CHICAGO – The Green Bay Packers snapped a three-year losing streak in Week 1 games, with three touchdown passes by Aaron Rodgers and two key stands by the defense highlighting a 31-23 win at Soldier Field on Sunday.
The critical scoring drive – a 9-minute, 21-second marathon – was punctuated by Rodgers’ 5-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb, which gave the Packers a 24-16 lead with 9:31 remaining in the game. On second down from the 5, Cobb lined up in the slot, ran out and then took it upfield. He collided with corner Sherrick McManis but continued with his route and made the catch in the back of the end zone.
The Bears drove into scoring position, keyed by a 45-yard catch-and-run from Jay Cutler to Marquess Wilson against Sam Shields.
However, Green Bay’s defense – which had done almost nothing the entire game – rose to the occasion. On second-and-goal from the 2, the secondary had excellent defense on a pick play, with Micah Hyde dropping a potential interception. On third-and-goal, Damarious Randall was in good position on a jump-ball type of pass to Alshon Jeffery. On fourth-and-goal, safety Sean Richardson’s well-timed blitz forced Cutler to chuck into the end zone toward Eddie Royal against Casey Hayward, but Royal didn’t have a chance.
Oddly, the Bears had almost 200 rushing yards but didn’t give it a chance on those three goal-line snaps.
The Bears, however, got another chance when they forced a three-and-out punt and took possession at Green Bay’s 41 with 6:05 to play. The Bears got one first down but, on third-and-7, Clay Matthews made the clinching interception by driving in front of a pass intended for tight end Martellus Bennett.
The Packers sealed the deal on the ensuing possession as Eddie Lacy scored from the 2. The touchdown was set up by a 35-yard pass-interference penalty on a deep pass to James Jones. It was the third big play by Jones after being signed a week ago.
Chicago led 13-10 at halftime with a well-executed plan. Matt Forte had 105 of the Bears’ whopping 130 rushing yards and the Beard hogged the ball for 18:20 and ran 41 plays to Green Bay’s 23.
The Packers got off to a slow start, with the Bears driving to an opening field and goal and Green Bay going three-and-out on the opening possessions. The Packers turned things around quickly, though. Julius Peppers beat Kyle Long for a third-down sack to provide some momentum, which the offense seized. A 20-yard completion to Richard Rodgers and a 16-yard run by Lacy set up Aaron Rodgers’ touchdown to James Jones. If Rodgers and Jones had lost any chemistry during their year apart, it didn’t show on the touchdown – a 14-yard bullet that went over the shoulder of cornerback Alan Ball.
The Bears responded, though, with a touchdown drive that took more than 8 minutes off the clock. Chicago initially settled for a chip-shot field goal but Sam Shields was offside on the kick. The Bears took the points off the board and converted a fourth-and-inches before Forte powered through on third-and-goal from the 1 to lead 10-7 with 7:49 to play in the half.
Green Bay tied the game at 10, with the key play being a 34-yard completion to Jones on a free play, though the possession stalled on holding penalties by David Bakhtiari, which eliminated a touchdown to Jones, and Bryan Bulaga.
Chicago took a 13-10 lead just before halftime on Robbie Gould’s 50-yard field goal. Cutler had the key play with a third-and-5 scramble in which he avoided two tackles to gain 10 yards.
The Packers took a 17-13 on the opening possession of the second half. Ty Montgomery, whose 41-yard kickoff return in the first quarter matched the Packers’ best from a year ago, had a 47-yarder to start the second half. Rodgers hit James Jones for the go-ahead score, an easy slant against Ball. The touchdown was set up by a brilliant toe-tapping catch on the sideline by Davante Adams for a gain of 25 to the 6.