By Drew Olson Special to Published Sep 14, 2009 at 5:12 AM Photography: Allen Fredrickson

GREEN BAY -- Attention Packers fans: About those airline tickets and hotel reservations for Super Bowl XLIV in Miami ...

It never hurts to be prepared, but it might be wise to make sure that the deposits are refundable.

The dream of a Packers Super Bowl certainly didn't die Sunday night, but it does seem considerably less vivid than it did at this time a week ago. The giddiness that permeated the Packers preseason gave way to the bruising reality of the regular season.

Thanks to a gutsy play call by coach Mike McCarthy and perfect execution by quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Greg Jennings, Green Bay won a tense opener against rival Chicago, 21-15, before a sellout crowd of 70,920 and a national TV audience Sunday night at Lambeau Field.

The hard-fought victory wasn't sealed until Rodgers delivered a spine-chilling 50-yard touchdown pass to Jennings with 1 minute 11 seconds remaining.

"I didn't play very well until the last throw, I guess," said Rodgers, who completed 17 of 28 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown, outplayed counterpart Jay Cutler and erased the charge that he couldn't lead a comeback victory.

"It was important for us to get a win like this. It will build our team character definitely."

The Packers talked a lot about character, confidence and momentum after the game. But, they also talked about some of the mistakes that almost cost them dearly.

Here are some observations from a memorable season debut:

Lucky mistake: The winning touchdown came with Green Bay facing third down and a yard to go at the 50. Trailing by three points, the Packers knew they needed a field goal to tie the game, but decided -- after a timeout -- to go for the big strike.

Why did they call time out?

McCarthy had sent in a running play, but Jennings lined up on the wrong side of the field and Rodgers called time. The winning play was supposed to go to Donald Lee, but Rodgers saw Jennings with one-on-one coverage from Nathan Vasher, who slipped on the play.

Have some champagne, Dom: The main reason the Packers hired Dom Capers as defensive coordinator and installed the 3-4 defense was because they felt it was the best way to improve their horrific run defense.

The early returns were encouraging. The Packers allowed 86 yards on 31 rushing attempt, an average gain of 2.8 yards. Matt Forte, the Bears' leading rusher, carried the ball 25 times for 55 yards.

The Packers gave up 352 yards of offense, but offset that by intercepting four passes.

"Our defense is the thermostat of our football team," McCarthy said.

Cold start: Bears quarterback Jay Cutler completed 17 of 36 passes for 66 yards. Two of his four interceptions came in the red zone, including one that landed in Johnny Jolly's giant paw.

Paging Mr. Tauscher: Tackle Allen Barbre, who replaced Mark Tauscher as the starting right tackle, had a brutal debut. In his first start at the position, Barbre was manhandled by Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, who sacked Rodgers twice and knocked him down on other plays.

"I'd be wrong to say I'm not discouraged," Barbre said. "I'm a little disappointed in myself. But I came out in the second half and played a little better. So, I can start building off of that and go from there."

Part of the reason Barbre's performance improved is because the Packers gave him help from a running back or tight end. That weakened the offense and may have been a factor in the timing problems.

"I need to look at the film; I don't want to be critical," McCarthy said. "Allen Barbre had some tough moments. We had, I think, three sacks off of seven-man protection. That's not going to cut it and that's what we'll look at (in) the film tomorrow. We'll correct that as an offense."

Tauscher, who is recovering from knee surgery, is a free agent. You wonder whether he'll get a call this week to see how he's doing or if the Packers will take a look at backup Breno Giacomini, who was inactive for the game.

Love for Lovie: The Packers went out of their way to credit the Bears -- and head coach Lovie Smith in particular -- for creative defensive schemes that took away Green Bay's slant passing attack.

Smith, however, will be grilled by Chicago media for a questionable fake punt call.

Heads up: Brett Swain, who made the roster over Ruvell Martin in part because of his special teams play, justified his bosses' confidence by breaking up the fake punt. Swain dropped back before the snap, which went directly to running back Garret Wolfe, and made the tackle.

The Packers took over and scored on a 39-yard field goal by Mason Crosby.

Upon further review ... It's only the first game of the season, but you wonder whether there will be another call as questionable as the illegal contact penalty on Packers cornerback Al Harris.

Speaking of penalties, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher didn't get one after what appeared to be a late hit on Rodgers.

Notes: Linebacker Brandon Chillar led Green Bay with seven tackles and just might have been the best defensive player on the field. ... Packers cornerback / kick returner Will Blackmon sat out the game. Jordy Nelson filled in as the return man and acquitted himself well, particularly on the 46-yard return of the opening kickoff. Other scratches included rookie defensive tackle B.J. Raji, tackle Breno Giacomini and running back Brandon Jackson. ... Bears defensive back Charles Tillman, who had been questionable, started the game. ... Packers alums Jerry Kramer and James Lofton were introduced before the game. ... National Guard officers unfurled a large American flag, shaped like the United States, during a national anthem that ended with a Blackhawk helicopter flyover. ... There were plenty of Bears jerseys in the crowd and also a fair amount of Jay Leno swag. The late night talk-show host begins his primetime show soon, and the promotions people were hard at work. ... The game-time temperature was 76 degrees with 59 percent humidity and it got cooler as the night progressed. In other words, it was just about perfect. ... The Packers have sold out 278 consecutive home games.

Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.