In what might turn out to be the first game of Brett Favre's swan song season, Rex Grossman stole the show early and the Bears defense handed the gunslinger the first shutout of his career.
Grossman came out firing after a shaky preseason, completing his first six passes, the highlight being a 49-yard touchdown strike to Bernard Berrian on the sixth play from scrimmage. Grossman finished with a career-high 262 yards, a passer rating of 98.6 and ran his career record at Lambeau Field to 3-0.
The Bears defense also came in with question marks hanging over it, and responded with three sacks and two interceptions, didn't allow the Packers into the red zone and yielded only one third-down conversion.
Tribune staff reporter John Mullin breaks down the rights and wrongs of the Bears' 26-0 win over Green Bay, a day filled with so many rights, you can't go wrong picking them.
What went right for the Bears: The offense opened with a designer drive of 78 yards in six plays, the last one a perfect 49-yard strike from Rex Grossman to Bernard Berrian running free 5 yards behind Green Bay safety Marquand Manuel for a touchdown. The play included a superb play-fake by Grossman and a sealed pocket by the offensive line protecting him. Grossman completed his first six passes before a Green Bay blitz hurried him into a throwaway, after which he came back for two more completions before a poor throw into the end zone ended the second drive. The Bears piled up 204 yards for the quarter as Grossman completed throws to five different players in a 9-for-11 run. Notable were three completions to tight end Desmond Clark that totaled 47 yards. The Bears' offense also showed the kind of balance coaches are seeking, with 10 runs to complement 11 passes. The defense limited the Packers to a single first down in two possessions and to 16 total rushing yards.
What went wrong for the Bears: Grossman, under pressure, had his pass to Clark intercepted in the end zone by Nick Barnett, costing the Bears on their second possession. But there wasn't much else to find fault with in a quarter marked by nine Bears first downs and a 111.2 passer rating for Grossman.
What went right for the Bears: The Bears owned the ball in the Green Bay end of the field on every possession of the half and scored four of the five times they crossed midfield. Robbie Gould, who was just 3-for-8 from 40 yards or longer last season, eased a 40-yarder through on his first attempt in 2006. Gould was 3-for-3 in the quarter and put a 39-yarder through to give the Bears a 13-0 lead. Bears special teams then set up a final field goal when Adrian Peterson forced a fumble on a kick return by former Northwestern running back Noah Herron. Gould knocked that one through from 28 yards. The Bears were statistically dominant with 236 total yards for the half to 103 for the Packers.
What went wrong for the Bears: The Bears were fooled on a fourth-down pass out of punt formation by punter Jon Ryan, whose first NFL pass covered 16 yards to Herron. Of more concern was the failure of the offense to breach the goal line on more than one of the opportunities in the half. The Bears had the ball with first downs on the Green Bay 17-, 22- and 16-yard lines and did not get a touchdown on any of the possessions, not to mention the end-zone interception Grossman threw from the Green Bay 14 in the first quarter.
What went right for the Bears: Cedric Benson made his '06 debut and gained 6 and 7 yards on his first two carries. Clark continued to be a go-to target for Grossman with a tough 19-yard catch. Thomas Jones came back in for Benson and executed a perfect blitz pickup, cutting a rushing Packer and allowing Grossman to get off a hurried pass to Muhsin Muhammad for 13 yards. Gould ran his field-goal string to four with a 30-yarder. The defense went to a nickel group with a 19-0 lead as cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. replaced the strong-side linebacker, rookie Mark Anderson stepped in for Alex Brown at defensive end and rookie Danieal Manning replaced Chris Harris at free safety after Harris injured his ankle. The pass rush stepped up against Favre, forcing holding penalties on the Green Bay line on two successive plays.
What went wrong for the Bears: The offense again moved inside the 20-yard line without coming away with a touchdown.
What went right for the Bears: Devin Hester showed that his preseason was not a fluke but a preview as he returned a punt 84 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown, the first TD return against the Packers since Sept. 22, 2002. The defense intercepted Favre twice in the Bears' end of the field, the first time by Charles Tillman and the second time by the rookie Manning. It was his first NFL interception, after which he left the field holding tightly on to the ball.
What went wrong for the Bears: The offense was flagged twice on successive plays. Other than that, the Bears just made sure they finished what they started and never let Green Bay get going, either offensively or defensively.
"It's hard to get a shutout in the National Football League anytime," coach Lovie Smith said. "To get it on the road with No. 4 as the quarterback is definitely special."
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