Joniak: Keys To Bears-Packers Season Opener

Jeff Joniak
September 07, 2018 - 7:11 pm

(WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Here are Jeff Joniak's "Keys to the Game" for Sunday's season opener matchup between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers:



We finally see the new “Bears” offense.  Not the Eagles. Not the Chiefs.  It is the Bears offense, a collaborative design of head coach Matt Nagy, offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, and presumably the entire offensive staff.  The mission statement for the unit is simple, despite the schemes’ complexity: create mismatches, win on first down, with a tempo tailored for multiple situations, threatening every blade of grass, and aggressively when the time is right pushing the ball downfield, with efficient red zone production, minimizing turnovers and have fun doing it.  Mitch Trubisky takes the offense for a Sunday night spin against a Packers defense coordinated by Mike Pettine. His play-calling history points to timely pressure in the passing game. Expect Pettine to disguise coverage, and challenge protections with packages designed to test a young quarterback. The Packers are very good up front, with stars Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark and outside linebackers Clay Mathews and Nick Perry. Getting bodies on those four are key.



Khalil Mack’s first defensive rep as a Bear will immediately draw the attention of the Packers, who must account for his presence at all times. How much he plays is unknown, but with fresh legs and toolbox full of pass rush moves, Mack’s elite skills will speed up the quarterback’s clock. For the Bears’ front seven, keeping Aaron Rodgers from getting out of the pocket and creating big plays is always of primary concern. He stresses a secondary with time, blessed with pin- point accuracy and throws that define his greatness. Hassling his rhythm is critical. Rodgers in the red zone is a nightmare for defenses. His newest weapon is veteran tight end Jimmy Graham, who led the NFL in touchdowns inside the twenty last season in Seattle. He is a mismatch for defenses, and it will take a village to handle him and another key red zone threat at receiver in Davante Adams. This is a sick stat, but since 1992 at Lambeau Field when the Packers score first they are a ridiculous 111-20-1. That is an 84 percentage winning percentage.


Special Teams

In games decided by one score in 2017, the Packers were 6-and-2, while the Bears were 2-and-6.  Learning how to win the close games is an important growth moment for a young Bears team. Excellence on special teams can help in that regard. A clean start to the operation with an established special team coordinator Chris Tabor and seasoned veterans in the kicking game like Cody Parkey, punter Pat O’Donnell, and long snapper Patrick Scales is important. Kick and punt coverage and the return game all translate into field position and ultimately points. Every positive play is a positive play for Mitch Trubisky in terms of field position start, and for the defense giving the Packers a long field. The bottom line is, do not give Rodgers and that Packer defense any help. Green Bay improved on special teams last season. They had the second-ranked punt return unit, and they did not allow any return touchdowns last season.



It is week one. Therefore, it is the NFL’s version of an “anything is possible” week. Un-scouted looks reign. New coaching staffs surprise. It is really the great unknown. So, expect the unexpected. The Bears and Packers are thinking that right way given all the change on both rosters. One fact never changes: Win the turnover battle, and the odds of winning increase. The Packers are fourth in the league dating to 2014 in turnover margin at plus 15.   

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.