CHICAGO, IL- SEPTEMBER 09: Alshon Jeffery #17 of the Chicago Bears catches a touchdown pass over Vontae Davis #23 of the Indianapolis Colts on September 9, 2012 during their 2012 NFL season opener at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago Bears defeated the Indianapolis Colts 41-21. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Packers Week is already upon us. SB Nation Chicago's Ricky O'Donnell looks ahead to the Bears' Thursday night clash at Lambeau Field with some news and notes from the aftermath of Week 1.
I'd like to think Packers Week started the minute Alshon Jeffrey hauled in his first career touchdown pass, a 42-yard bomb from Jay Cutler that traveled somewhere in the vicinity of 60 yards through the air. Cutler said it was a perfect call by new offensive coordinator Mike Tice, and the throw was equally devoid of flaw. By the time it landed, a Bears' lead had grown from 13 points to 20 points and team might also have found itself a new No. 2 wide receiver.
In truth, the Bears were likely thinking about their Thursday meeting with the rival Packers even before the pass to Jeffrey sealed their Week 1 victory. Brian Urlacher was pulled midway through the third quarter by Lovie Smith, a precautionary move the star middle linebacker didn't like. Urlacher wanted to be out there for the entirety of the beat-down, but Smith had his priorities straight. About the only memorable thing Urlacher did during Chicago's victory over the Colts was carry the Bears' Fourth Phase flag onto the field before the game. That isn't to say he played poorly, it just simply wasn't the type of dynamic performance Urlacher has made routine over the last decade. The fact that No. 54 was even on the field and came off only at his coach's descretion is perhaps the most encouraging thing: the Colts were always a mere appetizer for the full-on division throwdown with the Packers. The Bears didn't need Urlacher in Week 1, but they probably won't be so lucky in Week 2.
It's a shame this game has to be played on Thursday. These two regular season games with Green Bay should be the ultimate barometer of the Bears' worth. Instead, the first meeting already feels like it comes with an asterisk: whoever loses has the built in excuse of a short week. That doesn't mean this won't be a great football game, though. I fully expect it to be.
You wonder if the Packers are nervous. The 49ers are no joke, but most expected Green Bay to defend its home turf in Week 1. Instead, San Francisco dismantled the Packers in Lambeau, raising serious questions about Green Bay's defense and offensive play calling. Are the Packers really going to start out 0-2 at home? It seems impossible for a team that lit the league on fire during a 15-1 regular season campaign last year, but NFL success is nothing if not fragile, even when you employ the game's best quarterback. I expect the Bears to sense blood in the water and come out firing on all cylinders.
2. Lovie Smith has his detractors in this city, more than he should, but you can't ever fault him for his priorities. Much like every breathing football fan in this city, Smith just wants to kick Green Bay's ass. He said it at his first ever press conference in Chicago back in 2004, and his focus has never shifted. The Packers are the reigning kings of the NFC North, a position the Bears desperately want to overtake. The opportunity to drop Green Bay to 0-2 has to have Smith and Co. frothing at the mouth.
Are the Packers still a juggernaut, or did their Week 1 loss prove Green Bay is becoming increasingly vulnerable? We'll find out the hard way on Thursday. It doesn't take a passing score on the GMAT to figure out the game plans, here.
- The Bears will air it out against a Green Bay secondary that was exposed in Week 1. The Packers will combat this by intending to pressure the ever-living hell out of Cutler.
The Bears' offensive line held its own after a tumultuous start in Week 1, but Green Bay comes with the type of force Indy could only dream about. Clay Matthews will try to detach Cutler's head from his body. Hopefully Chicago will have a blocker in his way to prevent this from happening.
3. When addressing the aftermath of the 49ers' opening week victory over the Packers, Grantland's Bill Barnwell concluded: "It's hard to argue that anybody in the Green Bay secondary is playing at the same level that they were during the Super Bowl run in 2010".
The Bears are counting on it. Chicago had six plays go for 24 yards or more on Sunday, and they'll need at least as many on Thursday to keep up with the Packers.
4. Do the Bears need to keep pace with the Packers, or do the Packers need to keep pace with the Bears? It's likely premature and arrogant to be asking such a question, though Green Bay wasn't as impressive in Week 1 as everyone anticipated. Much of the credit should go to San Francisco's defense, which might be tops in the league. Still: this is the Green Bay offense, the gold standard around the NFL.
On the Packers' Week 1 scheme, Barnwell had this to say:
If it seemed like the Packers' playbook on Sunday consisted entirely of sight adjustments on five-yard throws to Jermichael Finley, it wasn't really all that far off. A series of unimaginative play calls didn't help matters, either. The Packers called designed run plays nine times, each of which went to Cedric Benson. Every single one of those plays was called on first down. The Packers didn't call for a single draw on second down, nor did they try to throw more frequently on first to throw the Niners off.
Finley was targeted 11 times, more than any other Packer. He finished with seven catches for 47 yards and a touchdown.
-- Jay Cutler said he audibled "50-60 percent of the time" on Sunday. As a reminder, Mike Martz would not let him do this last season.
-- WEEK 1 .GIFS:
The Bears listed three players as did not participate: LB Brian Urlacher (knee/coach's decision), CB Charles Tillman (shin) and TE Kyle Adams (shoulder). Tackle J'Marcus Webb (thumb) was listed as a limited participant.
The additions to the Packers' injury list are WR Greg Jennings (groin), DE C.J. Wilson (groin) and LB Terrell Manning (concussion). All were listed as "did not participate", which means if the Packers would have practiced today they would not have taken part.
Jennings played in all but a handful of plays in the 30-22 loss to San Francisco Sunday, but it could be something that flared up after the game. Manning's injury was not announced in the press box, so it's not clear if it was diagnosed after the game.