Green Bay’s defense allowed Rodgers to make epic comeback


Bob McGinn


“Hire Dom.’’

Two series into the 2018 season, that was already the buzz throughout Packer Nation.

Dom Capers, Green Bay’s defensive coordinator from 2009-’17 who was fired in January, suddenly looked pretty good. That’s because Chicago scored 10 points in its first two possessions and the Packers — under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine — looked confused and overmatched.

“We just kept at it,” Packers outside linebacker Nick Perry said. “The important thing for us was don’t give in and don’t give up.”

They didn’t. And on a night where Aaron Rodgers gave a legendary performance and rallied the Packers to an improbable 24-23 win, it’s important not to forget the role of Green Bay’s defense.
The Packers allowed 139 yards on the Bears’ first two possessions, an average of 69.5 per drive. On Chicago’s final eight possessions, though, it managed just 155 yards (19.4).
More importantly, Green Bay’s defense allowed just six points after the Bears’ initial two possessions. Chicago’s only touchdown the rest of the game came when Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack intercepted a DeShone Kizer pass just before halftime and returned it for a score.

“They 100 percent kept us in the game,” Rodgers said of Green Bay’s defense. “They were fantastic. They have gotten a bad rap at times, but I thought they played really well tonight.
“(They) gave up 16 points. You should win games when a defense is giving up 16 points in this league. I know they expect us to score at least 17. I’m proud of them. Mike Pettine is a phenomenal coach and we’re going to, I’m sure, have some good film to look at. When we had to have it tonight, we made plays.”
Time and time again, Green Bay’s defense made a play to keep it in the game. The list includes:
• With the Bears leading 20-3 late in the third quarter, Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky escaped pressure on a third-and-11 play and had a lot of running room in front of him. Packers cornerback Tramon Williams closed quickly, though, and stopped Trubisky two yards short of the first down.

• One series later, Chicago had a third-and-1 from its own 34. The Bears rolled Trubisky right, then he threw back to the left for tight end Dion Sims. Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton Dix stayed home, though, and tackled Sims for no gain.
• Late in the fourth quarter, after a pair of touchdown passes by Rodgers narrowed the Packers’ deficit to 20-17, Chicago put together a six-plus minute drive. The Bears drove to Green Bay’s 14-yard line and faced a third-and-2.
Chicago seemingly called a perfect play and leaked dynamic running back Tarik Cohen out of the backfield on a wheel route. But Packers defensive end Reggie Gilbert read the play beautifully and took Cohen away. Trubisky then threw incomplete on a crossing route for rookie Anthony Miller, who was well covered by rookie Jaire Alexander.
• Then with the Packers leading for the first time all night, 24-23, Perry had a strip sack of Trubisky on fourth-and-10 with 1:06 left that nose tackle Kenny Clark recovered.
“We know how we played in the first half. We played well,” Bears wideout Allen Robinson said. “In the second half, we have to come out and do the same thing. We need to come out and execute. We got in the red zone and you have to capitalize when you are in the red zone. We have to get seven instead of three.”

Actually, the Bears didn’t reach the red zone a whole lot after their fast start.
In Chicago’s final eight possessions, it reached the red zone just twice and settled for field goals on both possession. On five of the Bears’ final eight possessions, they didn’t manage a single first down.
Chicago began the game with multiple formations and several new looks under first-year head coach and play caller Matt Nagy. After the Packers adjusted, though, their defense — and Pettine — got the better of Nagy.
“Well, you know, obviously the first 15 (plays) 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.”
Years from now, all many people will remember from this night are the heroics of Rodgers. And that’s certainly understandable.
But Green Bay allowed just 294 total yards and 4.5 yards per play. And if the Packers’ defense didn’t come up large, such a comeback would have never been possible.
“Once we were able to weather that storm so to speak, we settled down and were able to force them to a few field goals, a few three-and-outs and some big third downs,” Matthews said
. “That’s part of the first game. Obviously, playing a division rival, these wins are hard to come by. But we did enough.”

• Picking it up: Chicago had four sacks for 40 yards in the first half. In the second half, the Bears didn’t have a single sack.
One key was Rodgers lined up in the shotgun or pistol the entire second half and got rid of the ball much faster.
“Yeah, I’ve got to get the ball out. I can’t be moving around a whole lot back there,” Rodgers said. “And we did a good job mixing things up in the second half with some of our quicker-hitter stuff and actually some of our more vertical stuff too.”

