GREEN BAY – As Darnell Mooney broke off his route and accelerated downfield, a lightbulb went off in the back of Darnell Savage's head.
Week 1. Minnesota.
Late in the Packers' opener against the Vikings, Pro Bowl receiver Adam Thielen shook Savage with an inside move before turning back on a deep corner route for a 39-yard touchdown.
Eleven weeks later, in almost the exact same first-and-10 scenario, Mitchell Trubisky and the Chicago Bears were trying to replicate what the Vikings did on a deep shot for Mooney.
Only this time, as Mooney sprinted to the end zone, Savage stayed over top of him and looked in his first interception of the season to pull down the first of three turnovers Green Bay's defense would generate during a 41-25 win over the Bears at Lambeau Field.
"People always say it's a copycat league," Savage said. "Stuff that worked, teams are going to find a way to get back to it. I had a feeling they was going to take a shot, and when I turned and I saw the ball in the air, I just tried to run as fast as I could and get under it."
And that wasn't all for Savage. In the third quarter, he picked off Trubisky for a second time. This time, it came on a third-and-11 ball intended for Anthony Miller in the middle of the field.
The Packers' offense would score touchdowns off both Savage takeaways. Meanwhile, on the defensive series after Savage's first INT, Za'Darius and Preston Smith combined on a perhaps the Packers' biggest defensive play of the season.
After Za'Darius Smith stripped Trubisky of the ball on third-and-17 – recording his team-best ninth sack of the season in the process – Preston Smith recovered the ball and ran it 14 yards to the end zone, giving the Packers a commanding 27-3 lead.
All told, the Packers now have forced eight takeaways over the last four games.
"Obviously our defense coming up with some big plays," said quarterback Aaron Rodgers about the team's key to victory on Sunday. "Preston, I thought had a really good game; obviously around the ball, important plays. Z strip-sack, Savage with a couple of picks was excellent. We had our hands on a number of footballs."
There still were areas for the defense to clean up against the Bears, beginning with running back David Montgomery busting a 57-yard run on Chicago's second offensive play of the game. The defense, to its credit, held its ground in the red zone – forcing Chicago to settle for a 27-yard Cairo Santos field goal.
From there, the Bears struggled to muster much offense until the fourth quarter, when Chicago orchestrated two touchdown-producing drives (13 plays for 65 yards and 15 plays for 82 yards) to get within two scores of Green Bay's lead.
"You definitely care about it," said Savage of the late production. "That's more so a pride thing. You're always happy that you got the win but, at the same time, you're always looking to improve and see what didn't necessarily go as planned. That's definitely something we want to continue to focus on and continue to get better is finishing games the right way."
Lambeau Field hosted a matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020.
The Packers had to finish the game without Savage, who injured his back after landing awkwardly on his second interception. He told reporters after the game "as soon as we get done here, I'm going to go get some treatment, see what (the trainers) have to say and take it day by day."
Still, the defense got the pick-me-up it was looking for after an up-and-down performance last Sunday in Indianapolis. Along with the takeaways, rookie linebacker Kamal Martin and Preston Smith recorded back-to-back sacks to start the second half.
Trubisky finishing 26-of-46 passing for 242 yards, two touchdowns and two INTs (74.7 passer rating). As the Packers make the turn into December, Savage knows it's going to take even more big plays for the defense to get where it wants to go.
"Takeaways are always big because it plays such a vital part in who wins and loses games if you really look at it and track the statistics of it," Savage said. "That's definitely something that every defense has to preach as far as taking the ball away because momentum shifts."