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Football

Aaron Rodgers still owns the Bears

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Coming from a suburb of Chicago, I have witnessed the soul-crushing losses and unsuccessful sports franchises that have plagued the city. 

Some of those soul-crushing losses came from my Green Bay Packers (remember that 2018 game, Bears fans?). However, I genuinely feel bad for Chicago sports fans, partly because I myself root for some of these teams, but also because it must be unfortunate to have many storied teams yet be perennial losers. 

Sorry, I’ll stop gloating. Instead, I’ll discuss the Green Bay Packers win over “rival” Chicago Bears. After a disappointing loss to the Minnesota Vikings in week one, the Packers were able to bounce back and win their first game of the season 27-10.

Despite the win, not everything went well for the Packers, and some things still need improving.

 

Mom, we’re going to the Super Bowl

Alright, I’ll admit, I think that is a very bold subhead. I don’t think the Packers will win the Super Bowl, as I’m a jaded fan who has watched the team disappoint year after year in the playoffs. I do fully expect them to win the NFC North Division and go deep into the playoffs. Obviously this is not the goal the Packers should limit themselves to, as having the back-to-back MVP on your team you should fully expect to go to the Super Bowl. 

Although the game against the Bears wasn’t spectacular, in the sense that the Packers beat a team that should be pretty bad this year, it was a step in the right direction. After the awful performance week one, I was a little concerned about a few things. And although not all my concerns are gone after the Bears game, as we need to see how we match up against better opponents, I think they showed vast improvement.

One of the most exciting things that went well for the Packers was the run game. With 8.8 yards per carry, 132 yards on 15 carries, and a touchdown Aaron Jones dominated against the Bears. That’s not even taking account of his three catches for 38 yards and a receiving touchdown. Jones was dicing up the Bears’ defense as easily as onions on a Wisconsin brat. Not to mention that AJ Dillion had 61 yards on 18 carries and the key block on one of Jones’ touchdowns.

This leads to another point. The game plan for this game, which was pretty well advertised beforehand, was what I wanted the Packers to do in week one. With unproven rookie wide receivers Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson and a wide receiver room that is missing Davante Adams, we need to take as much pressure off of them as possible. This is where the run game can come into play. It takes the pressure off of having to rely on a wide receiver core that on paper, honestly doesn’t look phenomenal. When you have two backs that have the talent, Jones and Dillion have, you’ve got to do everything you can to utilize them. Another thing I liked seeing was the amount of play-action plays, a quick passing game and motion. With an offensive line that is still dealing with injuries and still getting its footing, the Packers need to make sure they’re getting the ball out of Rodgers’ hands as quickly as possible. Something I noticed in the Vikings game was how long he held the ball. A decent part of it was due to his lack of trust in his wide receivers. Another part was that those receivers couldn’t seem to get open, and if they did by then Rodgers’ pocket had already collapsed. Rodgers is not the type of quarterback who just yeets the ball and hopes it goes well, like a Jay Cutler or Brett Farve, so he tends to hang onto the ball longer if he doesn’t trust anyone. Coach Matt LaFleur has done a wonderful job in creating a scheme that lets Rodgers let the ball go faster, but sometimes he reverts back to his days under Mike McCarthy, holding onto the ball until the next day.

The return of three important players, Elgton Jenkins, Allen Lazard, and Jon Runyan Jr., for sure also helped us. Jenkins, although still coming back from his ACL tear injury, noticeably helped stabilize our offensive line and show improvement from week one. Against the Bears, Lazard had two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown. Although not groundbreaking stats, his presence was enough to force the defense to take note of him. When he was missing against the Vikings, they knew Aaron didn’t have his No. 1 option to throw to and would have to throw to mostly unproven talent.

 

Improvements that need to be made for the next game

Looking at next week’s matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team has a great opportunity to win. Tom Brady and co. will probably come into this game banged up and with many important players out. Brady may have to rely on a group of unproven wide receivers as pending an appeal; Mike Evans has been suspended for one game after a fight during the Saints game. Chris Godwin and Julio Jones missed the Saints game due to injuries and may not be healthy enough to come back.

However, we need to make sure we have consistent good play all four quarters. There were moments against the Bears when the Packers made some mistakes and gave hope to Bears fans. These self-inflicted wounds, like fumbling three times, cannot happen to a team with this kind of roster. Rodgers himself needs to do a better job as he fumbled against the Bears and Vikings.

The run defense also needs to improve. David Montgomery had 148 yards on 32 attempts and had some chunk plays in the second half. The Bears’ run game threatened in the second half and allowed them to march down the field quickly. Against next week’s opponent, Bucs running back Leonard Fournette needs to be contained, like he was in their game against the Saints.

The Packers need to have more wide receivers step up. Sammy Watkins had the best game out of all receivers with three receptions for 93 yards. Randall Cobb also made some clutch catches in the second half. However, there needs to be a more consistent playmaker that Rodgers can trust. If the game required the Packers to only throw every play, I’m not sure what would’ve happened. Against good secondaries, I’m not sure who would get open and be the reliable receiver that Adams was for years.

There are always things that a team can improve on, but this is the time to start collecting wins. This is the time to start gathering momentum against a team that has gotten the better of the Packers multiple times. If we follow a similar game plan, like we did against the Bears, I think we have a very good chance of winning. It won’t be an easy game that’s for sure, as the Bucs have a very good defense. But if the Packers can capitalize on injuries and a Bucs offense that has struggled, they could capture a huge win.

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