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LAKE FOREST — Opening week of the NFL football season is a big deal. It signifies the start and a clean slate for each of the 32 teams.
And when the first game on the schedule features the Bears and Packers, best believe this Week 1 matchup at Soldier Field matters even more.
Bears coach Matt Eberflus understands that notion, but for a lot of the young players on this bears roster who haven’t been a part of this rivalry, he made sure to emphasize what this game signifies.
“Well, I think you have to state what it is,” Eberflus said. “I mean, it’s a heck of a rivalry. Right? It’s the best rivalry in football. So you’ve got to state that. That’s a fact. The other thing is this is one game. This is the only game we can control. And we control one play at a time. This preparation for this week, playing against this opponent, Week 1. So you’ve got to micro it down for them too. That’s how you win the game. Right? You do it one play at a time and you do it all the way through the game. So you just talk to them that way.”
Justin Fields has faced the Packers four times in his career since being drafted in 2021 and is still looking for his first victory over the NFC North rival.
“Of course it’s a big rivalry, but it’s just Game 1,” Fields said. “It’s the most important game of the season, so I’m not really looking back towards history. I’m looking toward now.”
Fields isn’t concerned with the past results between the Bears and Packers or the idea of finding motivation to take over the NFC North now that Aaron Rodgers is out of the division. He’s just focusing on becoming the best version of himself and getting better each day.
In the Bears’ 28-19 loss at Soldier Field in Week 13, Fields finished 20 of 25 for 254 passing yards — which was his highest passing total of the season.
“I think the O-line did a good job protecting that game,” Fields said. “We had a lot of explosive plays that game. I think we did pretty good on third down, too. Really, just all you need to be successful in a game: Explosive plays, great protection from the O-line and situational execution. Third down, gold zone, that’s what we’re going to have to do to win this game and if you do that every game, then you’re pretty much going to have a good game.”
The Bears had the lead for the majority of that game. Then late in the fourth quarter the Packers capitalized off of a blocked Cairo Santos field goal and went to score a field goal of their own to take a 20-19 lead. Fields threw an interception on the next drive. The Packers took advantage again, but this time with a touchdown, and never looked back.
Sunday’s game against the Packers will allow this current team to find success against Green Bay. Only 12 players on the 53-man roster know what that feeling is like.
A victory on Sunday afternoon would fall in line with the goals that Eberflus set out for his team earlier in the year.
“No, that’s our goal,” Eberflus said. “That’s the No. 1 goal is to win the division and then win the conference and then go to the Super Bowl and have a chance to win that. And we talk about that early on in the spring. But we know that division games are more important. They have a little more weight to them. And we’re excited about this one.”
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