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3 things we learned about the Bears

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CHICAGO — When training camp began, or even when it ended, you’d have gotten long odds that wide receiver James Jones would be a key player in Green Bay’s 31-23 opening-day victory over the Chicago Bears.

Mostly because Jones was not a Packer.

But the veteran receiver, who spent the first seven seasons of his NFL career with Green Bay, became available when the Oakland Raiders and New York Giants released him in the last half-year. The Packers, short of depth after losing wide receiver Jordy Nelson to a season-ending injury, re-signed Jones last week, and he caught two touchdown passes and set up a third TD to key the opening victory.

“I don’t think it was that out of character,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, asked if he were surprised Jones could again contribute so quickly. “It’s a credit to him, and the way he approaches his job. I had no hesitation (throwing) to him.”

Actually, Jones caught three TD passes, but one was wiped out by a penalty. But none of his catches were as important as the 34-yard pass interference penalty against Chicago cornerback Kyle Fuller, trying to cover Jones at the 2-yard line, with two minutes remaining.

That call set up a short touchdown run by Eddie Lacy that clinched the game, putting the Packers ahead, 31-16.

Jones “is a great guy (and) a great teammate,” Rodgers said. “We were really fortunate that he was available at the end of the cuts.”

“It looked like we didn’t miss a beat,” Jones said.

Rodgers, who has won 10 straight games against Chicago when he throws at least five passes, had a solid if unspectacular day in large measure because Chicago’s ball-control offense denied him opportunities. He completed 18 of 23 passes for 189 yards but the Packers had just seven possessions, not counting two end-of-half kneel downs, as the Bears ran off 18 more plays on offense.

Running back Matt Forte almost single-handedly kept Chicago in the game by rushing for 141 yards on 24 carries but the Bears, mystifyingly, did not hand off to Forte at a critical point in the fourth quarter.

What we learned about the Bears:

1. Wait long enough and Jay Cutler can be counted on to make a mistake. Although he threw just one drive-killing interception against the Packers, he had a couple of near-misses in the fourth quarter. Maybe it’s harsh to put the failure to complete drives all on him, but he is the quarterback.

2. Matt Forte looks like he could be primed for a huge year, and it couldn’t come at a better time since this is Forte’s contract year. He rushed for 141 yards on 24 carries and caught five passes for 25 yards, scoring one touchdown. The Bears had their explanations for going away from Forte at a key point in the fourth quarter, but that still did not look like the best strategy.

3. Granted, they won’t face many quarterbacks better than Aaron Rodgers, if any, but the lack of pressure and Rodgers high completion percentage have to be concerning. New defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who has had success against Rodgers in the past, will need to find some pass rush combinations to put pressure on quarterbacks in coming games.

Etc.

–RB Matt Forte’s 141 yards rushing was his highest output since 2011, when he had 145 against Tampa Bay and 205 against Carolina.

–QB Jay Cutler has a 1-12 record against Green Bay as Chicago’s starting quarterback and has thrown at least one interception in every game.

–All three Chicago WRs who were injured in training camp — Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson — caught at least one pass. Jeffery caught five for a game-high 78 yards.


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