Aaron Rodgers and James Starks, meet Don Horn.
Horn was the Packers starting quarterback the last time Green Bay triumphed against the Bears in the Windy City after having emerged on the short end of a fourth-quarter turnover differential. In fact, Horn and his teammates were the only Packers team to do so — until Sunday.
Turnovers, a given in this rivalry that stretches back 90 years, surfaced again at Soldier Field. The Packers and Bears each were guilty of two, but Rodgers and his offense gave the ball away twice as often as did Chicago in the final 15 minutes.
Starks lost a fumble and Rodgers tossed an interception on back-to-back fourth-quarter drives, but the Packers prevailed 27-17 in no small part because of what the team accomplished in the 48 minutes that preceded those blunders.
Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley and the Packers’ defense all achieved firsts that factored into Green Bay building a 17-point lead early in the fourth quarter. Their efforts made overcoming those two turnovers more manageable.
Rodgers earned his first 100-plus passer rating (111.4) in Chicago. He completed 28 of 38 passes for 297 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
His ratings in three previous regular-season starts at Soldier Field were 87.6, 88.9 and 92.5. Prior to Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher intercepting him with nine minutes, 27 seconds left, Rodgers’ body of work was worth an impressive 134.5 rating points.
Jennings was Rodgers’ target early. The wide receiver caught six passes — five for first downs — in the first quarter alone.
Since 1954, only two other players had caught that many passes in an opening quarter for the Packers: Sterling Sharpe in 1993 and John Jefferson in 1983. Neither Sharpe nor Jefferson had as many first downs as Jennings.
Finley became the first Packer to haul in three touchdown passes against the Bears and just the second Green Bay tight end (Keith Jackson) to get three in any game regardless of opponent. He scored from six, seven and 10 yards out in the first, second and fourth quarters, respectively.
Green Bay reached the end zone on its first possession as Rodgers hit Finley for a 7-0 lead on the game’s eighth play. It was the third year in a row (a first) that the Packers have scored a TD on their opening possession at Soldier Field.
While Jennings and Finley snagged the majority of Rodgers’ passes, Ryan Grant had a productive afternoon with 92 yards rushing on 17 carries. The running back ripped off five runs of 10 or more yards, a first in his career against the Bears.
With Grant, Jennings, Finley and others running free, Green Bay piled up 392 yards of offense. But the defense, especially against the run, played a role in this victory as well.
When Matt Forte was handed the ball, linebackers Clay Matthews, Desmond Bishop and others pounced. The Bears running back managed but two yards rushing on six first-half carries and was tackled for a loss on four of those attempts.
The two yards rushing was the fewest by the Bears in the first half against the Packers since at least 1944 when they unofficially gained five yards in the first two quarters. What is known with certainty is their 13 yards rushing over four quarters was their lowest output in the history of the series.
These accomplishments helped Green Bay go up 27-10 with 12:49 remaining. In the end, that 17-point lead proved too much for the Bears to overcome even with 106 yards of offense and five chances with the ball in the fourth quarter.
Committing more turnovers than the Bears in the fourth quarter in Chicago has spelled near certain defeat over the years. Prior to Sunday, Green Bay’s record when doing that was 1-20-1.
That lone win occurred on Dec. 14, 1969 in Wrigley Field where the Packers engineered a 21-0 lead after three quarters. With that cushion, Green Bay withstood two fourth-quarter interceptions thrown by Horn (against one tossed by Chicago quarterback Bobby Douglass) to forge a 21-3 victory.
It didn’t hurt that the Bears were a pitiful 1-11 coming into that game.
Eric Goska is a Press-Gazette correspondent, a Packers historian and the author of "Green Bay Packers: A Measure of Greatness," a statistical history of the Packers. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.