Aaron Nagler fielded reader questions during a Facebook Live chat after the Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears 35-14 Thursday night at Lambeau Field. Aaron Nagler/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
This was a must-win game for the Packers (3-1) in their bid not only for another NFC North crown but also home-field advantage in the playoffs. Green Bay’s schedule gets considerably more difficult now with trips to Dallas (2-1) and Minnesota (2-1) next up, but the Packers have 10 days to rest and try to get some of their multitude of injured players back.
The Packers got the opening kick and marched 75 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown. On the Bears’ first offensive play, Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews beat Bears tight end Dion Sims and leveled quarterback Mike Glennon, forcing a fumble that was recovered by inside linebacker Jake Ryan on the Bears' 3. Three plays later, quarterback Aaron Rodgers hit Randall Cobb in the end zone for the TD and a 14-0 lead. With the sack, Matthews became the Packers’ career sacks leader with 75, passing Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (74.5). Then, on the Bears’ next possession, Glennon couldn’t field a low shotgun snap and Packers inside linebacker Blake Martinez recovered.
Rodgers keeps doing more with less. Both of Green Bay’s starting tackles were out. Running back Ty Montgomery went out early, and wide receiver Davante Adams was knocked out of the game by a vicious third-quarter hit. But Rodgers didn’t flinch, using a precision short passing attack much like the Packers deployed a year ago at home against Chicago (when he had a franchise-record 39 completions in 56 attempts for 326 yards and 3 TDs). Rodgers finished 18-for-26 for 179 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions and a passer rating of 128. "I thought Aaron was flawless tonight," coach Mike McCarthy said.
The Packers’ injury situation went from bad to brutal. Already without starting tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga, defensive lineman Mike Daniels and cornerback Davon House, the Packers lost Montgomery to broken ribs in the first quarter. Montgomery suffered the injury on the first play but remained in the game for most of the drive. Backup Jamaal Williams left with a knee injury in the second quarter and inside linebacker Joe Thomas departed with an ankle injury. Worst of all was a helmet-to-helmet hit on Adams by Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan in the third quarter. Adams left the field on a stretcher and was taken to a hospital with head and neck injuries but was said to be alert and have feeling and movement in his extremities.
SILVERSTEIN: Packers discover more depth on O-line
DOUGHERTY: Packers can feel good about 3-1 start
BOX SCORE: Packers 35, Bears 14
INJURIES: Montgomery breaks ribs; Adams carted off
GAME STORY: One for the history books
RANTS AND RAVES
RAVE: Montgomery burned the Bears on a frigid day last December in Chicago, rushing for 162 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns. The Packers were hopeful of getting that kind of running threat to take some heat off Rodgers. Montgomery started strong, carrying five times for 28 yards on Green Bay’s game-opening TD drive. But he was ruled out with broken ribs and replaced by Williams. When Williams was forced out by a knee injury, fellow rookie Aaron Jones stepped in and scored his first career TD on a 2-yard run. Jones ran hard, finishing with 49 yards on 13 carries and keeping the Packers’ running game afloat.
RANT: Injuries have taken an unfair toll on the Packers' offensive line, leaving them without their top five tackles (starters Bakhtiari and Bulaga and backups Jason Spriggs, Kyle Murphy and Don Barclay). That forced them to move left guard Lane Taylor to left tackle, with Lucas Patrick taking Taylor’s spot and guard/center Justin McCray replacing Bulaga at right tackle. They basically played with four guards and a center. The line did a commendable job, better than anyone could have hoped (largely because Rodgers used his nimble feet to roll out and evade the pass rush), but they need to get their starting tackles back soon.
RAVE: Jordy Nelson sure has a nose for the end zone. He broke loose on a 58-yard reception that set up the Packers’ second TD and caught a four-toss for a third-quarter score immediately after Adams was injured. Nelson made another TD catch in the fourth quarter and finished with four receptions for 75 yards and two TDs. Cobb returned after missing the Bengals game with a chest injury and wasted no time making an impact (three first-quarter catches for 18 yards and a TD).
RAVE: The Packers’ pass defense got all it could handle the previous two weeks against standout receivers Julio Jones of the Falcons and the Bengals’ A.J. Green. This time it faced a Bears’ receiving corps missing Cameron Meredith and Kevin White due to injuries. The Packers came in still searching for their first interception of the season, and they got it when safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix picked off Glennon late in the second quarter. The Packers scored a TD two plays later to go up 21-0. Kentrell Brice made his first career interception in the third quarter. The only downer: Cornerback Damarious Randall was fooled on a Glennon TD toss at the end of the first half and sulked when he was replaced by Josh Hawkins in the third quarter. McCarthy would only say, "It's an internal matter and we're working through it."
BITS AND PIECES
» With their victory Thursday, the Packers took the series lead over the Bears (95-94-6) for the first time since 1932.
» Rodgers improved his career record as a starter against the Bears to 16-4 including the postseason, with one of the losses coming in 2013 when the Packers quarterback left the game with an injury after the first series.
» Former Packers guard Josh Sitton of the Bears was caught on a live microphone directing expletives at an official after a second-quarter holding call.
» Justin Vogel boomed a career-best 62-yard punt that carried out of bounds at the Bears 15 in the first quarter.
» The game was delayed by lightning for 46 minutes at the end of the first quarter, with the teams leaving the field and fans told to go into the concourses.
» The inactives for the Packers were Bakhtiari, Bulaga, Daniels, House, cornerback Lenzy Pipkins, running back Devante Mays and defensive lineman Montravius Adams.