Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham celebrates after a touchdown. (USA TODAY Sports)
Aaron Rodgers connected on 18 of 30 passes for 203 yards and one touchdown
Packers defense shine
LOS ANGELES: The Green Bay Packers defense stepped up to give rookie head coach Matt LaFleur a winning debut with a 10-3 victory over the Chicago Bears Thursday in the first game of the NFL’s centenary season.
Veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers, playing his first game under LaFleur, connected on 18 of 30 passes for 203 yards and one touchdown.
But it was the Packers defense that starred — thwarting the Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago in a meeting of fierce NFC North division rivals.
Green Bay safety Adrian Amos — a former Bear — ended Chicago’s hopes of a game-tying drive when he intercepted Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s pass to the end zone to preserve the 10-3 lead with 1:58 remaining.
“We’ve got a defense,” Rodgers said.
“I had a couple of real bad throws. We were out of synch at times,” Rodgers said. “But we’ve got a defense.”
After Green Bay’s offense totaled minus-12 yards in the first quarter, Rodgers came to life early in the second.
He piloted a 74-yard, four-play drive capped by an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham.
Rodgers had pass completions on all four plays — sparking the drive with a 47-yarder to wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
That gave the Packers a 7-3 lead over the Bears, who had taken the lead on a 38-yard field goal from Eddy Pineiro.
On a night when points were at a premium, the Packers pushed their lead to 10-3 with a 39-yard field goal by Mason Crosby with just over five minutes remaining.
LaFleur became the first NFL coach to challenge a pass interference non-call in a regular-season game under new video review rules allowing such calls to be challenged.
The embarrassing missed call in last season’s NFC championship game — which likely kept the New Orleans Saints out of the Super Bowl — prompted the change.
But LaFleur’s historic challenge came to nothing as the call on the field stood.
But soon back-to-back penalties by the Bears offensive line and an offensive pass interference call on Chicago’s Taylor Gabriel left the Bears facing first-down and 40 yards and, eventually, a punt on the possession.
“I’m really happy for Matt — his first win as a head coach,” Rodgers, a two-time NFL Most Valuable Player and a Super Bowl champion, said.
The 39-year-old LaFleur was hired to try to get the Packers back on track after two straight seasons without reaching the playoffs — which led to Mike McCarthy’s exit.
Week one continues on Sunday, when 13 games include Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Los Angeles Rams, who fell to the Patriots in the Super Bowl, visit the Carolina Panthers.