Final Thoughts: Bears Hung Tough In Season Opening Loss To The Packers

Final Thoughts: Bears Hung Tough In Season Opening Loss To The Packers
The Packers' Julius Peppers says hello to Kyle Long after Sunday's loss. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)

When former Bears defensive end turned Packer Julius Peppers sacked and stripped Jay Cutler in the early stages of the first quarter it was a “here we go again” moment.

However, the play was overturned and all in all, the Bears hung around right until the end against NFC contender Green Bay in Sunday’s 31-23 loss.

The Bears finished with more yards (402) than the Packers (302) and impressed on the money down, converting 11-of-17 third down attempts. Jay Cutler accounted for eight third down conversions as he passed for 123 yards and posted a 117.9 quarterback rating on the down. The two sacks against him on the day came on third down.

Although, Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers tossed three touchdowns along with a stellar 140.5 passer rating, he only gashed the Bears defense for 189 passing yards. Rodgers found recent acquisition and former longtime teammate James Jones on two touchdowns while banged up receiver Randall Cobb reeled in a score and back Eddie Lacy added a rushing score.

The Bears led at the half, 13-10 and trailed by only one point heading into the final quarter as the Packers moved ahead 17-16.

It wasn’t until they trailed 24-16 following Cobb’s touchdown where the Bears made a big mistake in my opinion. Facing a fourth-and-goal from Green Bay’s two-yard line, head coach John Fox opted to keep his offense out on the field. The Bears passed on all four plays and abandoned the rushing attack. They proceeded to fail on fourth down as Cutler was pressured and forced to throw the ball far out the reach of his receiver.

In the end, it was the Packers who added a touchdown scoring right after Jay Cutler’s lone interception of the game on a poor decision by him and a lazy route by tight end Martellus Bennett. Plus Green Bay’s Clay Matthews made an athletic pick on the play to say the least.

I think Bears left guard Matt Slauson summed this game up perfectly via the Sun-Times in postgame interviews: “Had this been the past, we would have packed it in. That just goes to show the mentality this staff is instilling in us.”

Bright spots

Despite the switch at right tackle for third-year star Kyle Long he held his own in his debut at the new position. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod was effective on Cutler’s blindside, while Slauson, center Will Montgomery and right guard Vladimir Ducasse played well for the most part.

It bodes well for Long’s future at right tackle that he was able to play well. It will take time for him to get into Pro Bowl form, but he showed that he’s ready for the task.

“I think  [the] offensive line is one of the strengths of this team with (Will Montgomery) in there and the left side being pretty solid,” Cutler told Chicagobears.com. “Those guys on the right side are only going to get better and better.”

Speaking of the offensive line, they opened running lanes all day long as Bears rushers totaled 189 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries with 5.7 yards per attempt.

Starting running back Matt Forte was used early and often and really shined throughout. He finished with 166 total yards (141 rushing, 25 receiving) and a touchdown on 29 touches. Forte had 105 rushing yards in the first half alone.

Considering Forte averaged just 16.6 carries per game a year ago under Marc Trestman, he has to feel relieved to be playing under a creative offensive mind like Adam Gase. It was an impressive change for a very unique looking offense.

Overall, Gase mixed things up offensively as the Bears showed eight down linemen at times, four wide receivers, two backs, and other various looks. It was much more thought out compared to the same redundant game plan Trestman put together over the last two seasons.

Stat overview: Cutler completed 18-of-36 pass attempts for 225 yards, one touchdown pass to Bennett late and a costly interception that he knows he shouldn’t have even thrown. For the most part, Cutler looked calm in the pocket and made key plays when he needed to. The biggest knock on the Bears’ offense from this game had to be their red zone offense as they settled for three field goals on the afternoon.

Glaring weakness

The pass rush was basically non-existent as the Bears failed to sack Rodgers and record a single quarterback hit. Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee led the Bears’ defense with six tackles and had a few pressures on Rodgers, but the defense allowed him to do what he wanted in and out of the pocket.

“Green Bay is a pretty good football team,” Fox told CBS Sports. “We were going to have to be near flawless to beat them and we didn’t quite reach that.”

Fox was on the money with that postgame quote and you have to believe he was hinting at the Cutler interception and the fact that the defense couldn’t bring Rodgers down. Even without much pressure, the defense really held their own limiting Green Bay to 17 points through three quarters of play.

Vic Fangio’s unit is a work in progress, but he will have to do some altering as the team moves forward. The aggressiveness needs to improve after the Bears didn’t produce a single turnover in Sunday’s game.

The defense was in a hybrid 4-3 look with Jared Allen and Willie Young standing up on the edge rather than having their hands in the dirt. That very well could have been because the defensive line is thin without Jeremiah Ratliff, but either way in just one game, the defense is an improvement over Mel Tucker’s units from 2013-14.

Allen really failed to get anything going off the edge as he lost the battle against Packers’ left tackle David Bakhtiari in this one. Willie Young replaced him often opposite McPhee while Lamarr Houston came on late.

The Bears need to use a combination of Young and Houston next week alongside McPhee if they want to be successful. Young docked 22 snaps while Houston had only four. Allen doesn’t appear to be starting material at this stage of his career.

As for the special teams unit, under new coordinator Jay Rodgers this group appeared to be solid in the preseason. On Sunday, they allowed rookie Ty Montgomery to average 35.3 yards per return on three kickoffs with a long of 46.

Next week

The Bears host Arizona, who beat the New Orleans Saints 31-19 in the second slate of games on Sunday. It won’t be an easy matchup against a physical Cardinals team, but if the Bears can continue their progression then they should be able to be competitive in this game.

Note: Receivers Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson will be a week healthier and could be able to play in full on Sunday. Jeffery led the trio with five catches and 78 yards on 11 targets while Wilson had two receptions for 59 yards against Green Bay.

Thoughts on the Bears’ season-opening loss to Green Bay and how you feel about this team moving forward? Make sure to comment below.

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