Packers persevere in exciting opener

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Packers persevere in exciting opener

Postby JKB » Mon Sep 14, 2009 2:43 pm

Packers persevere in exciting opener
Posted: Sept. 14, 2009
Green Bay — To the question of whether a season should open with such white-heat intensity - against the primordial rival on the singular Sunday night stage, as opposed to slipping into it a little more comfortably against, say, a Cincinnati in broad daylight - the answers were delivered almost immediately.

They came suddenly, with a 46-yard kickoff return to start the game. They came violently, with Brian Urlacher's airborne missile to Aaron Rodgers' jaw. They came with suspense, as the Green Bay secondary almost, almost picked off the new hotshot Chicago quarterback, and then finally got him four times.

And answers came with equal fury to end it.

So, if you're asking, sure, why not? If the Packers are supposed to be something special, the Bears are going to be a pain and the NFC North is generally assumed to be good enough to deliver the conference's representative to Miami come late winter, why not get a jump on sorting it all out?

And if you had to venture a long-view projection or two from all that went down in the 21-15 victory for the Packers, they'd be something along the lines of:

Whoa, strap it in. It's going to be some kind of a year based on what happened Sunday night.

In some ways, the odd spellbinder of a game defied logic. Who would've predicted, for example, that the high-powered Green Bay offense would've had all of 156 yards against a questionable Bears defense before the winning drive?

And in others, it may have been a prelude to better days for the redirected Packers.

In a flashback to 2008, the Packers scored with 71 seconds left - Rodgers up top to Greg Jennings for 50 yards when that kind of opening hadn't been available all night - to take the lead. But in direct contrast to the kind of defensive behavior that ruined '08, this time the Packers made a play, took a stand and thereby declared that maybe '09 will be altogether different.

Al Harris made Jay Cutler pay one more time for the Bears' misguided belief that another quarterback could somehow make a difference for a franchise that has been without one for the better part of six decades. And that was that.

So if you're looking for the benefit in starting the year with such an emotional burst, there it was. With such a performance, however imperfect, the Packers suddenly have out-of-the-gate confidence in that which was promised by the preseason. And, in the long run, they might be better off for the unexpected struggle against the Bears.

Not that Chicago didn't aid and abet the sensation. The Bears melted down with two replay challenges that cost them critical timeouts. And with 12:39 left, the Bears, from their own 26-yard line, faked a punt. You had to wonder what they were thinking, but the Packers are grateful not only for the call, but for their decision to keep backup wide receiver Brett Swain on the roster.

That Swain made the tackle went to the notion that things also might be better for the ill-fated special teams this year. Not that they were perfect against Chicago. In fact, it wasn't a clean game from a number of perspectives. The right side of the offensive line struggled to the point that Rodgers was brought down in the end zone for a safety. In between interceptions, the defense allowed Cutler latitude to find receivers that weren't supposed to be available for Chicago.

But in persevering, the Packers experienced what such an opener can provide where confidence is concerned.
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