Packers offense finds its footing, beats Bears
- Updated: October 20, 2016
GREEN BAY — In the end, life without running back Eddie Lacy for the Green Bay Packers worked out just fine Thursday night at Lambeau Field.
Compensating for the loss of Lacy, possibly for the season with an ankle injury, and James Starks, his heavy-duty cohort, for at least several more weeks following knee surgery, the Packers dinked and dunked their way past the hapless Chicago Bears 26-10 in the 193rd renewal of the NFL’s oldest rivalry.
The orchestrator of coach Mike McCarthy’s spread ’em out, short passing game was Aaron Rodgers, who broke Brett Favre’s club record of 36 completions with 39 in 56 attempts for 326 yards and three touchdowns (102.2 passer rating).
Green Bay improved to 4-2 with its third victory in four consecutive home games. The Packers trail the Minnesota Vikings by 1½ games in the NFC North and are tied for the fourth-best record in the conference.
"Both teams were stressed from a medical standpoint," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "We did what we needed to do tonight. A lot of production on offense. Our offensive line played big."
The Bears slipped to 1-6, their worst start since 2000. They gave it a go for slightly more than a half without seven starters due to injury before their secondary, and all of coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense, collapsed.
Twice in the last three seasons the Packers had been stunned as a touchdown favorite by the Bears at Lambeau Field. This time, the Bears, a 7½-point underdog, got the break every out-manned team needs — in this case, a fumble recovered for a touchdown early in the third quarter — before the Packers throttled them on both offense and defense.
The Packers out-gained the Bears 406-189 in narrowing Chicago’s margin in the venerable series to one game, 94-93-6. McCarthy is 15-7 against the Bears, including 11-2 in his last 13 meetings.
Davante Adams, who left the victory over the New York Giants on Sunday with a possible concussion, had his greatest game in his three-year career.
His 13 receptions tied for second on the Packers’ all-time list behind legendary Don Hutson, who snagged 14 against the Giants in November 1942. Hutson’s catches totaled 134 yards, two more than Adams’ career-best total of 132.
"Davante was cleared today," McCarthy said. "The last test was this morning. I was notified at one o’clock he was available.
"Aaron set the team record for completions. You talk about records all time for the Green Bay Packers, that’s unique and special.
"It’s a one-game victory. Very satisfying victory. You play the way you have to play."
Meanwhile, Randall Cobb hauled in 11 receptions for 95 yards and Ty Montgomery caught 10 for 66. The team’s longest reception was merely 25 yards.
"We played the game in sub-groups," McCarthy said. "We focused on execution, doing the things we needed to do."
Don Jackson started at running back but departed with a hand injury after two carries for 6 yards. X-rays at the stadium were negative, but when the rookie from Nevada was outfitted with a club he couldn’t grip the ball.
After that, Montgomery and Cobb handled most of the backfield chores, and ex-Chief Knile Davis took some snaps at the end.
"Eddie Lacy is a featured player in our offense," McCarthy said. "Without him and James Starks, you shift gears."
The first half was a portrait in frustration for the Packers, who ran 12 plays inside the Bears 25 but had to settle for two field goals by Mason Crosby.
On their first possession, the Packers used two runs (for 2 yards) and 10 passes (for 51) on a drive that was culminated by Crosby’s 32-yard boot. Minus Lacy, who was placed on injured reserve at midday, the Packers disdained any pretense of a ground game and went all spread from the shotgun formation.
It made sense because the Bears started cornerback De’Vante Bausby, a free agent from Pittsburg (Kan.) State who joined the Bears’ practice squad in December. He was starting at a position manned without distinction by Jacoby Glenn in recent games.
Later, Glenn played extensively for a secondary coached by former Packers defensive coordinator Ed Donatell that blew assignments and seemed to be in almost total disarray.
When coordinator Vic Fangio sent an all-out blitz on fourth-and-4, Rodgers found Jordy Nelson for 9 yards at the 20.
From there, Nelson caught a pass out of bounds, Montgomery came out of the backfield for a 6-yard reception, and nickel back Cre’Von LeBlanc, a rookie free agent cut by New England late in training camp, ripped a pass away from Cobb in the end zone.
