Bears Left To Handle Heartbreak

September 10, 2018 - 1:09 am

GREEN BAY, Wis. (670 The Score) -- They walked the ramps to the concourse in droves of green and yellow, stunned by the latest chapter of the NFL's oldest rivalry. 

It was halftime when Packers fans booed their team off the field, flustered by the Bears' dominance asserted. But when Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers came running from the tunnel, even on a bad left knee, they know there was a shot. And sure enough, Rodgers led his team back against the Bears, from down 20-0 deep into the third quarter to a 24-23 victory in the season opener Sunday night.

The locals were left chanting: Go, Pack Go! It echoed through pipes down to the bowels of the stadium, where Matt Nagy was still catching his breath after a crushing loss in his first game as the Bears' head coach.

"I want our guys to feel that," Nagy said. "They understand. I want our coaches to feel it. We talked about finishing, and we didn't do that. But I'll say this: I'm really proud of our team. I'm proud of our guys. They did a lot of good things tonight. They're going to learn from it. It's a long season. You got to give credit to Green Bay."

Hired to the Bears as a forward-thinking offensive mind, Nagy paid homage to the franchise's past with the T-formation on his first play call directing the Bears, a seven-yard run by Tarik Cohen. But it all ended with another tradition: getting beat by Rodgers.

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The Bears went from cruise control on offense in the first half to scuffling in the second half. Their defense went from dominant in the first half and knocking Rodgers out of the game to unable to stop him in a second half they'll long remember in Green Bay. As for Nagy? Well, his honeymoon period is over.

Nagy's offense failed to find the end zone in the second half, kicking a field goal early in the third quarter that made it a 20-0 game and one late that increased their dwindling lead to 23-17. Earlier, they Bears had consecutive three-and-outs that led to a pair of Packers touchdowns early in the fourth quarter. 

The game's biggest play came when when Rodgers hit Randall Cobb for a 75-yard touchdown on third-and-10 with 2:13 left -- two plays after Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller dropped an interception that would've sealed the win. 

"I had an opportunity, and I just needed to make a play," Fuller told reporters.

Added Nagy of Rodgers: "He’s special. You got to tip your hat to him. What a hell of a competitor.”

This was a night about Rodgers, who was carted to the locker room with a knee injury in the second quarter and came running out for the second half ready to lead a comeback. Rodgers finished 20-fo-30 for 286 yards and three touchdown passes, all in the fourth quarter.

Rodgers has tortured the Bears many times before, whether it was that fourth-and-8 bomb back in 2013 or with his six touchdown passes in the first half a year later. But this one felt different because of what preceded the Rodgers magic.

The Bears ran the script for Nagy's opening drive to perfection, going 10 plays and 86 yards to the end zone, with Mitchell Trubisky running in for the score. It was methodical and everything the Bears had hoped for under Nagy's direction.

It was just as great on the other side of the football, with new edge rusher Khalil Mack recording a strip-sack of Packers backup quarterback DeShone Kizer and then a pick-six on the following possession late in the first half. Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks bullied his way through Packers protection, and rookie linebacker Roquan Smith even recorded a sack on his first play with the Bears defense.

But the game changed in the second half. Rodgers was hobbling through the pocket and the Packers were forced to get the ball out of his hands quickly. Oddly enough, the adjustments with Rodgers injured were just what the Packers needed -- and what the Bears couldn't contain.

"We got to put more pressure on the quarterback," Mack said.

Mack went from a force in the first half to a non-factor after that. The defense sacked Rodgers four times in the first half and hardly pressured him from there. He kept finding targets open -- over the middle, down the sidelines, wherever he wanted -- and the Bears couldn't seemed to stop him.

Sure enough, the stadium went into a frenzy as Cobb dodged defenders and found his way to the end zone. It remained just as loud with 2:13 on the clock as Trubisky led the Bears out to their own 18-yard line with the hopes of a defining drive. But Trubisky struggled with the game on the line, admitting to getting happy feet in the pocket. A Clay Matthews roughing the passer penalty was the only way the Bears moved the chains before turning the ball over on downs.

Nagy expects that Trubisky will be the first player at Halas Hall on Monday morning as he goes over the tape. After the loss, Trubisky was talking about the Bears responding from such a devastating defeat. This is a young team with high hopes that go well beyond this opening game.

The celebration had cleared from Lambeau Field and out to the parking lot when the Bears walked slowly from the locker room and carried the silence to their bus before a trip back home. Come Monday morning, the Bears will begin moving forward from a miserable loss to the rest of a promising season.

"We got to regroup right away," Trubisky said. "We just got to come in, come together as a team. No pointing fingers, which we didn't, and all look within ourselves and continue to dig deeper. We realize it's only one game. It's only one game. We can't let one game dictate the rest of our season for us. We got a long way to go. There's a lot of room for improvement.

"Even though it didn't go our way tonight, we're in a good spot moving forward. It may not seem like that on the outside. But we're coming together as a team, which is nice to see."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.​