because that offense won't be held in check for long. When they roll into Soldier Field late in the year, you can bet things will be different.
But after one game, Green Bay got the W and that is all that matters. They sit at the top of the division now, and they'll get a chance to get in sync as the schedule is soft the next few weeks.
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