All of the preseason precision was missing once the bright lights of the NFL's regular season were turned on Sunday night.
Luckily for the Packers, one finely executed play turned out to be the biggest.
Coach Mike McCarthy's dramatic call on third-and-1 from the 50 with time precious commodity led to Aaron Rodgers' touchdown pass to Greg Jennings with 1 minute, 11 seconds left in regulation gave the Packers a 21-15 victory over the archrival Bears in the season opener.
It was a huge statement by the Pack, who not only kept pace with Brett Favre and the Vikings — still sounds strange, doesn't it? — but they created questions with a team some thought could reach the Super Bowl because of the addition of quarterback Jay Cutler.
Defense was the name of this game and the Packers' switch to the 3-4 looked superb. There was a frenetic pace to new defensive coordinator Dom Capers' scheme, forcing Cutler into four interceptions and forcing several other errant throws.
So, let's hand out the Week 1 honors:
WHAT IT MEANS
Holding serve on their home field was critical. With experts splitting votes between three of the four teams as the favorite to win the NFC North, Also, erasing the stigma of last season's close losses (seven by four points or less) is a good start to a new year.
Offense: Aaron Rodgers. It wasn't a game you would put in the scrapbook based on his final stats (17-of-28, 184 yards, 1 TD, 0 picks), but shaking off a safety and some shaky passes, Rodgers came up with a clutch TD pass in a critical situation. It will cement his leadership capabilities.
Defense: Dom Capers. Yeah, I know. He doesn't play. Still, Capers deserves credit for getting the 3-4 defense in shape and confusing the heck out of a pretty good QB in Cutler. The speed at which the Packers' defense played was something Cheeseheads only see on the basketball court.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Rodgers' TD pass to Jennings grabs headlines, but defensive end Johnny Jolly snaring a Cutler screen pass intended for Matt Forte was an amazing play and thwarted a Bears second-quarter scoring opportunity.
Defensive end Cullen Jenkins was a force, constantly putting pressure on Cutler and keeping the Bears' running game in check. Jenkins not only had a sack, he had three tackles for a loss. Emerging players in this new 3-4 scheme could make this defense quite dangerous.
Right tackle Allen Barbre was the poster child for the Packers' struggles on the offensive line. The newly minted starter surrendered two sacks and was beaten numerous other times, which led to several hits on Rodgers.
The national television audience will be spared from the unsightly scene that is the Bengals. They mustered a late TD, only to lose 12-7 to the Broncos on a fluke 87-yard touchdown pass.
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Written by Steve Drumwright