• Still dangerous: Many wondered if wideout Randall Cobb, in the final year of his contract, would return to Green Bay this season. Cobb’s numbers have slipped in recent years and he was rumored to be on the trading block this summer.
On Sunday, Cobb had a career-high 142 receiving yards and his game-winning 75-yard touchdown reception was the longest catch of his career. Cobb’s nine receptions were also his most since the 2017 season-opener against Seattle.
“I love Randall,” Rodgers said. “He is such a great player. Comes up with big plays. Tough guy. Fun to see him get the go-ahead touchdown.”

• Fuller’s nightmare: Green Bay offered Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller — a restricted free agent — a four-year, $56 million deal in March that the Bears immediately matched. While Fuller is seemingly always around the ball, his hands still leave a lot to be desired.
With 2:39 left in the game and the Bears still clinging to a 23-17 lead, Packers wideout Davante Adams was bumped off his route and Rodgers’ pass went right into the hands of Fuller. Instead of intercepting the gift-wrapped pass, though, Fuller dropped what could have been a game-ending throw.
“I had an opportunity and I just needed to make a play,” Fuller said.

• Backup plan: Packers No. 2 quarterback DeShone Kizer played 14 snaps when Rodgers went out in the second quarter. Kizer had two turnovers in that time — one in which Mack took the ball from him on a sack and another where Mack intercepted a screen pass for Ty Montgomery and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown.
Kizer finished the night with a paltry 42.9 quarterback rating.
“Well, it’s a learning experience,” McCarthy said of Kizer. “Frankly, I mean, we have to take care of the football. That’s from day one. Our turnover ratio in our history here speaks for itself. And we’re minus-two right now. That’s the one big negative to come out of this game.”

• Sigh of relief: The Packers appeared to have won the game when they stopped Chicago on fourth down with 1:39 remaining. Instead, Matthews was penalized 15 yards for roughing Trubisky, giving the Bears new life.
After Chicago picked up one more first down, though, Green Bay forced three straight incompletions and Perry ended the Bears’ hopes with a fourth down sack of Trubisky.
“I’m really kind of beating myself up over that,” said Matthews, who had just one tackle and no pressures all night. “Because that’s not a mistake that I generally make, especially on fourth down.
“I think last year they might’ve given me a nice warning, but it’s changing this year. I had my iPad charged and ready to turn in tomorrow to (general manager Brian Gutekunst). I’m glad Nick bailed me out. Yeah, something like that.”

• Missing in action: Much was made this offseason of Green Bay’s improvement at tight end. Through one week, anyhow, that wasn’t evident.
The Packers’ tight ends combined for just three catches and 21 yards. High-priced, free agent acquisition Jimmy Graham had two catches for eight yards and veteran Lance Kendricks had one catch for 13 yards.
“It was really more the way the game went,” McCarthy said. “We actually had a no-huddle package with our tight ends that we had to file away. Our second series, first down, we just never got back to it, especially after Aaron got hurt.”

• Odds and ends: Green Bay had the second-largest comeback in team history at Lambeau Field. The largest came on Sept. 17, 1989, when the Packers rallied from 21 points down and beat New Orleans, 35-34. Green Bay was quarterbacked that day by Don Majkowski, who was in town for Alumni Weekend and was at Sunday’s game. … Josh Jackson became the first rookie cornerback to start a season-opener for the Packers since Sam Shields in 2010. … According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Green Bay won for the first time in franchise history after trailing by 17 points, or more, entering the fourth quarter.

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can't discount the fact that Trubisky missed a bunch of open recievers. A better QB and this defense doesn't look so good..


Aaron wants Pettine to be HC.

I liked that they got the stop. Let's see how they hold up against Dalvin Cook.


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Tons of variables at play (Bears playcalling, Trubisky still being crummy etc.) but the NFL is a bottom line business, and the bottom line is that after a horrendous start, GB's defense adjusted accordingly and held the Bears to 16 total points, 6 in the second half, which was just enough to allow GB to get a comeback win.

The Dom Capers D had years to let everyone down. I'm giving the Pettine D some leeway to show us what it is (and isn't) and can be, and that doesn't involve making large scale judgements after every single week. tc(