I have a confession to make.
I am a thief.
There. I’ve said it. I’m not proud of it. It just happened. I was 14 years old. Desperate to fit into the eighth grade at Peace Lutheran School. My teacher, Ms. Matonich had mentioned a supper club which I told my parents about. Looking back, this was my first mistake. I grew up in northern Wisconsin. I should have known a Friday night fish fry was bound to happen. So there I was, waiting for my parents to enjoy their pre-fry whiskey old fashioned sour and bitterly dry Rhine wine at the bar, waiting for our table, and getting bored. I ventured outside, my second mistake, and found a late-season rummage sale next door. Normally a mundane occurrence, I had found my table waiting sanctuary.
This wasn’t your normal “come look at the junk I’m too embarrassed to take to Goodwill” kind of rummage sale. This guy had taste. Framed sports posters, baseball and football cards, beer mirrors, and replica NASCAR hoods lined the garage tables. And an old Zippo lighter.
The flip top Zippo lighters were cool even if you didn’t smoke, or so I thought. Maybe it was the shiny chrome back or the picture of Cindy Crawford on the front, but something caught my interest. Flipping through Reggie White and Ken Griffey Jr. cards, my eyes kept darting over to that beautiful Zippo. Something inside of me swelled with desire. I could have eighth grade parochial school cred. I could be cool.
The elderly purveyor of this fine collection finally grew weary of me (or could see I didn’t have any money to really worry about selling a hood to) and went back into his house. On his way, I seized my opportunity, telling him to have a good evening. As I turned to walk back to the supper club, my hand took a quick detour to the side of the table in route to my jeans pocket.
My left front jeans pocket. A pocket which, in my head, was burning with the heat of a 1,000 matches over the fear of my parents randomly seeing the added bulk of my jeans and asking what I had. I was certain my mom would only see Cindy and not the beauty of the shiny chrome on the back. I made it through the deep fried perch and baked potato, the ride home, the walk back into the house, and the frantic search for an obscure hiding place in my bedroom. By the time I fell asleep, I was a wreck with regret. I never took Cindy out of her hiding spot to show my eighth grade buddies, street cred be damned. I felt at this point I’d never be able to steal anything again.
Week one of the 2018 NFL season gave witness to a theft of a different kind. All of the focus leading up to the Packers-Bears game in Lambeau Field had been on Chicago’s newly signed edge rusher Khalil Mack. How the addition of Mack would create havoc for Green Bay’s offensive line, basically saying Mack would be unstoppable. For the first half on Sunday night’s game, it certainly felt this way. Mack came away with a sack, an interception, a fumble recovery, and a defensive touchdown, all in the first 30 minutes. The money spent to acquire Mack looked worth every penny.
Halftime saw the Bears head to the locker room up 17-0, seemingly having knocked Aaron Rodgers out for an extended period of time with a knee injury, DeShone Kizer finishing up the first half of the game at quarterback for the Packers. It was easy to see the wind getting sucked from the sails of the Packer fans having just gone through a season without Rodgers at the helm. They quickly were seeing visions of 2017 being a high water mark.
Rodgers had something else in mind. Having let the team doctors do the needed checks and with a sleeve over his knee to help stabilize the movement, he came out of the locker room for the second half. The minimal crowd which had trickled back in from their halftime activities clapped. Rodgers jogged toward the sideline. The crowd erupted with a cheer. Rodgers had his helmet; the crowd had hope.
With a limit on his mobility, Rodgers used a more traditional west coast offensive style with quick, well-timed connections to his receivers. The Bears managed a field goal, making the score 20-0 with 9:14 left in the third quarter. In a post-game interview, Rodgers was asked what went through his mind when he saw Chicago go up by 20. His response? Three touchdowns. They needed three stops and three touchdowns. With a Mason Crosby 42 yard field goal, Green Bay would finally get on the board at 3:37 left in the third, and the quarter ended in favor of the Bears at 20-3. Then the thievery began.
Still needing three scoring drives, Green Bay’s defense started making stops. The fourth quarter saw drives from the Packers in which Rodgers seemed to feature each of his top three receivers. After a rare intentional grounding call on Rodgers, he found Geronimo Allison for connections of 15, 12, and 1 yard before connecting with him in the back right of the end zone for a 39 yard touchdown with 13:59 left. This last play reminded us why Allison came into the season as the coveted third wide receiver for fantasy in this offense. Rodgers was able to look off the safety by watching the left side of the field, knowing Allison would be where he was supposed to be, Rodgers’ trust paying off. The 8 play, 85 yard drive took 3:06 to complete.
Rodgers got his second chance with the score still 20-10 with 12:01 left in the fourth. This drive saw connections with Davante Adams for 51 yards and 6 yards before capping it off with a 12 yard touchdown. At 9:01 left, the score was now 20-17; the drive having only taken 3:00 to complete.
The Bears managed a drive deep into Packer territory. Chicago’s kicker, Cody Parkey, managed to make the score 23-17 on a 32 yard field goal with 2:39 left in the game. Only a third touchdown by a hobbled quarterback could steal this season opening win. Unfortunately for the Bears, this hobbled quarterback is in the conversation for greatest of all time.
Having only the two minute warning to stop the clock, Rodgers took over at 2:39 left in the game. In a perfect “hold my beer” moment, Packer fans held their breath in collective anticipation. Rodgers tried finding Adams again on the right side. Instead he found a Chicago cornerback, who had a fortuitous drop. Allison was the next attempt to the left, with the ball finding the turf yet again. Interspersed in the other scoring drives, Rodgers managed to find Randall Cobb with passes of 10 yards, 5 yards, and 6 yards. Where Cobb shined was on Rodgers’ toss to the left on third and 10 from Chicago’s 25 yard line. A pass in which Packer fans hoped for a movement of the chains resulted in a catch and run by Cobb of 75 yards for the game-tying touchdown. Crosby promptly added the extra point, placing the Packers on top for the first time all game at 24-23. The entire drive took 26 seconds.
The Bears were able to move the ball only 18 yards in a last ditch effort. An effort allowed to continue on fourth and 9 due to a roughing the passer call on Clay Matthews, eventually stalling at Green Bay’s 39 yard line with 1:06 left in the game. The Packers ran out the clock, theft of the W completed.
Green Bay’s hopes for the season clearly rest in the health of Rodgers’ knee, but in the short sample size of one determined half, the potential for greatness from this offense still exists. I would not be afraid to acquire any of the three starting Packer receivers, Geronimo Allison included. Randall Cobb still has a heavy contract sitting over his head coming in 2019 which may limit future potential, but for the 2018 season, he will reap the benefits if Rodgers is throwing him the ball, thievery feeling as good as it did.
While the rest of Green Bay waits on the health reports of Rodgers’ knee, I need to find myself another rummage sale.