The Packers rallied from a 20-0 third-quarter deficit to beat the Bears 24-23 in Sunday night's season opener in Green Bay. Here are three things that stood out in the Week 1 loss:
(1) The Bears made Khalil Mack the highest paid defensive player in the NFL, and based on his debut performance, the outside linebacker appears to be worth every penny.
On Mack's first two plays, he pressured Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers into throwing incomplete passes, drawing a holding penalty on the second snap.
Mack later generated takeaways on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter after Rodgers had exited temporarily with a knee injury. The three-time Pro Bowler thwarted a Green Bay drive deep in Bears territory by forcing and recovering a fumble on a sack of backup quarterback DeShone Kizer. Mack then intercepted a Kizer pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown.
In the process, Mack became the first NFL player since Giants star Lawrence Taylor in 1982 to record a sack, interception, touchdown, forced fumble and fumble recovery in one half of play.
The newest Bears player also made his teammates better. Mack's outside rush forced Rodgers to step up in the pocket, where the Green Bay quarterback was sacked by Roy Robertson-Harris. It was on that play that Rodgers sustained the knee injury that sidelined him for two series. Mack's pressure on Kizer later led to a sack by Roquan Smith on the rookie first-round draft pick's first NFL play just before halftime.
Mack's performance was even more remarkable Sunday night in Green Bay given that he did not participate in training camp or the preseason while holding out for a contract extension with the Oakland Raiders.
(2) Rodgers once again showed why he will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
The two-time NFL MVP not only returned to the game after being carted to the locker room late in the first half, but he carried the Packers to the comeback win while limping noticeably. Trailing 20-0, Rodgers engineered four straight scoring drives. After a field goal made it 20-3 late in the third quarter, the Green Bay quarterback threw three touchdown passes in the fourth period to rally his team to a 24-23 victory. The winning score came on a 75-yard TD to Randall Cobb.
Rodgers has now won 14 of the last 15 games he's started and finished against the Bears. He has also thrown for 24 touchdowns and just one interception in his last nine starts versus Chicago, including seven TDs and no picks in his last two games, both at Lambeau Field.
"He seemed like he was just wobbling around and throwing on one leg and able to find completions," said Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. "That's what it is for the quarterback: completions. Just get the ball to your playmakers and give your guys a chance. That's something that he did really well and something I've got to do better—just get the ball into your guys' hands and let them go to work with it. It sucks being on this side of it and them being on that side of it, but I feel like we are a lot closer. We've just got to continue to do better."
(3) Nagy has repeatedly cautioned that the Bears offense will not turn into a juggernaut overnight, and some of those growing pains were evident Sunday night.
The Bears marched 86 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown on their first possession of the game, but they failed to get into the end zone again on nine subsequent drives. They settled for field goals on all three of their red-zone possessions after their first drive, failing to convert on third-and-goal from the 3, third-and-nine at the 15 and third-and-two at the 14.
"We're not there, but we will get there," Nagy said after the game.
Trubisky will continue to improve as he gains more experience and a greater grasp of the new offense. The second-year quarterback completed 23 of 35 passes for 171 yards and a 77.2 passer rating in Sunday night's loss.
"I felt getting in and out of the huddle, the things that he saw, the throws that he made, his footwork in the pocket, I thought he did a really good job with that," Nagy said Monday. "He played the way I knew he could play. Now we left some out there, too. But that's going to happen. Mitch is going to learn. He's going to keep growing. He understands that. First thing he said to me on the bus [Sunday night] was, 'How can I get better?' That's the best part about him and where we're at right now."
Prime Photos: Bears at Packers 9.9.18
Bears photographer Jacob Funk selected his best photos from the Bears 2018 season opener against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football.