Historic Soldier Field was the venue for Sunday’s noon game of the most historic and heated rivalry in Football. 60,838 was the announced attendance for the heated week one bout. Chicago started out strong and even held a three-point lead at halftime over the Packers before they crumpled at the end.
Matt Forte got the first play of the year for Chicago, a gain of three up the gut. The result of Forte’s second carry was a 22-yard gain, hopefully a sign that the Bears will vitalize Forte as a workhorse this season. First-year Bear Jacquizz Rodgers also gathered a first down on his first Bears touch and ran for 16 yards on four carries.
First-year offensive coordinator Adam Gase looked really comfortable calling plays in the first possession, and his players executed them acutely. Cutler was making better decisions as evidenced on 2nd and 3 when he faced a heavy rush from Jayrone Elliott and threw the ball in the ground to his closest pass-catcher. Alshon Jeffery looked healthy despite a calf injury. His first grab was a 25 yard gain thanks to a solid throw and read by Cutler on 3rd and 3.
The offensive line looked somewhat shaky on the first possession. They allowed a sack and a lot of dangerous incursions on Jay Cutler. A 28-yarder from stalwart kicker Robbie Gould gave the Bears a 3-0 lead early.
Jarvis Jenkins made the first Bears tackle of the year, stopping Aaron Rodgers from going any further on a sneak. After an Eddie Lacy run and an incomplete pass, Green Bay went three and out to force Punter Tim Masthay to come on the field.
On third & nine the pocket collapsed, Cutler was sacked and ex-Bear Julius Peppers recovered what looked like a fumble but just came out after Cutler’s knee touched the turf. Second-year Punter Pat O’Donnell legged a gorgeous 56-yard punt on 4th & 19 that exits the field at the Packer 23-yard line.
Green Bay started off their second drive with a 20-yard completion from Rodgers to his last-name counterpart Richard Rodgers. On the next play, five Bears, led by Will Sutton and Christian Jones swarmed Eddie Lacy after he garnered two yards. Green Bay finally realized how to use Lacy on their second drive, allowing him to do what he does best and rack up yards by powering his way through the Bears D-line. Chicago forced a big third down in the red zone but Rodgers threw a picturesque pass to James Jones on the right side of the end zone that new Bear Alan Ball couldn’t break up. The catch gave Green Bay a 7-3 lead.
Unlike last year, the Bears were really consistent in giving the ball to Forte and getting the running game going, something Adam Gase firmly believes in.
Martellus Bennett, who caught 90 passes last season, was on the receiving end of five Cutler passes for 55 yards and one score, including a one for a first down on a huge third & two. He really wants that new contract. Green Bay went offsides three times during Chicago’s third drive, one of them resulted in a first down when Sam Shields jumped early. Four plays later, Forte ran left off the Tackle and scored from the one, making it 9-7 Chicago.
The Bears worked a great two-minute drill and were able to get Robbie Gould within distance to boot a 50-yarder through the uprights with eight seconds left before halftime.
Later in the second half, Cutler faced heavy pressure, and in a panic, overthrew Eddie Royal in the corner of the end zone on fourth down to give the Packers the ball at their two.
On Green Bay’s ensuing possession, the Monsters of the Midway forced a huge third & out preventing Green Bay from getting past their own 15.
The Bears marched down the field to the Packers 29 when Jay Cutler saw Martellus Bennett open for the second play in a row, but when the ball’s in the air, Clay Matthews jumps in front of the pigskin and takes it to the Bears’ 38.
After that, the game was all but over and as the seats began to empty, Bears fans had that feeling they have had so many times before. It is the 12th time in the Jay Cutler era that the Bears have lost at the hands of the Packers, a stat nobody should be proud of.
Shortly thereafter, Eddie Lacy scored a two-yard garbage time touchdown to make it 31-16.
Chicago then drove down the field in six plays, capping off the drive with a 24-yard Martellus Bennett touchdown,giving the the remaining Bears fans in Soldier Field a glimmer of hope. Hope that was quickly squashed after the Green and Gold recovered Robbie Gould’s onside kick attempt with 33 seconds to go.
Cutler and Rodgers shook hands, as did John Fox and Mike McCarthy. Both teams will meet again on week 12. The losing Bears will go on to play the Cardinals next Sunday and Green Bay will take on the team that beat them in the NFC Championship last year, the Seahawks.
Follow Peter Elliott on Twitter @PelliottSports.