For the next few days, the Green Bay Packers will have the best record in football.
The Packers (1-0) kicked off the 2019 NFL season Thursday night with a 10-3 road win over the rival Chicago Bears (0-1). A year after overcoming a 20-0 deficit to beat Chicago in Week 1, Aaron Rodgers came through again with 203 passing yards and a touchdown.
Green Bay also stepped up defensively to hold the Bears without a score for the final three quarters.
Mitchell Trubisky was held to 228 passing yards and an interception on 26-of-45 passing in a rough outing as Chicago fell to 0-1 for the sixth straight season.
Improved Packers D Will Take Pressure off Rodgers
Everyone went into the game ready to discuss the Bears defense, but it was the Packers defense that turned heads in Week 1.
The unit ranked just 22nd in points allowed last year but made several key changes, including adding former Bears safety Adrian Amos as well as pass-rushers Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith. These upgrades were seen right out of the gate:
Green Bay finished with five sacks and 11 quarterback hits while forcing Trubisky to move around the pocket and out of his comfort zone. Amos then made the clutch interception in the end zone to seal the game for Green Bay.
Additionally, first-round pick Darnell Savage made his presence felt with some excellent closeouts down the field:
He also brings a lot more speed to the defense, which will help against any opponent.
Though you don't want to overreact to one game, the talent is there for the Packers to have a top-10 defense in 2019. The last time they ranked inside the top 10 in either points or yards allowed, they won the Super Bowl to conclude the 2010 season.
Green Bay's defense has been a problem as of late, ranking outside the top 20 in points in each of the last three years. This has put a lot of pressure on Rodgers to carry the team with his offense, something no one can do every game.
A great defense could allow the quarterback to stay more conservative like he was last season with his 25 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He can make his usual great plays down the field and at the end of games without being expected to score on each drive.
Bears Must Feature David Montgomery Going Forward
The final numbers weren't too impressive as Montgomery finished with 18 rushing yards on six carries. Those who follow the game only through fantasy were likely disgusted by the performance of the highly regarded back.
However, the flashes were there that showed why the Bears traded up in the third round to get him.
In the first half, Montgomery got a first down on a run in which there was seemingly no where to go:
His early carries caught the attention of the scouting community who saw similar traits during his college years:
He also added one catch for 27 yards.
The problem is he didn't get much of a chance to shine with limited opportunities against the Packers.
Mike Davis and Tarik Cohen stole looks out of the backfield while even Cordarrelle Patterson had one failed run up the middle. Despite clearly being the team's most dynamic player, Montgomery came off the field for large stretches at a time.
Bears coach Matt Nagy is good at scheming big plays and confusing defenses, but sometimes you need to simply get the ball to a player who can make things happen. This is even more necessary when Trubisky struggles to lead the offense on his own.
The quarterback finished with a 62.1 rating and made poor decisions that led to the team's dreadful 3-of-15 mark on third-down conversions. Outside of some great plays from Allen Robinson II, the offense had very little movement.
Trubisky would be more effective if he had a reliable run game to lean on, opening things up down the field.
If Montgomery can get at least the 270 touches that Jordan Howard saw last season, he could be a difference-maker for this offense.
Rodgers/LaFleur Combo Provides More Questions Than Answers
For the first time in his career, Rodgers started a Week 1 game without Mike McCarthy as the head coach. The result was an uneven showing in the first game under new coach Matt LaFleur.
Though the Bears might have the toughest defense Green Bay will see all season, there was really only one positive drive all game: a four-play, 74-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter.
Rodgers showed his aggressiveness on two of those plays, finding Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Jimmy Graham down the field:
The quarterback looked like his old self with some more unique plays, moving around the pocket while making some creative throws to his receivers and running backs.
On the other hand, there wasn't a lot of success within the offense in Week 1.
Running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams combined for 39 rushing yards on just 2.2 per carry, which also limited the effectiveness of the play-action passes.
To make matters worse, Rodgers was consistently forced to audible in the last few seconds of the play clock and picked up multiple pre-snap penalties.
This first quarter was also a train wreck for the Green Bay offense:
In the end, the Packers punted on nine of 11 possessions (not counting their two end-of-half possessions).
Some of this could come down to inexperience and rust after Rodgers didn't play in the preseason, but it's hard to be excited about LaFleur's offense through one game.
Can the Packers run the ball with Jones? Will Davante Adams be used like an elite receiver? Can the line protect the quarterback consistently? Does Rodgers need to make wild plays for the offense to succeed?
These questions will determine the squad's success in 2019, and they haven't yet been answered after one game.
Both teams will now get extended rest before continuing their seasons on Sept. 15. The Bears will go on the road to face the Denver Broncos while the Packers will host the Minnesota Vikings in another NFC North battle.