Packers vs. Bears

The NFL Is Back!

Jim Rome
September 05, 2019 - 10:11 am
Aaron Rodgers and Khalil Mack

USA Today

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We made it. I’m not going to say football is back, because it never really left. But we do get legitimate NFL action tonight. And while we’re not getting the defending champs, we are getting the next best thing.  Maybe even a better thing. And it feels. Damn good. 

Green Bay at Chicago, Packers v. Bears, Aaron Rodgers, Khalil Mack. Again, not the defending champion Patriots. But again, maybe even better because it doesn’t get much better than Packers v. Bears, two teams that are contenders for the Lombardi. 

And two teams have undergone fairly significant changes since we last saw them. Chicago is coming off their best regular season in more than a decade. They surprised everyone by winning 12 games and the NFC Central. Before. Having their souls snatched,  at home on the double-doink field goal that has haunted Matt Nagy and the City of Chicago ever since. 

Do you remember that play? I know Nagy does:

Not only does Nagy remember it, he lost his damn mind over it. And has had a helluva time turning the page on it. In fact, I’m not even sure he has. And always, that game didn’t just come down to that last kick: given the time Nagy has obsessed over it, you’d think it was, but it wasn’t. In fact, before missing that kick, Cody Parkey was their offense for most of the day. The offense went 0-3 in the red zone that day. Scored just one t.d. All day. The defense gave up the game winning t.d. with less than a minute left.  And the potential game winning field goal was deflected. Fired and blamed for the defeat? The guy should have been given a new contract. Yet Nagy just couldn’t let it go.  The kicker was far from his only problem in that game. What about Mitch Trubisky; he really struggled in that game. Can he find another level? And how good is rookie running back David Montgomery? And is he actually the key tonight as opposed to Trubisky?  There’s a lot of buzz, and he does look like a beast…but  can he live up to the hype? And can he do it in his first game as a pro, under the bright lights. 

On the other side of the ball, Khalil Mack and his crew were smoking fools all last season, but they did have at least one key lost. And it wasn’t on the field, it was up in the booth, where they lost stud defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to the Broncos. That defense that was so nasty and so prolific last year, especially when it comes to forcing turnovers and scoring off them, it’s fair to ask what kind of regression, if any they might be looking at this season. Or do they just pick up where they left off with new dee coordinator, Chuck Pagano, despite the fact he hasn’t coordinated a dee in several years.  So yes, the Bears have had their share of changes. 

But not as many as the Packers, who have changed even more.  Because they had to. 

They had back-to-back losing seasons. And in an era where teams like the Chiefs and Rams were lighting up scoreboards and coming up with radical new schemes, the Packers offense had become predictable. Stagnant. Boring. That’s not easy to do in this day and age.  Especially when you have one of the best to ever do it under center. 

Think about that. In a league designed for high-powered offenses, the team with one of the most talented quarterbacks ever, wasn’t taking advantage of it. In an era where the Sean, McVay and Payton, were coming up with new looks every week, where Kyle Shanahan and Andy Reid were getting creative, the Packers were more and more bland; more and more boring. More and more beatable.

They had a Ferrari in the garage and Mike McCarthy’s dumping sugar in the gas tank.

So they ran McCarthy and he was last seen berating high school basketball referees. And in comes Matt La Fleur with a new system and a lot of questions. He’s never been a head coach before. He’s only called plays for one season in the NFL. And he’s been tossed the keys to that same Ferrari. And is now the guy who is going to tell everyone how and when he’s going to drive it. Aaron Rodgers really has never worked quite like that.  Because he’s Aaron freaking Rodgers. And you let Aaron Rodgers do as he sees fit as he looks over the defense: that’s a big part of why he’s Aaron Rodgers: is La Fleur going to do that? Or is he going to reign him in. How long is it going to take these guys to get on the same page? What if it NEVER happens? What if it has ALREADY happened. We don’t now because the next official snap that Rodgers takes with La Fleur coaching him, will be the first. So no one has any idea how this will go or where they’re at right now. But I do find this part of it curious. 

For some reason, the firing of a coach who had run the Packers offense into the ground, was coming off a 7-9 season and in the middle of a 4-7-1 season, prompted questions about the quarterback, not the coach. Rodgers was not the problem. McCarthy was. And that’s why he’s gone. And Rodgers is still there. One is easy to replace, the other is impossible to replace. And it says here, Rodgers is all about winning; we know how great he is; how great he still is; and if La Fleur is as good as the Packers think he is, given how improved their defense is this season, the Pack is going to make a run. We’ll get our first look tonight, but I think their defense IS THAT MUCH BETTER. 

So we’ll see.  Because you know there’s a decent chance it will come down to a 4th quarter Aaron Rodgers drive that may or may not have audibles. Then people can freak the hell out over what he does or doesn’t do; over what La Fleur calls or doesn’t call. 

Or even better, we see Matt Nagy and the Bears nation lose their damn minds if the game comes down to a 43-yard field goal to win it. And with all the questions I just laid out, and considering it’s the opener, its’ tough for me to make a call in this one, but I will say, I’m going to see if the line moves at all between now and kick; if there’s a good enough number, I’m taking Rodgers, the Packers improved defense and the points. If the number is good enough. Or maybe wait and jump in, in game. Either way, it’s awesome to have this match up, on this night. Let’s freaking do this.

So, as the great Matt Nagy says get your PEN-IS and cracker jacks ready, BALL IS BACK!