Every excuse was there to lose this game for the Packers. Aaron’s toe. Davante’s hamstring. LaFleur’s record coming out of a bye week. Cobb on injured reserve. The karma of Rodgers’, “I own you” comment. There were many moments during Sunday night’s reasonably balmy December game that would make an honest fan of the Green and Gold wonder if the Packers could pull this victory out of their “G” emblemed helmets.
An ominous start looked like past bye week failures when the Packers came out flat. They began with two straight pass plays that ended with the Bear’s first sack and a Packer punt. The Chicago offense seemed to have an opening game plan that the Packers could not stop. The Packer’s two opening drives resulted in the Pack punting twice. Before Green Bay’s offense even seemed to be warmed up the Packers were down 10-0.
This was a good time for the Packers offense to come to life. An 11 play-75 yard drive required a conversion on 4th down at the two yard line for the Packers to get back into the game. Rasul Douglass then seemed to turn the momentum with his pick six of Justin Fields. Fields shrugged it off and after getting good field position thanks to an out of bounds kick off by Mason Crosby, found Byrd for a 46 yard simple pitch, catch and run up the middle for a touchdown. The big play seemed to catch the Packers in a poor defensive man to man scheme.
The Special Teams unit really seemed motivated to lose this game. The punt and kickoff coverage units gave up over 200 yards in the first half, including a 97 yard punt return touchdown that is now the longest in Bear football history. The Packers allowed the only punt return touchdown in the entire NFL this season. Not special. That score gave the Bears a 24-14 lead. Rodgers and company just refused to allow this special team meltdown to take away their victory. At times in the second quarter it seemed like the offense was battling their own special teams more than the Bears. After going down by ten Rodgers reeled off a four play 75 yard touchdown drive in 48 seconds. The touchdown pass, a 38 yarder to Davante Adams was a thing of beauty. Rodgers placed it just over the coverage corner and Adams sidestepped the inrushing safety to shuffle in for the score.
The Special Teams were not finished, giving up a 42 yard kickoff return that allowed the Bears to ultimately get a field goal as time expired. The Bears led by ten at half time.
The Packers seemed to take control of the game in the third, coming out moving the ball on the ground to set up the pass. A.J. Dillon took control during the 9 play drive but the Packers allowed Aaron Jones to come in for the 3 yard touchdown scamper. The Packers defense came up big again, stripping Fields of the ball setting up the Packers at the 23 yard line. It only took one play, a beautiful misdirection pass to Aaron Jones. The Pack defense then forced a punt after a holding penalty on rookie left tackle Teven Jenkins. Jenkins substitution into the game for an injured Jason Peters could have been a turning point. He made critical errors and allowed multiple sacks of Fields.
The Packers had their own offensive line injury that could have led to disaster. Losing Billy Turner to a knee injury quieted the Lambeau crowd. Dennis Kelly came in and played a steady game. He was called for one penalty but did not make critical pass protection errors. Gutekunst and company deserve more props for coming up with another depth chart acquisition that can play. A seven play drive that ended at the Bears two netted three points when Mason Crosby put it through from the twenty. The Packers, now up by 11 late in the third seemed to have taken control, then early celebrations broke out in the stands after another 13 play- 75 yard drive made the score 45-27 with 4:33 left in the game. All that stood between the Packers and victory were a couple of Special Team plays. This same special teams had dodged another major bullet when Amari Rodgers muff of a Bears punt was wiped away by a gift penalty call against the Bears gunner for running out of bounds. But this Special Team group, on this night, would not be denied. Marquez Valdez Scantling bumbled the Bears onside kick allowing the Bears to recover and run it to the end zone. Thank the NFL football gods for coming up with the rule that onside kick recoveries cannot be advanced. That wiped out score by NFL rule makers sealed the home team victory. Packers fans have to be happy with any win against the Bears. But, this Special Teams play has to improve. You cannot give up touchdowns, 260 yards in return yardage, fumble two returns and expect to win in the playoffs. Next week the team faces the Ravens in Baltimore. We will learn this week if Lamar Jackson has recovered from today’s injury. Apparently, Mr. Rodgers does own a certain Wind City team, and has fun while he does it.