Thumbs up to ceremony, down to passing game
THE BIG PICTURE
The Packers were ripe for a letdown during a short week after their big win at Minnesota, and the result was a stunning second straight home loss to a sub-.500 NFC North rival. The disappointing 17-13 defeat to the Bears, coming on a soggy night when Brett Favre was honored at halftime and Packers legend Bart Starr returned to Lambeau Field, dropped Green Bay a half-game behind Minnesota, which plays Sunday at Atlanta. Next up for the Packers is a trip to Detroit for another Thursday night game, and a chance for payback against the Lions.
On a night when the Packers celebrated the return of legendary quarterbacks Favre and Starr, Aaron Rodgers couldn't work his usual magic. Packers fans held their breath when Rodgers left the field in pain holding his left wrist after being hit while recovering a bad snap from center JC Tretter in the third quarter. It ended a once-promising drive that had advanced to the Bears' 21 before being derailed by a holding penalty and the bad snap. The Bears then went on a 15-play, 83-yard drive that took 7:29 off the clock and culminated in a 21-yard Robbie Gould field goal for a 17-13 Chicago lead. Rodgers was able to shake off the injury and return to action, but couldn't rally the Packers on this night. He threw an interception to Tracy Porter with Green Bay driving and less than four minutes remaining, and then failed on four tries to get Green Bay into the end zone on first-and-goal from the Bears 8 in the final minute.
Rainy weather couldn’t dampen the glow of an emotional halftime ceremony that celebrated the retirement of Favre’s No. 4 jersey, nor did it dampen the return to Lambeau Field of Packers icon Starr. Favre took the field to the strains of Tina Turner singing “Simply the Best,” and he joined team president Mark Murphy at midfield for the unveiling of his retired No. 4 on the north end zone façade. Murphy then introduced “a special person who has worked very hard to be here tonight,” and Starr waved to the crowd as a cart brought him onto the field. Starr and Favre embraced and then waved together to the crowd. Powerful moment. And as Favre left the field, he even got a hug from Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers reconnected with favorite target and hoodie aficionado James Jones against the Vikings, and given that Jones burned the Bears for two touchdowns in the season opener at Chicago, he figured to have another busy night. Jones ditched the hoodie, but maybe he should have stuck with it: Jones was invisible again (no catches on six targets, and a drop in the end zone on the final drive) on a wet night that made throwing the ball difficult. A wide-open Davante Adams dropped a third-down pass from the Bears 47 that looked like a sure touchdown, had at least two other drops and got knocked off his on a pass that was intercepted by the Bears' TracyPorter.
RANTS AND RAVES
RAVE: Green Bay’s ground game finally kicked into gear in Minnesota, with Eddie Lacy carrying 22 times for 100 yards. On a rainy night Thursday, a strong running game was crucial against an improving Bears defense. And Lacy picked up right where he left off, carrying 17 times for 105 yards and catching four passes for 34 yards and a touchdown. Packers fans will forgive his boneheaded flipping away of the ball after barely crossing the goal line; much worse was the fumble after a 15-yard gain that was recovered by the Bears on the Packers’ 34, setting up their first touchdown.
RAVE: The Packers’ run defense limited Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson to a paltry 45 yards last Sunday, but faced another challenge in the Bears’ 1-2 punch of veteran Matt Forte and rookie Jeremy Langford. And again the unit held its own. The Bears had only 101 net yards rushing as the Bears did most of their damage through the air.
RANT: After failing to produce a sack during a three-game losing streak, the Packers’ pass defense made life miserable last Sunday for Teddy Bridgewater, sacking the Vikings quarterback six time and harassing him constantly. Against Jay Cutler and the Bears, the Packers pressured Cutler and often got hold of his jersey but failed to bring him down, as was the case on a 3-yard TD pass to Zach Miller in the second quarter. On a TD drive just before halftime, Cutler connected with Alshon Jeffery for an 11-yard gain and then hit Marquess Wilson for a 19-yard gain that set up Jeremy Langford’s one-yard score to put the Bears ahead 14-10. Cutler was sacked only once (by a blitzing Quinten Rollins) and wasn't intercepted. The secondary sorely missed rookie cornerback Damarious Randall, who exited with a knee injury in the third quarter.
RANT: Packers fans have been clamoring for Jeff Janis to receive more opportunities, and the second-year wide receiver/kickoff returner figured to be busy against the Bears with rookie Ty Montgomery (sprained ankle) still sidelined. Janis didn’t disappoint, returning a second-quarter kick 64 yards to set up a Mason Crosby field goal that put the Packers ahead 10-7. However, he remained a non-factor in the passing game, drawing no targets while Adams was dropping passes left and right. Under-utilized once again.
DID YOU NOTICE?
• The Packers fell to 1-2 in this stretch of four straight NFC North games and are 6-3 against NFC teams this season. Since the start of the 2014 season, the Packers are 14-6 (.700) against the NFC. Under coach Mike McCarthy, the Packers are 78-37-1 (.677) against NFC opponents.
• The Packers now are 13-4 overall (regular season and playoffs) in games started by Aaron Rodgers against the Bears. McCarthy is 14-7 overall against the Bears
• Randall Cobb extended his streak of regular-season games with at least one reception to 51 with a first-quarter catch for no gain.
• The Packers failed to force a turnover in a game for the first time this season.
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Stucourt