Rodgers makes dismantling Bears look easy
Aaron Rodgers promises it wasn't easy. The Green Bay Packers' quarterback only made it look that way Sunday night at Lambeau Field.
In a battle of NFC North teams coming off bye weeks, the Packers ran the reeling Chicago Bears out of town in 55-14 victory that bordered on embarrassing in front of the 78,292 who paid to see it.
The Bears, who fell to 3-6, came as advertised with all the characteristics of a team that has given up on its season and its coach. The lackluster and lackadaisical card didn't play well against the Packers, who improved to 6-3 after amassing 358 total yards in the first half alone.
In one of the most dominating showings in franchise history, Rodgers needed only the first half to complete 18 passes for 315 yards and six touchdowns, which tied the record set by former Oakland Raiders quarterback Daryle Lamonica in 1969.
Receiver Randall Cobb says this is normal. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he didn't know if he's ever seen a first-half stat sheet like that.
Rodgers, who continues to build his argument for NFL MVP, doesn't see it quite that way.
"It's not easy to do this every week," Rodgers said. "We put a lot of time in. We all do. We prepare to be successful. There's a high expectation of our players based on the number of checks we do and the game plan every week to have creative input, but to also make the game plan work. It's tough to go out and execute like that, but that's what happens whenever everyone works together and believes in each other."
On the other side, the Bears and Jay Cutler truly outdid themselves. Two weeks after allowing the most points in a half (38) in franchise history to the New England Patriots, Chicago could only watch as Green Bay immediately reset the mark with 42 points in the first 30 minutes.
The six touchdowns scored on the offense's first seven offensive possessions Sunday was something few in the locker room had ever witnessed let alone been a part of.
Rodgers looked no worse for wear after tweaking his hamstring against the Saints. Those needing further proof received it with Rodgers' second touchdown pass to Andrew Quarless. Coming off a bootleg right, Rodgers accelerated to outrun unabated rusher Willie Young and keep the play alive.
The Packers' first two scores might have come with red-zone connections between Rodgers and his tight ends, Quarless and Brandon Bostick, but it was a trio of deep passes to Jordy Nelson that demoralized the Bears' secondary.
On the first, Bears cornerback Tim Jennings appeared to be playing zone, releasing Nelson at the line of scrimmage. The only problem was there wasn't a safety over the top of him with Chicago in a single-high look.
Rodgers said he checked from a zone-beater to man-beater as Quarless came in motion. The Bears tried to adjust their coverage, but weren't on the same page in allowing Nelson to sprint through the breakdown.
What started as a third-and-11 play quickly morphed into Rodgers slinging a 73-yard touchdown pass to Nelson, who completed the play by making recovering safety Brock Vereen miss badly. It was Rodgers' 16th career touchdown pass of 70 or more yards, a new NFL record.
You would've thought the Bears would have learned from the breakdown, but the Packers ran nearly the exact same play on their next possession with Nelson again getting free down the right sideline for a 40-yard score.
"(Rodgers) doesn't surprise me – he's one of the great ones," Quarless said. "That one to Jordy in the end zone, to me, the placement of the ball. That was amazing to me, an amazing throw, an amazing catch."
Just for good measure Rodgers fired another deep ball to Nelson before halftime, but this time he underthrew the pass. It still turned into a 53-yard gain after Tim Jennings drew a pass interference call in preventing Nelson to come back to the ball.
It was the only first-half drive the offense didn't score on because Randall Cobb fumbled at the Chicago 4-yard line. Of course, Chicago immediately gave the Packers the ball back with Julius Peppers' strip sack of Jay Cutler and Cobb atoned for his miscue with a diving, one-handed 18-yard touchdown grab.
The Packers continued their first-half dominance at home. After their 42-0 start Sunday night, the Packers have now outscored their last three opponents at Lambeau Field by a combined 98-3 margin.
Nelson and Cobb finished with 10 catches for 224 yards and three touchdowns.
"That was one of the top performances since I've been here offensively," said Cobb, who finished with four catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. "We put things together so well and were able to make the plays. It was really a great game."
Packers coach Mike McCarthy trotted Rodgers back onto the field for the first two series of the second half, but he fell short in his big for a franchise-record seven touchdown passes. He currently shares the record with backup quarterback Matt Flynn, who relieved Rodgers midway through the third quarter.
The things didn't get any better for the Bears, digressing to the point their punt unit didn't even bother blocking receiver Jarrett Boykin, who pressured Patrick O'Donnell into a fumble the Packers recovered deep in Chicago territory.
Unlike the first half of teams' encounter in Chicago, Cutler was no match for Rodgers. For the 11th consecutive game, he threw an interception against the Packers with one of them going back for an 82-yard touchdown complements of Casey Hayward.
Cutler is now 1-10 (including playoffs) against the Packers since being traded to the Bears in 2009 with 22 interceptions. Bears receiver Brandon Marshall said afterward his team just isn't "very good." On the field, some of the Packers could tell their opponents were downtrodden.
"You could tell that they kind of laid down a little bit," Cobb said. "We felt like with all the reports coming out of there this past week, it being a desperate team and being put in this situation, we were able to make some plays."
Left guard Josh Sitton added: "We were on point today. You typically don't see a rivalry game be that one-sided, but if we're executing on all cylinders, we feel like we're a really good team."
The Detroit Lions' third consecutive fourth-quarter comeback in their 20-16 win over Miami on Sunday afternoon prevented the Packers from gaining any ground in the NFC North race, but there was still momentum to be drawn from dominating their oldest rival.
The victory went down as the Packers' largest over their long-standing rival since 1962 when they shutout Chicago 49-0. Their 55 points scored came without a safety of tying the franchise's previous high of 57, which came against Detroit on Oct. 7, 1945.
This was exactly what the Packers and their hungry fan base needed after having two weeks to contemplate their 44-23 shellacking in New Orleans. The Bears were in a similar boat after losing to New England 51-23.
The difference between the two teams was the Packers bothered to show up Sunday night.
"That was clearly our best football that we played this year," McCarthy said. "I really liked the way the whole week went from start to finish. I thought the way the team came back off of the bye, they were ready to go."