Eric Goska column: Packers at home in Bears territory in first half

Eric Goska, Press-Gazette Media correspondent

Editor’s note: This column originally was published Dec. 29, 2013.

The Packers proved the ultimate unwanted houseguest in their winner-take-all game against the Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field.

They spent an inordinate amount of time in Chicago territory early, then concluded their visit by seizing the NFC North Division title in the waning seconds.

Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb — two players playing for the first time after long absences due to injury — delivered the winning score. Rodgers passed 48 yards to Cobb on fourth down for the winning touchdown with 38 seconds left to lift Green Bay to a 33-28 win.

The Packers (8-7-1) are headed to the postseason. The Bears (8-8) are not.

The winning drive will be discussed at length, and rightfully so. It consisted of 15 plays that covered 87 yards. Three times Rodgers and Co. had to convert fourth downs, including twice in Green Bay territory.

Only two plays on that advance were run beyond midfield. Eleven plays alone were needed to reach the 50.

The Packers spent much more time on Chicago’s side of the field in the first half. In doing so, they controlled the clock and kept Jay Cutler on the sideline.

Doing so was important. In the first half, the Bears had the ball for 10 minutes, 32 seconds and scored seven points. In the second half, Cutler and his offense had it for 14:19 and put up 21 points.

Green Bay ran 41 offensive plays in the opening two quarters. A total of 29 (70.7 percent) originated beyond the 50.

Eighteen years have passed since the Packers last ran that many in an opponent’s territory in a first half. Brett Favre was under center for 29 in a 31-20 win in Cleveland on Nov. 19, 1995.

The last time the team had more occurred two years earlier, on Oct. 10, 1993, against the Broncos. Favre presided over 30 in Green Bay’s 30-27 victory at Lambeau Field.

But to set up shop so frequently in the den of the Bears is unheard of, at least since the 1970 merger. Sunday was just the third time in the last 44 years that Green Bay managed more than 25 in the opening two quarters against its longtime rival.

The Packers had five first-half possessions. They ran at least six plays in Chicago territory on four of those drives.

They spent 13:13 in Chicagoland, gaining 81 of their 201 first-half yards. Eight of their 13 first downs were earned there.

Unfortunately for Green Bay, not all went right on that side of the field. Rodgers was intercepted twice, and twice the Packers had to settle for field goals.

Instead of owning perhaps a double-digit lead, Green Bay headed to the locker room up just 13-7.

The Packers ran nine plays in Bears territory in the second half. They did a better job finishing, scoring touchdowns on each of the three drives in which they moved past the 50.

Extra point

Eddie Lacy became the seventh player in Packers history to gain more than 200 yards rushing against the Bears in one season. With 66 Sunday, he finished with 216, the most since Ahman Green had 256 in 2003. Others who surpassed 200 were Howie Ferguson, Jim Taylor, John Brockington, Edgar Bennett and Ryan Grant.