|Bears overwhelm Packers in dominant win|
By Larry Mayer
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Sprinting out of the gate in Sunday’s season opener at Lambeau Field, the Bears obliterated the rival Green Bay Packers and made history in the process.
Chicago dominated in all three phases in cruising to an impressive 26-0 victory, marking the first time that the Packers have been shut out in quarterback Brett Favre’s 15 seasons in Green Bay.
“It’s hard to get a shutout in the National Football League any time,” said coach Lovie Smith, who improved his career record to 4-1 against the Packers. “To get it on the road with No. 4 as the quarterback is definitely special.”
It was the Bears’ Rex Grossman who looked like the future Hall of Famer Sunday, completing 18 of 26 passes for a career-high 262 yards with 1 TD, 1 interception and a 98.6 passer rating.
The 2003 first-round pick staked the Bears to a 7-0 lead on the game’s opening possession by tossing a 49-yard TD pass to Bernard Berrian. Grossman faked a handoff to running back Thomas Jones and hit the wide open receiver deep down the middle on a post pattern.
“We had a really good play-action play that we hadn’t used in the preseason and we pulled it out a little bit,” Grossman said. “They got the safeties up for run support. As soon as I got my head around after the fake, I saw the safeties were biting a little bit. You can’t catch up to Bernard.”
The Bears threatened again on their second possession as Muhsin Muhammad dove headlong to snare a 27-yard pass over the middle. But then Grossman made his only mistake.
On second-and-13 from the Green Bay 14, defensive end Aaron Kampman pressured the quarterback into an ill-advised throw intended for tight end Desmond Clark into triple coverage. Linebacker Nick Barnett leaped high to intercept the ball in the left corner of the end zone.
But the Bears managed to score on four of five first half possessions as Robbie Gould hit three of his four field goals without a miss from 40, 39 and 28 yards in the second quarter to widen the margin to 16-0 at halftime.
The defense, meanwhile, never allowed the Packers to advance beyond the Chicago 37-yard line. Lance Briggs, Alex Brown and rookie Mark Anderson sacked Favre in the first half, while Charles Tillman and rookie Danieal Manning intercepted the Packers legend in the fourth quarter.
The shutout was the first by the Bears since they blanked the Detroit Lions 24-0 on Dec. 30, 2001, a span of 66 games. The Packers had not been blanked in 233 games, the fourth longest streak in NFL history, since losing 10-0 to the Bears on Oct. 17, 1991 in a Thursday night contest at Lambeau Field.
“You’re not going to lose any games when the other team doesn’t score,” Grossman said with a smile. “Our defense played a (heck) of a game and put us in good situations.”
“To be able to come to Green Bay and shut out your arch rival on a day like this, it’s really kind of special,” said defensive coordinator Ron Rivera. “It’s kind of a neat thing. It’s a great tribute to our guys. What we’ve done really is we set the bar real high for ourselves this year.”
The Bears defense benefited from the return of end Alex Brown, safety Mike Brown and cornerback Nathan Vasher from injuries that forced them to miss significant preseason action.
“We’re a pretty good defense with everyone on the football field,” Smith said. “It was good to see Mike Brown back out there leading the defense. He was able to make it through the game without any trouble.”
The Bears put an exclamation point on Sunday’s victory when explosive rookie Devin Hester returned a punt 84 yards for his first NFL touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a special player,” Smith said of the second-round draft pick from Miami. “Every time he gets his hands on the ball, there’s a chance he could break one.”
The Bears’ special teams unit also created a turnover midway through the second quarter when Adrian Peterson stripped the ball from Noah Herron on a kickoff return and Brendon Ayanbadejo recovered the fumble at the Green Bay 16.
Four plays later, Gould’s third field goal widened the margin to 16-0.
“Our special teams got us a turnover and also scored,” Grossman said. “It was a well-balanced game and I think that’s what coach Smith was looking for.”
The Bears defeated the Packers for the fourth time in five meetings after losing 18 of 20 from 1994-2003.
Grossman connected on 12 of 16 passes for 184 yards in the first half with completions of 49, 33 and 27 yards against a Packers defense that ranked first in the NFL versus the pass in 2005.
Muhammad made a handful of terrific catches in leading the Bears with six receptions for 102 yards, his first 100-yard game since signing with Chicago prior to last season.
“They don’t pay him a lot of money for nothing,” Grossman said. “He’s a great receiver and hopefully that will continue.”
Clark also made a major impact, catching five passes for 77 yards including a 33-yarder that set up Gould’s field goal. Clark later made a juggling 19-yard reception in the third quarter.
“We’ve talked a lot about getting the ball to the tight end,” Smith said. “I think I’ve been saying that since we’ve been here. We were definitely able to do that. Dez Clark worked extremely hard in the offseason—as hard as anyone. It was great to see him be that big of a part of the offense today and hopefully we’ll keep that going.”
The Bears hope to keep it going next Sunday when they host the Lions in the home opener at Soldier Field. But first they’ll celebrate their third straight victory in Green Bay.
“To get this win and start off on the right foot like this, it’s definitely good for our team and we look forward to playing Detroit next week,” said Jones, who rushed for 63 yards on 21 attempts.
“Wins are hard to get in the NFL. I don’t care who you’re playing, you have to show up and play every week or you’ll lose, and every time you get a win you should cherish that moment and that’s what (we’re doing) today.”