Chicago Bears believe they have grown ‘tremendously’ since Week 1 beatdown against Green Bay

Bears look to avenge 38-20 loss in season opener

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones coasts in for a touchdown ahead of Chicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson during their game Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

LAKE FOREST – It has been 17 weeks since the season opener.

There were months of buildup between the end of the 2022 season and the 2023 season opener. Longtime Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers left town. A Week 1 matchup between the Bears and Packers was supposed to be the beginning of a new era, with quarterback Justin Fields leading the Bears back on top of the rivalry.

Instead, the Packers punched the Bears in the mouth and cruised to a 38-20 win.

All these weeks later, when Bears head coach Matt Eberflus turns on the tape from that Week 1 matchup, he sees a different team than what he sees on the field now.

“What you recognize is our growth, I really believe, as a football team,” Eberflus said. “The growth and the maturation of our young players. You can certainly see that with our first- and second-year players. You can see the continuity with the free agents coming together on both sides of the ball. DJ [Moore] and Justin having a little more chemistry, you certainly can see that.”

The Bears will have a shot at redemption Sunday when they finish their 2023 season with a Week 18 matchup against the Packers at Lambeau Field. The game kicks off at 3:25 p.m.

It’s somewhat of a full-circle moment for this Bears team, which has come a long way from that Week 1 matchup. After the drubbing by Green Bay in Week 1, the Bears lost their next three games, falling to 0-4. At the time, the organization had lost 14 consecutive games. Eberflus’ seat was most definitely hotter than it had ever been.

But then things started to change. Fields played two of his best games before a thumb injury sidelined him for a month. Backup Tyson Bagent won a couple of games in his place. Now, the Bears have won four of their past five games and five of their past seven.

The Packers are 8-8 and looking to earn a wild-card berth into the playoffs. A Bears win Sunday will make that increasingly difficult. If the Bears win, the Packers need several other results to fall in their favor to make the playoffs.

Eberflus was careful Wednesday not to give the Packers any extra bulletin board material.

“I would say this, we’re going to keep it about us,” Eberflus said. “There’s always that factor of, hey, it’s an important game for them, for sure. It’s an important game for us, for sure. We’re going to leave it at that. It’s a rival, and we’re excited about going up there and playing some football.”

Eberflus believes the Bears’ young players, of which there are many, have grown since Week 1. Rookies such as tackle Darnell Wright, cornerback Tyrique Stevenson and defensive tackle Gervon Dexter have logged a lot of professional snaps.

Moore and Fields have emerged as a great duo for the Bears’ passing attack. The defense has improved drastically, especially since the addition of defensive end Montez Sweat.

“We’ve improved tremendously in all phases,” Fields said. “I think that’s players and coaches. We’ve grown a lot as a team, our chemistry has grown with each other.”

We’ve improved tremendously in all phases. I think that’s players and coaches. We’ve grown a lot as a team, our chemistry has grown with each other.”

—  Justin Fields, Bears quarterback

The Bears haven’t beaten the Packers since Dec. 16, 2018, at Soldier Field. They haven’t won at Lambeau Field in Green Bay since Nov. 26, 2015. The Packers have won 24 of the past 27 meetings dating to 2010.

The Bears certainly want to beat this team. But to them, it’s about so much more than the rivalry. This is about proving how far this team has come. This is about showing the football world that they’re building something positive here.

“We want to win every game, it doesn’t matter when they beat us [last time], we’re not thinking of that,” Fields said. “Our mindset is just go out there and play ball the way we’ve been playing. You know, win the game. We want to win every game, no matter if it’s against the Deerfield Park Whatever Team or the Green Bay Packers. When we step on the field, we want to win the game.”

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.