Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Off to a Good Start!

This Week's SI Cover Photo
The Packers' 2015 season is off to a good start with their 31-23 victory against the rival Chicago Bears.  As a result of this win, the all-time scoring in Packers-Bears games shifts to the Packers, maybe for the first time in my lifetime.  After 189 games, the Packers have scored 3,208 points, while the Bears have scored 3,207.  For as long as I can remember, the Packers have trailed the Bears in won-loss record.  But thanks to the Favre and Rodgers eras, they finally can tie it up this year.  The current record is Bears 92, Packers 91, with 6 ties.  So the Favreapalooza on Thanksgiving night will be the chance to pull even in the win-loss record.

One interesting development in the game was Aaron Rodgers pulling off a couple of unusual plays, for him.  The first was Favre-like, when he flipped the ball backhanded over the defender to Eddie Lacy.  And the second was almost like an option play, where he normally would just run, but at the last minute he pitched the ball to Richard Rodgers.  I wonder if, now that Rodgers seems fully healthy, he is realizing that he needs to be a little more careful about taking shots now that he is in his 30's.

The story of the day, of course, was James Jones.  After his one year stint with the Raiders, they cut him this spring.  The Giants signed him and he lasted there through the preseason, getting cut on the last cutdown day.  He signed with the Packers the next day, and was the player of the game 7 days later in beating the Bears.  I wonder if the Giants tried to trade him to the Packers?  Everybody knew that the Packers might be interested in him, after all.  Maybe they tried, and the Packers called their bluff by not offering a trade.  In the real world, a player who gets cut twice within four months has very little trade value.  But he was just what the doctor ordered for the Packers.  Jones caught two touchdowns that counted against the Bears, and another that was called back on a holding penalty.  For those who are still fixated on Jones' tendency in his early years to drop easy passes (and you know who you are), let's also remember that in his last year with the Packers he had reduced his drops to three in the entire season.

Clay Matthews made the game-preserving interception in the fourth quarter, cutting right in front of Martellus Bennett, catching the ball like a receiver, and returned it 40 yards (some of those yards were lost on a penalty).  Matthews continues to be the Packers' biggest playmaker on defense, and he played most of the game at inside linebacker, where he has obviously learned some of the finer points of the position in the offseason.  If, as the news suggests today, Sam Barrington is now lost for the season, expect to see even more of Matthews at the inside position.

All was not good in this game.  The Bears were in the game until the Matthews interception.  The Packers gave up way too many rushing yards, mainly to Forte, their tackling was suspect, and they didn't totally destroy Cutler as they sometimes do.  They will need to play a lot better against Seattle on Sunday night if they want to end up at 2-0.  But I refuse to see the glass as half-empty after one game.  Sure, the Packers blew the Bears out last year, to the tune of 93-31.  But that was an aberration.  The Bears generally play the Packers tough, as they did on Sunday.  To go on the road against your oldest rival, and come back with a win, is good enough for me, especially when many of your starters are rusty from lack of play in the preseason.

From what I saw of the Seahawks game on Sunday, they were not exactly on top of their game, either.  We all know that the Packers were the better team for 55 minutes of the NFC Championship game last year, on the road.  (Don't get me started again on the last 5 minutes.)  Both teams have lost some good players since then, to injury, free agency, and holdout.  But change the venue to Lambeau Field, and I like the Packers' chances.

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