NFL returns: Packers’ D, Aaron Rodgers beat Bears 10-3 in opener

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TNS Chicago Bears cornerback Buster Skrine (24) breaks up a pass intended for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) during the first half at Soldier Field in Chicago on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019.

CHICAGO (AP) — The Monsters of the Midway showed up for the NFL’s season opener. They were wearing gold, green and white.

In a defensive battle also marked by sloppy offense and penalties, the Packers used the Bears’ usual trademark, a staunch D, and just enough from Aaron Rodgers on Thursday night to kick off the league’s 100th season with a 10-3 victory over their archrivals.

A lack of action in the preseason clearly damaged both offenses, and Rodgers at times looked uncomfortable in the attack designed by new coach Matt LaFleur. But he is a two-time league MVP, and he hit Jimmy Graham in the second quarter for the only touchdown,

From there, it was an aggressive defense that would have made Vince Lombardi proud in the latest edition of the NFL’s longest rivalry, which the Packers lead 98-95-6. Green Bay has won 16 of the last 19 regular-season meetings, and Rodgers is 17-5.

Chicago’s defense hardly slacked, getting five sacks — tying the most it has had against Rodgers. But it could do little with the ball and the Packers had five sacks of Mitchell Trubisky, who never found his stride, and was sacked on Chicago’s final offensive play. Former Bears safety Adrian Amos picked off an end-zone pass into double coverage with 1:58 remaining, the only turnover of the contest.

Mason Crosby made a 39-yard field goal in the final period for Green Bay, while defending NFC North champion Chicago got a 38-yarder from Eddy Pineiro.

The NFL opted to go for a history-tinged opener rather than having the Super Bowl champions host the first game. New England will be at home to Pittsburgh on Sunday night, and it’s unlikely that game will be so dominated by D.

Or by mistakes.

Each team had 10 penalties, there was a total of 467 yards of only offense, and several drops. At one point, Chicago had three straight penalties to put it in a first-and-40. No, the Bears didn’t convert.

Still, take nothing away from either defense. They both controlled the line of scrimmage almost throughout the night, and Trubisky was particularly bothered by it, going 26 of 45 for 228 yards.

“Three points is ridiculous,” coach Matt Nagy said. “Any Chicago Bears fan ... should be upset.”

Rodgers was 18 for 30 for 203 yards, hardly vintage A-Rod, and certainly unlike his performance in leading the Packers back from a 20-point hole in the second half of the 2018 opener against the Bears.

Of course, he had all that support Thursday night from the likes of newcomers Preston Smith (1 1/2 sacks), and Za’Darius Smith (a sack), enough to give Green Bay the boost it needed.

The opening series couldn’t have been uglier for Green Bay. A run and a pass netted zero yards, then Rodgers was sacked heavily by Roy Robertson-Harris for a 10-yard loss.

Well, maybe it could. Rodgers was sacked again on the next three-and-out and Chicago took over at the Packers 36 after a punt. Chicago had forced 17 yards in losses on those series, and the Packers had minus-12 yards through one period.

Rodgers erased such ineffectiveness quickly at the start of the second quarter, launching a 47-yard completion to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Two more completions got the Pack to the 8, and Graham did what most former basketball players turned tight ends should, winning a jump ball in the end zone.

By halftime, Green Bay had outgained Chicago 119 yards to 98.

GETTING THEIR KICKS

Bears fans rejoiced in relief on the first score of the season: Eddy Pineiro’s 38-yard first-quarter field goal. The last such kick on Soldier Field was Cody Parkey’s double-doink off the goalpost and crossbar that sent Chicago home from the wild-card round. Pineiro, a second-year player from Florida, was an immediate hero in the Windy City.

PASS INTERFERENCE REVIEW

LaFleur made an ill-advised challenge, claiming offensive pass interference on a catch by Chicago’s Taylor Gabriel. He lost in the first such challenge in NFL history after interference calls were added to replay reviews this season.

THIRD-DOWN FAILURES

Chicago was a pitiful 3 for 15 on third downs and 0 for 2 on fourth downs. Green Bay was even worse trying to convert, going 2 for 12 on third downs.

“I am not in panic mode,” Nagy said.

UP NEXT:

Packers: Host Minnesota on Sept. 15.

Bears: At Denver on Sept. 15.

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