Packers Move to 1-0 as the Legend Grows

For all those wondering, yes, I am still alive after Sunday night’s 24-23 Packers win. I appreciate everyone reaching out to check on my well-being. I think I experienced every possible emotion a fan can experience during last night’s roller coaster. I still cannot believe what transpired, but I’ve had some time to gather a few thoughts. I’ve watched damn near every highlight and read every recap since the game went final and here are some of my takes on the Packers’ unbelievable comeback.

Offensive Line

Coming into week one, one of the biggest questions marks for the Packers was their revamped offensive line. RT Bryan Bulaga made his first start in nearly a year after ACL surgery and new RG Justin McCray made his starting debut. Much like the rest of the team, it was a tale of two halves for the offensive line. The Bears defensive front, specifically Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, got after the Packers early and often. Justin McCray was beaten badly twice in the first two possessions. He followed that up with a holding penalty and allowed a strip sack that was recovered by the Packers. Bulaga was beaten twice in the first half allowing Mack two sacks and a forced fumble. Aaron Rodgers was injured on a sack and Deshone Kizer faced constant pressure. The Packers, to their credit, adjusted nicely in the second half. They didn’t allow a sack in the second half and they stifled a gassed Mack. Some of this had to do with the fact that Rodgers was hobbled and Green Bay relied on more of a quick passing game, but credit is due. Overall, the o-line survived its first major test. They’ll need to keep it going next week against a stout front seven in Minnesota.

Defense

Another huge question mark for the Packers got off to shaky start, but finished strong. Matt Nagy & Mitch Trubisky had a field day on the first two drives, but once they got away from their scripted sequence of plays and got into the flow of the game the Packers defense settled in nicely. There were a few times, including the Bears’ second to last possession, where the Packers reverted to their old “bend but don’t break” ways, but they got off the field to give the offense a chance and they held to preserve the win. The pass rush was ineffective, minus Perry’s game saving strip sack. The run defense was suspect early, stout in the middle, and just good enough late. Take away Mack’s interception for touchdown and the defense really only allowed 16 points.The big improvement from last year looks to be the secondary. New corners Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson along with Kevin King and Tramon Williams look to have this defense miles ahead of where they were last season. There will be a lot to clean up still, but there’s reason to believe that Mike Pettine has this unit heading in the right direction.


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Khalil Mack

There’s a reason I, alongside everyone else, have been clamoring for my favorite team to get Khalil Mack. He is an absolute game changer. I can’t recall a better half of football from any single defensive player, maybe ever. Two sacks, a forced fumble, a recovered fumble, an interception, and a touchdown. It was laughable how dominant Mack was in the first half. He played a big hand in knocking Rodgers from the game and he absolutely bullied Kizer.

It looked like he ran out of gas in the second half, but that’s likely because he’s only been reported to the team for five days. The Bears are improving and they went all in on Mack. After one game it looks like he’s going to live up to the expectations.

Aaron Rodgers

There’s not much left to say at this point. If you watched NBC’s broadcast, you know that Al Michaels & Cris Collinsworth were thinking of every cliché in the book to describe Aaron Rodgers’ second half comeback. They compared him to Willis Reed and Brett Favre, they called him the Maestro. It simply was remarkable. Never in their 100 year history had the Packers won a game where they trailed by 17 in the fourth quarter. They were 0-111 and now they are 1-111. The fact that Rodgers was able to pull this off on one good leg was nothing short of incredible. He showed unbelievable poise to stand behind an offensive line that had been porous in the first half and deliver strike after strike. His throw to Geronimo Allison in the early fourth quarter was one of the best throws you will ever see.

The Bears knew they were beat after the first drive of the second half. From their gassed defense to their unfocused game plan, they had no chance and I think they knew it. Their personal Boogeyman had returned. In terms of importance, it still was only the first game of the season, but implications aside, it very well may have been his greatest performance in a career filled with them. Rich Eisen broke it down beautifully. There’s just not much more to say.

What’s Next?

The Vikings will travel to Lambeau Field on Sunday for another crucial NFC North game. Rodgers status likely won’t be known until later this week, but he told Michelle Tafoya that he’ll be playing. The Vikings are target number one on Rodgers’ revenge tour. Last year, Anthony Barr knocked Rodgers out of the game in Minnesota, breaking his collarbone. It cost Rodgers and the Packers their season. I fully expect him to play. He remembers.

Header Image: New York Post, Aaron Rodgers just pulled off a miracle

Like the column? Follow along on Twitter at @BarnBurnerBaker and @The_BarnBurner. I’ll be baking and burning on a variety of subjects spanning across College Football, the NFL, Major League Baseball, Game of Thrones, and beyond.

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