So who’s the Player of the Game in the Green Bay Packers’ season-opening win at Chicago?
It’s not a player. It’s Bears coach John Fox and his offensive coordinator, Adam Gase.
And it's not a play. On a day when Matt Forte ran through the Packers’ defense as if he were Walter Payton against those mediocre Green Bay teams from three and four decades ago, the Bears shockingly didn’t give the ball to their best player on the most important sequence of the game.
With the Packers nursing a 24-16 lead midway through the fourth quarter, cornerback Sam Shields gambled and lost, with Marquess Wilson turning a potential 15-yard gain into a 50-yard sprint to the Packers’ 16. Another 10-yard completion against Shields and a 4-yard run by Forte made it second-and-goal at the 2. That play gave Forte 133 yards on 22 attempts against the Packers’ defense.
For a player averaging more than 6.0 yards per carry to that point, getting 2 yards on the next three plays seemed like a foregone conclusion. So, naturally, the Bears put the ball in Cutler’s hands for those next three plays.
On second-and-goal, the Packers did almost everything perfectly on a pick play, with Micah Hyde dropping a potential interception. On third-and-goal, Cutler booted to his right but Damarious Randall had Alshon Jeffery covered like a blanket despite giving up more than 4 inches to Chicago’s veteran standout. Finally, on fourth-and-goal, Dom Capers sent both of his safeties up the middle. Sean Richardson ran free between the center and right guard to force a desperation heave to Eddie Royal that sailed incomplete with Casey Hayward in coverage.
‘Well, I think hindsight is always 20/20,” Fox said when asked about the sequence. “Would I have liked to have scored a touchdown regardless of how we did it? Yes. But it didn’t come to fruition.”
The red zone ultimately determined the winner on Sunday. The Packers scored four touchdowns in five trips inside the 20 while the Bears came away with only one touchdown in three red-zone possessions. It’s why the Packers were able to earn their first season-opening win since 2011 despite being outgained by 80 yards.
“Playing a team like that, you have to play perfect football,” Forte said. “For us to be not only in the red zone but inside the 5 and not be able to get it in the end zone in four downs was a huge blow. We were in the red zone again and got a penalty that backed us up, and then we had a turnover. So, playing a sound football team like that, we can’t do that.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.