Bears dominate Packers, 26-0

If there is any solace for the young Green Bay Packers, it may be that they have faced one of their tougher opponents of the season in the Chicago Bears. Other than that, the growing pains officially began for the Packers Sunday afternoon in the season opener at Lambeau Field.

The Packers were simply no match for the more experienced Bears. The Bears, favored by many to repeat as NFC North Division champs this season, won their third straight game at Lambeau Field by manhandling the Packers in all facets – offense, defense and special teams.

Rex Grossman passed for 262 yards and a touchdown, kicker Robbie Gould made all four of his field goal attempts, and Devin Hester returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown, lifting the Bears to a 26-0 victory over the Packers before a record crowd of 70,918.

Many of the Packers alumni on hand, including 40 to celebrate the team's 10th anniversary of their NFL championship, watched a team with 17 rookies and first-year players and a brand new coach get schooled. The Bears controlled the line of scrimmage on offense and defense and made plays reminiscent of Green Bay's 1996 season when the Packers went on to win Super Bowl XXXI.

"It's disappointing. It's not the way you want to start a season," said Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. "It's not the way you want to start your home opener. It's a division opponent. It's disappointing."

And embarrassing. The Packers were shut out for the first time ever with Brett Favre as quarterback, dating back to Oct. 17, 1991, when they lost 10-0 to the Bears at Lambeau Field, a streak of 233 games, fourth longest streak in NFL. Don Majkowski was the quarterback at the time. The Packers were shut out in a home opener for the first time since 1987, a 20-0 loss to the then-Los Angeles Raiders at Lambeau Field.

"We've got a lot of football left, (and) that could be good or bad," said Favre, who completed 15 of 29 passes for 170 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. "Depending on how we play and how we handle it. I hope we win some ballgames here, I really do, or it could be a long season. If not, make it fun and compete at a high level, make some plays, go down swinging because it will be a long year if we don't."

Green Bay struggled to convert third downs (1 of 11, 9%) and never able to gain any kind of momentum against a stingy Bears defense. Running back Ahman Green returned from a season-ending quadriceps injury that he sustained last year to rush 20 times for 110 yards (5.5 per carry avg.) and wide receiver Donald Driver caught seven passes for 96 yards, but the Packers were unable to get the ball into the end zone.

The Bears scored on four of five possessions in the first half in taking a 16-0 lead and never allowed the Packers more than five plays in a series until punter Jon Ryan faked a punt and passed for a first down to running back Noah Herron with 2 minutes left in the half. Still, the Bears, behind an impressive defensive line forced the Packers to settle for Dave Rayner's first-ever field goal attempt, a 53-yarder, which was wide left as time expired in the half.

"You give credit to a team," said Packers offensive tackle Mark Tauscher. "When a team comes in and beats you, you give credit to them and I'm definitely going to. Going in, we knew they have a good front, but we felt like we had some stuff, that we were going to be able to do some good things. Unfortunately we didn't do enough good things to put any points up on the board today."

The Packers were held to just 103 yards of offense and were unable to convert any of their five third-down situations in the first half. The Bears ran 36 plays to Green Bay's 20 and had 236 yards of offense. Grossman, who missed most of last season with a broken ankle, was sharp, completing 12 of 16 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown.

"We ran the ball well and we threw the ball well," Grossman said. "We were able to move the ball up and down the field on them, but I would still like to be able to finish some of those drives. That is going to be key in the upcoming weeks because eventually the other team will score."

Grossman began the game by completing his first six passes for 113 yards in Chicago's first two drives. His 49-yard bomb to wide receiver Bernard Berrian with 12:05 left in the first quarter gave the Bears a 7-0 lead. Berrian broke free from cornerback Al Harris, then blew past safety Marquand Manuel to make the catch.

The Packers were forced to punt after three plays, and Grossman again moved the Bears to Green Bay's 11. But Manuel stopped Thomas Jones for a three-yard loss and and linebacker Nick Barnett intercepted an ill-advised pass that Grossman heaved into the end zone with defensive end Aaron Kampman in his face.

While the Packers' offense sputtered, Chicago continued to roll. Gould's 40-yard field goal put the Bears up 10-0, capping a 9-play, 62-yard drive over the first and second quarters. Grossman took advantage of linebacker Brady Poppinga to connect with tight end Desmond Clark for a 33-yard gain to the Packers' 41. A few plays later, Jones broke free around the left end for a 17-yard pickup to the 17. Kampman's sack of Grossman for an six-yard loss to the 22 and Grossman's toss out of bounds forced the Bears to settle for a field goal attempt.

Aside from the performances by Green and Driver, the Packers can find a silver lining in the defense, which held the Bears out of the end zone after they scored their first touchdown. The Bears were forced to settle for Gould's 39-yard field goal in the second quarter after defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins stopped Jones for a one-yard loss at the 21. And after Herron fumbled the ball away on the ensuing kickoff, which was recoved by the Bears on the Packers 16, the Packers again forced the Bears to settle for Gould's 28-yard field goal, giving the Bears a 16-0 lead.

Goulds' 30-yard field goal late in the third quarter stretched the Bears' lead to 19-0. Hester, a rookie from the University of Miami (FL), stuck the dagger in the Packers with a sparking 84-yard runback that was well-blocked by the Bears.

"I'm not diving on no sword," McCarthy said. "We're 0-1 right now. We have a lot of work to do as a football team. We will continue to work as a football team, and we've got better days ahead of us."

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