Aaron Rodgers

On a night full of concerns, the Bears can be glad that their defense wasn't one of them

On a night full of concerns, the Bears can be glad that their defense wasn't one of them

CHICAGO – When the Bears spent all offseason talking about picking up right where they left off, maybe we should have taken them a bit more literally. On Thursday night, close to 63,000 fans fought through rush hour traffic on Lake Shore Drive to get their first glimpse at what the 2019 Chicago Bears had in store. The only problem was the 2018 Bears showed up. 

“Obviously unacceptable,” Matt Nagy said after being booed off the field in a 10-3 loss. “Starts with me, so this -- I just told the guys in there, this is not who we are. I was proud of our defense. I thought they played their ass off tonight.” 

If there’s a silver lining to Thursday night’s loss, first of all, it’s probably more of light charcoal. The immediate chatter will center around Mitch Trubisky and Matt Nagy’s inability to get the Bears into the end zone, and rightfully so. Still, it should be noted that the team’s defense looked strong as ever, which – fairly or not –  was a concern headed into the evening. 

“It’s tough, man. It’s tough. We wanted this one bad, as everybody could tell,” safety Eddie Jackson said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint, but I just feel like we have to do things better, on both sides of the ball. We’ve got to take practice more seriously as well. We’ve just got to turn it up a notch."

Chuck Pagano’s unit wasted no time making an impact, as Roquan Smith blew up the Packers’ first two plays of the night, followed by a 12-yard sack from Roy Robertson-Harris that had Soldier in a frenzy. Unlike in 2018 – when the big plays came from household names like Jackson, Khalil Mack, and Akiem Hicks – it was Roy Robertson-Harris and Leonard Floyd who were the stars of Week 1's loss. The duo had three of the Bears’ five sacks. 

“It felt good to be out there,” Floyd said. “But it also sucked to lose like that, knowing that we played with great effort on the defensive side. We’re going to look at the film, make corrections and come out next week with a better mindset.”

All in all, it was a gutsy, well-played performance against one of the NFL’s all-time great quarterbacks. The Packers ran for only 47 yards on 22 attempts, and Rodgers was a pedestrian 18 for 30 for 203 yards and a touchdown. One touchdown was all it took, though; Green Bay’s lone touchdown drive was only four plays long and lasted a grand total of 88 seconds. 

The seminal moment of that drive came when, while showcasing some of the improvisational skills that have made him a consensus first ballot Hall of Famer, Rodgers hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling over Amukamara for a 47-yard reception. 

“We had some run action with a fake reverse there,” Rodgers said. “The protection on the left side just kind of caved in. So, I just moved to the left and was peeking for a safety, who wasn't there, so I tried to lead Marquez (Valdes-Scantling) in the middle of the field, and he made a nice catch.”

The QB then hit tight end Jimmy Graham for an eight-yard touchdown on a play in which the Bears were penalized for having too many men on the field. After the game, Amukamara admitted that the quick-strike nature of that series caught the defense off guard. 

“We knew that they were going to take a shot sometime,” he said. “Especially that time, because they hadn’t really took one all game. After that play, it kind of hit us in the mouth, and Aaron took advantage of that.

“[Valdes-Scantling’s reception] was just miscommunication. I hate to use that word, but we just all have to be on the same page on the back end any time the ball’s in the air. It’s on us.”

And now the Bears have an extra 48 hours to stew in a seven point loss that felt at least double that. Fans may belabor this loss until the moment Week 2 starts, but those within the locker room at Halas Hall are putting it away – starting tomorrow. 

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Eddie Jackson said. “So right now we’re going to live with this one for 24 hours, and focus on Denver next week.”

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Remembering Khalil Mack's legendary first half against Green Bay, from those who were there

Remembering Khalil Mack's legendary first half against Green Bay, from those who were there

Bears-Packers gets underway in a little over 72 hours, which means right now everyone is killing the time reminiscing about last season's matchups. 

That's (partially) good news for the Bears and their fans, because remember this?

It was a wild first half of football, and one can only imagine how crazy it must have been to witness it on the field. Only now one doesn't have to! Speaking with media at Halas Hall on Monday, coach Matt Nagy talked at length about what it was like to be in the heart of it all. 

