Packers edge Bears as Aaron Rodgers does enough, Mitch Trubisky struggles

CHICAGO — If the NFL’s 2019 season opener is any indication, Aaron Rodgers mostly still looks like Aaron Rodgers.

The bad news, if you’re a Chicago Bears fan, is that Mitchell Trubisky is still himself. Maybe even worse than last season.

The Green Bay Packers beat the Bears, 10-3, on Thursday night at Soldier Field in the 2019 NFL season opener, kicking off the NFL’s 100th season.

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Trubisky’s interception in the Packers’ end zone with 1:58 remaining in the game was the Bears’ last gasp after it appeared they’d have a chance to tie late. The Bears got the ball back one final time did nothing — again.

Aaron Rodgers and Packers sputtered early

Rodgers struggled through a bad first quarter, raising more questions about how this offense would look this season in Matt LaFleur’s maiden game as Packers head coach. But after the Bears held the Packers to minus-12 yards through three series, Rodgers got loose.

Rodgers uncorked a 47-yard pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling to flip the field early in the second quarter and capped the four-play, 74-yard TD drive with a lollipop pass to Jimmy Graham, who had a 7-inch height advantage over the man covering him, safety Deon Bush.

On a night when offense was scarce, that was the big thrill.

Aaron Rodgers overcame a slow start in the 2019 season opener against the Bears. (Getty Images)
Aaron Rodgers overcame a slow start in the 2019 season opener against the Bears. (Getty Images)

Rodgers finished 18-of-30 passing for 203 yards and the one TD pass.

Leading 7-3 early in the fourth quarter, Rodgers had to dig the Packers out of a hole, starting the drive at their own 6. It felt as if it was the Bears’ best chance to score a touchdown at that point, given how prolific their defense can be. But Rodgers led Green Bay on a drive that lasted 6 minutes, 33 seconds and increased its lead to 10-3.

That was all the offense the Packers needed.

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Louder cheers for Bears FG kicker than offense

A lot was expected of Trubisky in his second year in head coach Matt Nagy’s system, but this game was a tough way to start his third NFL season. Outside of a pretty fade to Allen Robinson for 27 yards, Trubisky had a first half to forget, completing only 10 of 16 passes for 74 yards with three sacks and multiple dropped interceptions.

Trubisky finished 26-of-45 passing for 228 yards and one interception. The 45 attempts were the third-most in his three-year career.

With tight end Trey Burton (groin) inactive, the Bears had trouble opening up their offense. Despite getting great field position on their first two drive, they netted only 28 yards and three points.

However, here in Chicago, this was big news: kicker Eddy Pineiro — the man who at least initially is replacing ousted goat Cody Parkey — nailed his 38-yard try. It gave Bears fans who have endured the team’s bizarre search to replace Parkey this offseason a chance to unleash some sarcastic cheers.

That was about the last time they got lathered up, and they were the only points the Bears scored.

Trubisky struggled, but it wasn’t Nagy’s finest night either. First there was the curious call of handing off to wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who was stuffed for a 2-yard loss, on third-and-1. On the next play the Bears opted to punt on fourth-and-3 from the Green Bay 41, which seemed to run anathema to Nagy’s aggressive play-calling as a rookie head coach during the Bears’ 12-4 season.

Mitchell Trubisky couldn't get much going in the season opener. (Getty Images)
Mitchell Trubisky couldn't get much going in the season opener. (Getty Images)

Then in the third quarter — after Trubisky started heating up with completions of 22 yards to Robinson and 27 more to rookie running back David Montgomery, the Bears were called for two delays of game. After the second one, Nagy curiously opted to go for it on fourth-and-10 from the Green Bay 33. The Packers took over on downs after taking down Trubisky after a short scramble.

Defenses on both sides dominated

The Bears’ defense came into the night with the major accolades — perhaps even as the league’s best unit. That group collected five sacks, had Rodgers on the move a lot and made enough big plays to keep Chicago in the game. But the Packers’ defense deserves respect. Trubisky wasn’t the only one to struggle. The Bears’ offensive line struggled with the Packers’ quickness up front, which limited what Nagy could call.

LaFleur also had a few shaky moments. Some of his early calls were blown up the first three series, and the Packers came out of a commercial break needing to call a timeout on their fourth possession. They looked unsettled and unorganized before Rodgers got them in a groove.

And LaFleur also called the NFL’s first regular-season challenge for pass interference, arguing that Bears receiver Taylor Gabriel had pushed off before hauling in a 15-yard pass. Replay showed Gabriel had not, costing the Packers a timeout early in the fourth quarter.

LaFleur atoned with a good challenge call on a Gabriel non-catch with just over four minutes remaining, wiping out a long gain. But LaFleur’s smartest call of the night was letting Rodgers do his thing. It was not a vintage performance, but the former MVP made enough off-script plays and big throws to deliver the victory.

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