GREEN BAY - It was rarely pretty, not that it should be when these two teams meet in December, but the Green Bay Packers will certainly take the result.
The Packers did just enough on both sides of the ball Sunday to beat the Chicago Bears for a second time this season, 21-13. It was more offense than these rivals produced in their NFL opener in September (a 10-3 Packers win), but hardly a shootout, with both defenses dictating play.
The Packers offered multiple opportunities for the Bears to get back in the game before clinching victory on the final play when Mitch Trubisky’s completion to running back Tarik Cohen — and some resulting laterals — ended just shy of the end zone.
Here are five observations from a frozen day at Lambeau Field.
Whatever happened to the Packers' offense inside the halftime locker room, they need to figure out what clicked. Because for two possessions, a pair of touchdown drives exceeding 65 yards, the Packers' offense looked as good as it has since early in its Week 2 win against the Minnesota Vikings. Those two drives gave the Packers a commanding 21-3 cushion, but the Bears cut it to 21-13 and were threatening again when defensive lineman Dean Lowry jumped high to make a remarkable interception of Trubisky. The Packers' offense just can’t sustain much of anything this season. After running roughshod on the Bears' defense, the Packers punted four straight times to give Chicago life. Aaron Rodgers (16-for-33, 203 yards and a TD) spoke about consistency being a key to turning things around on offense this week, and this is why. Good teams sustain good play. The Packers haven’t done that much this season.
"We knew it was going to be a physical game and the Bears are a talented football team, but I'm just really happy with how resilient our guys are," Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. "It wasn't always pretty but there were moments where we played some really good football in all three phases."
"I love being 11-3," Rodgers said. "The performance was a little up and down but I thought we did some really good things. We just have to be a little more opportunistic when we have opportunities."
Aaron Jones’ touchdown tear continued Sunday. The Packers running back rushed for only 51 yards on 13 carries, but he scored two touchdowns, both in the third quarter. He’s now fourth on the Packers’ all-time single-season list with 14 rushing touchdowns (leader Jim Taylor had 19 in 1962. Jones took the NFL lead with 14 rushing touchdowns, and his 17 total touchdowns are only one behind Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey.
It remains a mystery why Ryan Grant, who was signed during this season to be an emergency option and apparently nothing more than that, can’t get a chance in this offense. That mystery only deepened Sunday. Behind Davante Adams, who had seven catches for 103 yards, the Packers have nobody in their receiving core capable of consistent production. What’s worse, two drops early in the first quarter set a tone offensively. The first, and most egregious, came on the game’s first play. Marquez Valdes-Scantling was open deep down the middle of the field, and Rodgers hit him in stride for what should have been a 70-yard touchdown, only the football passed through his hands. That same opening drive ended with Geronimo Allison dropping a third-down pass. This is an offense leaving a lot of plays on the field every week, and that’s going to be problematic in January. If only they had a veteran receiver who’s produced in the NFL. Someone, perhaps, like Ryan Grant.
LaFleur the gambler
Early in his tenure, Matt LaFleur has shown he’s not hesitant when his chance arrives to take his shot. That chance came on the Packers’ second possession Sunday. The Packers took over at the Bears’ 35-yard line, but they were stymied. Facing a fourth-and-4 from the 29, LaFleur could have kicked a manageable field goal. Instead, he took his shot — and it paid off big. Rodgers’ 29-yard strike to Davante Adams gave the Packers early control, and they leveraged that for all it was worth Sunday. LaFleur certainly trusted his defense to hold if his offense failed to convert, but the difference between a touchdown and field goal in that situation was very significant. It was an example of a young coach showing a good feel for the game.
The Packers held serve in their pursuit of a No. 2 seed and first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. If they win their final two games, they will keep that seed. They’re also one win away from clinching the NFC North title.