Bears vs. Packers great way to open season
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The Bears start training camp in Bourbonnais in eight days.
There will be lots of running around, grunting, preseason games, roster cuts, injuries and bad haircuts coming.
But only one thing shines through the hustle and bustle: Bears at Packers in the season opener.
Could it get any better than that?
The game will take place at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 9 at Lambeau Field, where thousands of green-and-yellow Cheeseheads, in from running their traplines and lounging in summer beer caves, will be up in the stands and out of their minds with fervor.
The few Bears fans clad in blue and orange who can snag tickets and drive up Interstate 43, through enemy outposts such as Oostburg, Kohler and Manitowoc and into the belly of the beast, should be on high alert. Packers backers are generally nice people, but I’m guessing every one of them has an arsenal of deer and varmint rifles back home — or in the trunk.
The Bears-Packers rivalry can be testy, you’ll recall.
If you remember the legendarily brutal game in 1986, when Packers defensive lineman Charles Martin came out wearing a towel in his waistband with hit-list numbers on it, then nearly killed Bears quarterback Jim McMahon with a body slam as McMahon was walking off the field after an interception, you know.
If you remember Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan’s nasty helmet-to-helmet knockout of Packers receiver Davante Adams last season, you know. Trevathan was suspended for the blow, and Adams, well, he’ll know in about 20 years how it affected him.
But bloodlust aside, the excitement comes from the matchup between Bears second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky, 23, and Packers all-world surgical master Aaron Rodgers, 34, entering his 14th season.
They don’t technically face each other, but they will be compared and dissected as though they were dueling with sabers.
Rodgers is right there with the best quarterbacks who ever played the game. If it weren’t for Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, he likely would be the unanimous pick as the best in the game in the last quarter-century. A career passer rating of 103.8? Ridiculous.
And then there’s Trubisky, the relatively untested youngster who played so few games in college that his rookie NFL season in 2017 was the way most of us learned about his strengths and weaknesses.
To wit: He has a solid arm, he’s durable and athletic, he’s not arrogant or timid, he makes nice throws, he makes mistakes and he’s learning by the minute. That’s why the opener against Rodgers and the Packers is so intriguing. Trubisky will have the chance to show what he’s made of, what he has developed and how he stacks up against a genius such as Rodgers.
The new EA Sports Madden NFL Series game, which is due out next month, doesn’t think much of Trubisky. The makers gave him a piddly 74 rating, about what a scrub might have.
But Trubisky also might be the leader in a new Bears regime that is being built by general manager Ryan Pace, who jumped up a spot to snag Trubisky in the 2017 draft, and new coach Matt Nagy.
Nagy is key here. He studied under longtime NFL coach Andy Reid and knows about things such as protecting quarterbacks and using running backs as targets on passing downs. A little pogo stick named Tarik Cohen might be the speedy go-to guy that helps Trubisky succeed.
There’s also the other offensive parts Pace snared: receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel and tight end Trey Burton. These guys came for lots of money, and Trubisky should cash in with the wealth of their skills.
The offensive line should be solid, especially if guard Kyle Long can come back from his many injuries and be as dominant as he was in his Pro Bowl years. A good line, good receivers, a smart, rising coach — what more could a quarterback want?
But you never know. We really have no idea whether Trubisky will be the star quarterback the Bears have coveted for decades.
That’s the beauty of this opener, a game we only can hope isn’t demolished before the fact by stupid preseason injuries, drug suspensions, domestic abuse or God knows what.
A young hotshot against a cagey veteran in a fierce and legendary team rivalry is a great matchup in any week of the season. Win this one, with Trubisky shining, and Bears can paint the week solid gold.