CHICAGO — If the Green Bay Packers parlay their performance at Soldier Field into a run toward the playoffs, a single throw by quarterback Brett Hundley may be viewed as the catalyst.
With the Packers clinging to a three-point lead late in the fourth quarter, Hundley delivered the best pass of his young career. Hundley was flushed to his right on second and 9 from the Bears 19-yard line when he zipped a pinpoint pass to wide receiver Davante Adams in the front corner of the end zone. Adams wiggled free from tight coverage by cornerback Kyle Fuller to secure the football over an outstretched arm, giving the Packers a two-score advantage.
It was the kind of moment Hundley lacked during a three-game losing streak, the kind of elite flicker coach Mike McCarthy had been hoping for since starter Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone in mid-October. And for a quarterback who sounded physically wounded after a loss to the Detroit Lions, it was a throw that surely lifted an enormous weight.
The Packers (5-4) exited Soldier Field with a 23-16 victory to climb back above .500 for the year.
Hundley completed 18 of 25 passes for 212 yards and one touchdown. His passer rating was 110.8, easily the highest mark of the season.
SILVERSTEIN: Hundley flashes potential with clutch plays
Here are five takeways from the game:
Next man up: On a cold and rainy day at Soldier Field, with a steady drizzle falling for all four quarters, the Packers might have looked to establish rookie running back Aaron Jones after his light workload against the Detroit Lions. That plan was scrapped early in the first quarter when Jones left with a knee injury and did not return. The Packers turned instead to Ty Montgomery, who had the best game of his career at Soldier Field last season. Montgomery lasted into the second quarter before he re-aggravated a rib injury and was ruled out for the game. That left the Packers with Jamaal Williams as the only healthy running back on the 46-man active roster. It was up to Williams (20 carries, 67 yards) and wide receiver Randall Cobb (four carries, 8 yards) to handle the workload for the entire second half. This included using Cobb as a “wildcat” quarterback for several snaps.
Lucky break: The Bears marched down the field midway through the second quarter on a drive that seemed destined to reach the end zone. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky executed a perfect screen pass to running back Benny Cunningham that advanced the ball to the 2-yard line and converted third and 13. But coach John Fox felt Cunningham had reached the end zone by extending the ball to reach the pylon, so the challenge flag was thrown. But the challenge backfired in one of the flukiest reviews in recent memory. The officials decided that Cunningham lost possession as he extended the ball toward the pylon, which meant the contact between ball and pylon triggered a touchback. Instead of first and goal at the 2-yard line — or a touchdown — the Bears sabotaged themselves with a touchback that gave the ball to the Packers, who led 10-3.
CHAT: Ryan Wood, 1 p.m. Monday
VIDEO: Nagler's post-game chat
Finding the edge: Consecutive thrashings by quarterbacks Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford called into question the veracity of the Packers' pass rush, a unit that ranked tied for 28th in the National Football League entering Sunday. And then, as if from nowhere, outside linebacker Nick Perry sprung to life for three sacks by himself. Defensive end Mike Daniels broke through the line for his first sack since the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks. And even cornerback Davon House, who is rarely used as a blitzer, if ever, stormed into the backfield to haul Trubisky to the turf. The Packers finished with five sacks as a team to consistently disrupt a passer for the first time since beating the Bears in their initial meeting Sept. 28.
BOX SCORE: Packers 23, Bears 16
Operator error: The professional career of long snapper Derek Hart began awkwardly at Lambeau Field on Monday night when his first regular-season snap bounced low and forced a missed field goal. Six days later, any potential issue in the operation between Hart, holder Justin Vogel and kicker Mason Crosby appeared to have been smoothed with a week of practice — until the final two minutes. Crosby connected on his first three field-goal attempts in a spitting rain at Soldier Field, including a 50-yarder early in the fourth quarter. He also made kicks from 40 yards and 24 yards. But then Vogel bobbled the snap on a kick that would have sealed a win. Crosby pushed the field goal wide right, and the Bears had life for another moment.
Friendly confines: There must be something about Soldier Field for Montgomery. A year ago, on a frigid afternoon in December, the converted wideout had 16 carries for 162 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-27 victory for the Packers. His performance that afternoon might have been the impetus for a fulltime position change during the offseason. This year, Montgomery caught two passes for 14 yards and chipped in six carries for 54 yards rushing before leaving the game with a rib injury. His 37-yard touchdown run in the second quarter gave the Packers a lead they would never relinquish.