Four days after starting the season with a demoralizing defeat, Clay Matthews and the Green Bay Packers looked every bit like the team they were expected to be this season.
Maybe even better, at least on defense.
The Packers (1-1) pulled off a perfectly executed trick play, then rattled and robbed Jay Cutler the rest of the way in a 23-10 victory over the division rival Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on Thursday night.
The win represented an impressive rebound from a season-opening loss to San Francisco. Had the Packers lost to the Bears, they would have fallen to 0-2, with both losses coming at home.
"Inside the facility, there wasn't any panic," Aaron Rodgers said. "Outside, I think people were worried if we lose to Chicago, you're kind of putting yourself behind the eight ball a little bit. Good win for us. We're 1-1. Again, it's one game. We need to get better on offense; defense played incredible."
Especially Matthews, who was credited with 3½ of the Packers' seven sacks of Cutler.
With six sacks in the Packers' first two games, Matthews already has equaled his total from last season.
"I think the statistics speak for themselves," Matthews said. "It's always good when you get after the quarterback, get him off his rhythm and have him throw some balls up there that I'm sure he wouldn't want, or wants back."
It was a significant step backward for the Bears (1-1), who were filled with confidence after steamrolling Indianapolis in their opener.
Cutler threw four interceptions to go with the seven sacks. As frustration mounted, Cutler vented with emphatic gestures throughout the game, saying afterward it was simply a sign of his desire to win.
"I care about this," Cutler said. "This isn't a hobby for me. I am not doing this for my health. I am trying to win football games and get first downs. When we're not doing the little things or not doing things the right way consistently, I'm going to say something. If they want a quarterback that doesn't care, they can get somebody else."
Cutler was particularly upset with his offensive line, a position group that did not see a significant addition during the Bears' offseason makeover of their offense.
"I'm not going to just walk to the sideline and act like everything's OK," said Cutler, who was 11 for 27 for 126 yards. "It's just not going to happen."
The loss left at least one prominent member of the Bears wondering if their Week 1 win was something of a mirage.
"Maybe we're not as good as we thought we were," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "We've got a long ways to go, that's obvious. We didn't play like we did last week. Maybe Green Bay's just that good, I don't know. We just didn't play well and they played good enough to do what they did to us."
The Bears also lost running back Matt Forte to an ankle injury. Bears coach Lovie Smith said the severity of the injury was unclear.
Smith was impressed by the Packers' rebound during a short turnaround.
"You've got to give them a lot of credit," he said. "They didn't play as well as they wanted to last week and they came back this week."
Smith acknowledged that his team looked "flat-footed" on the Packers' biggest play of the day, a gutsy and perfectly executed fake field goal when the Packers were facing fourth-and-26 on the Chicago 27 late in the second quarter.
"Good call by them," Smith said. "They executed the play to perfection. What else can I say? Normally when a fake works it's a good job by the opponent, and that's what happened tonight."
The Packers lined up for a field goal, but punter Tim Masthay, the holder, flipped the ball to backup tight end Tom Crabtree, who streaked into the end zone.
"I had the easiest job of anybody," Masthay said. "All I'm doing is catching the snap, putting it down and flipping it to Tom. The rest of the guys were the ones doing the work. So, yeah, it was really cool."
Crabtree credited the Packers' blocking.
"It's not really on me," he said. "I think any of you could run that play. All I did was catch the ball and run a straight line. The guys did a great job blocking. Tim had a great pitch. Like I said, I just ran a straight line. That was about it."
Watching from the sideline, Rodgers at first thought something went wrong.
"I saw Crabby running out the back side, I couldn't believe it," Rodgers said. "That's a gutsy call. A gutsy call. You've got to score on that."
The Packers' defense did the rest, holding new Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall to two catches for 24 yards.
Earlier in the week, a confident Cutler wished the Packers' defensive backs "good luck" in trying to match up physically in man coverage with a new-look wide receiver corps led by Marshall. Stalked by Tramon Williams for much of the night, Marshall didn't see much of the ball. And he couldn't convert his one big opportunity, dropping a potential touchdown in the third quarter.
Charles Woodson said the Packers took note of Cutler's quote.
"It was everywhere," Woodson said. "You know how it is. Once you make a statement these days, it doesn't take long for it to travel and get to you."
Cutler shrugged off any potential fallout from his comment, noting that the Packers didn't play much man coverage.
"They didn't play man, so why would they say anything?" Cutler said.
In all, the Packers showed they're a better team than they appeared to be after Week 1.
"We got kicked in the (rear end) four days ago," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "And we were motivated."
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