"I just said Holy Hell. I did. I couldn’t believe it," he said. "I mean, this guy was like, I know he’s working out, but we didn’t know … he just showed up and then he had a pick-6. And he laid on the ground and got tackled by everybody. It was surreal." 

Nagy also joked that both halves were ones he'd never forget, and great learning material to boot. Speaking on it himself, Mack remembered things a bit less glowingly. 

"I mean, the only thing I can remember now is that we didn't win the game, you know  what I mean?" he said. "You do those things to be in position to win the game. That's all 
that I can think about from that game, every time I think about the highlights. You still want to win the game." 

Mack finished the night with a sack, one interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Mack's first half – along with Aaron Rodgers' second – helped kick off the Matt Nagy era with a bang, and was a shot in the arm for the Bears-Packers rivalry. 

It's a game that means a lot to Mack, who relishes how playing across the line from Rodgers "just ups that level of competition." The quiet (and as defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano put it, 'contagious') intensity that he's become known for was on full display when talking with reporters on Monday afternoon. When was asked a second time about Nagy's amusing reaction to the Green Bay 1st half, Mack wouldn't take the bait. Or even get near the bait. Or acknowledge the bait.  

"I just want to win," he said. "That's what it's all about for me."

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Which Packers player would you want on the Bears?

Which Packers player would you want on the Bears?

The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers are the oldest rivalry in the NFL and after 198 games between the two teams, it's easy to understand why Bears fans refuse to acknowledge that there may be a Packers player or two who'd represent an upgrade for Chicago.

So it begs the question: Which Green Bay player would you want on the Bears?

Let's get the obvious choice out of the way: Aaron Rodgers. And this isn't a knock against Mitchell Trubisky. Rodgers would be an upgrade for just about every team in the NFL sans the Patriots. He turns 36 in December and still has a live arm, so there's no argument based in reality against Rodgers as an upgrade for this roster.

Now, if Trubisky outduels Rodgers Thursday night? Maybe we revisit this. It will be evidence of his development and potential ascension into the upper-class of quarterbacks. We just aren't there yet.

Forgetting Rodgers for a moment, there are a handful of other Packers players who'd warrant strong consideration as a replacement for a current Bears' starter. 

RELATED: Bears begin 2019 ranked among NFL's best in Week 1's Power Rankings

Let's start on offense, where WR Davante Adams is one of the top five pass-catchers in the game. He set career-highs across the board in 2018 (111 rec., 1386 yards, 13 TDs) and will present the biggest challenge for Chicago's defenders in Week 1. As much as Bears fans love Allen Robinson and the potential in Anthony Miller, Adams would be a marked upgrade at what's quickly become one of the NFL's most important positions.

Green Bay's offense features one of the NFL's top offensive tackles, too. LT David Bakhtiari was Pro Football Focus' highest-graded offensive lineman in 2018 (88.3) who especially excelled in pass protection (93.6). Compare that to Charles Leno, Jr., who PFF ranked 49th, and it sure looks like an upgrade. 

That said, offensive line play is not always about one player. Instead, it's about five guys playing well as a cohesive unit over an extended period of time. Leno has proven himself as an above-average blindside protector and was rewarded as such with a healthy contract extension in 2017 (one he recently restructured to free up cap space for his linemate, Cody Whitehair.)

So while Bakhtiari may be the better all-around player, his impact on the Bears probably wouldn't result in the same kind of upgrade that Adams could offer.

As for the defense? Let's face it, the Bears are loaded. From the defensive line to the secondary, there aren't many players -- if any at all -- who are an obvious target for an upgrade; especially not for a Packers' defender. NT Kenny Clark is arguably Green Bay's best player on defense but there's no reason to search for a replacement for Eddie Goldman, who is just as effective as Clark as an interior disruptor. 

So it boils down to Adams, and Week 1's Thursday night showdown could ultimately come down to the Bears keeping Adams under wraps. He's the kind of player who can flip the scoreboard in a single play, so Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara and the rest of Chicago's cover guys have their work cut out for them. 

What say you? Join the conversation on Twitter and let us know which Packers player you think would look great in a Bears uniform (as painful as that may be).

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