On their second series, the Packers covered 90 yards in 12 plays after starting from the 9. The big gain was a 44-yard penalty for pass interference against free safety Adrian Amos on a home-run ball to Nelson.
From the 10, Montgomery burst inside for 7 yards to the 3. A bootleg pass by Rodgers fell incomplete under pressure, and then a powerful tackle by strong safety Harold Jones-Quartey limited Jeff Janis to a 2-yard reception on an outside-breaking route from the right slot.
Following a timeout by Green Bay, McCarthy tried to run Montgomery inside from a spread formation. He had a full head of steam entering the line, but the 190-pound LeBlanc got low and upended him one-half yard short.
Later, the Packers picked up two first downs before a third-and-3 pass fell incomplete when Janis cut short an inside route from the left slot.
The Packers moved 53 yards in 10 plays to close the half on Crosby’s 40-yard field goal.
They had a first down at the 22 with 38 seconds and two timeouts left. Rodgers threw low to Adams on first down, then overthrew Adams in the end zone after a double move against Bausby.
On third down, Cobb failed to get both of his feet down in the back of the end zone so the 22-yard hookup was ruled an incompletion.
The Packers out-gained the Bears 160-111 in the first half to go with a 4½-minute edge in time of possession.
With Brian Hoyer substituting for Jay Cutler, the Bears went nowhere on their first two possessions before moving from the 1 to the 50 in the second quarter.
On the Bears’ third possession, Hoyer threw incomplete on third-and-6, which turned out to be his final play of the game. He suffered an injury to his left arm after being hit high by Julius Peppers and low by Clay Matthews.
That left the Bears with Matt Barkley, a former fourth-round draft choice of the Philadelphia Eagles who was claimed off waivers from the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 4 and spent the first two games on the practice squad. In four career games his passer rating was 43.8.
Rookie Jordan Howard failed to gain on three straight first-down carries in the first quarter. In the second quarter, three first-down runs gained 0, 1 and minus-1.
With Barkley in the game, hard-running Ka’Deem Carey ripped off a 24-yard gain off right tackle. Barkley rolled right and hit Alshon Jeffery for 11, sending the Bears into Packers’ territory for the first time.
After Howard plunged for a first down at the 27, three plays were worth just 6 yards before Connor Barth came on to kick a 39-yard field goal.
The Bears took a 10-6 lead on the third play of the third quarter when outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, the rookie first-round draft choice, recovered Rodgers’ fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.
On third-and-10, the Bears ran a stunt against the right side of the Green Bay line. Defensive end Willie Young barged inside against guard Don Barclay, who was subbing for T.J. Lang (hip). Rodgers eluded Young but not Floyd, who came off Bryan Bulaga for the strip-sack.
The Packers then mounted their longest drive of the season, a 13-play, 85-yard push that gave them the lead, 13-10.
Montgomery slashed up the middle for 30 on the first play, the Packers’ longest rush of 2016. Rodgers converted three straight third downs, with 2, 5 and 6 yards to go. The completions were 6 yards to Montgomery, 18 to Cobb and 7 to Montgomery.
After Rodgers threw incomplete on two plays, he zipped a back-shoulder ball to Adams in the right corner. When Bausby failed to turn back for the ball, Adams made a great catch working through the cornerback for a 5-yard touchdown.
Adams continued to abuse Bausby, who made his NFL debut last week with three snaps from scrimmage against Jacksonville. The Packers charged 88 yards in eight play capped by Adams’ 4-yard TD catch. On the left side, Tracy Porter and Jones-Quartey doubled Cobb outside leaving Adams by himself inside.
Green Bay went 74 in 13 in the fourth quarter, chewing up 8 minutes, 33 seconds to go up 26-10. Bausby was penalized twice for coverage infractions against Adams.
On third and goal, Cobb beat LeBlanc for the TD on a 2-yard fade. Crosby, however, was wide right on the extra point, just the fifth miss of his 10-year career and first since the spot was moved back to the 15 last season.
The Packers improved their turnover differential in the final 5 minutes on interceptions by linebackers Blake Martinez and Nick Perry.
Bob McGinn writes for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, part of the USA TODAY Network.