GREEN BAY – In a span of two plays early in the second quarter, everything fell into alignment for the Packers' defense.
After Green Bay conceded a touchdown to Chicago on its opening possession, linebacker Preston Smith broke up the Bears' early momentum when he rounded Bears left tackle Braxton Jones to sack quarterback Justin Fields for a 5-yard loss on first down of Chicago's next series.
On the following play, a hard-charging Rasul Douglas dropped Darnell Mooney for a 4-yard loss on a quick receiver screen. Those two plays, and the nine yards they lost, marked the beginning of a pivotal stretch for Green Bay's defense.
From that point on, the Packers forced the Bears into four consecutive three-and-outs in what turned out to be a crucial stretch in Green Bay's eventual 27-10 victory.
It was the type of performance the Packers wanted after an up-and-down day during last Sunday's 23-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings and a slow start in the first quarter against Chicago.
"We responded well," said Smith, who came within one tackle of tying his career high of eight. "We always respond (to) adversity, and we know that we've just got to play sound football and not allow those mistakes to happen again."
The Bears came in riding high following last week's 19-10 upset win over San Francisco and it showed during a seven-play, 71-yard drive to start the game. The series was keyed by Fields connecting with former Packers receiver Equanimeous St. Brown on a 30-yard pass off a flea-flicker.
The second quarter was a different story. After Smith's sack wrecked the Bears' first series, a false start on first down doomed their second.
After falling behind 17-7, Chicago tight end Cole Kmet dropped a pass from Fields before Packers linebacker Rashan Gary tackled running back David Montgomery for a 5-yard loss.
The Bears went into halftime down 24-7 after recording just 13 total yards following their first drive. Gary tacked on another sack of Fields to start the second half, which led to yet another three-and-out.
"They wreaked havoc all game, really whether we were running pressures in the run game (or not)," said defensive lineman Kenny Clark of Smith and Gary. "They had plenty of TFLs. Knocking guys back and making the running back bubble, credit to those guys. Those guys really balled out today."
Chicago found some success running behind Montgomery in the second half, as the veteran running back finished with 122 rushing yards on 15 carries.
The Bears had a chance to cut into their 17-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter, but the Packers' defensive front combined to stop Fields short of the end zone on fourth-and-goal from inside Green Bay's 1.
"We had never seen that play on tape," linebacker De'Vondre Campbell said. "It was something different, and I think we did a good job of defending it."
Fields finished with just 70 passing yards, while the Bears ended the night with just 48 net passing yards due to the three combined sacks of Gary and Smith for a total loss of 22.
Chicago went just 1-of-7 on third downs, the fewest conversions Green Bay has allowed since giving up one against Dallas on Dec. 13, 2015. The seven completions the Packers allowed were the fewest since conceding six against Chicago on Dec. 4, 2005.
"This is closer to who we are," Smith said. "We're a relentless defense, make big plays, we don't allow big plays made on us. There were some mistakes made tonight, some big plays made – a credit to the offense of Chicago. But we know if we go out there and we play sound football, it can be a great year for us on defense."
Getting one back: Alexander put the exclamation point on the Packers' win when he picked off a Fields pass intended for St. Brown with 2:18 left in regulation.
It was a small moment of vindication for Alexander after biting earlier on the flea-flicker to St. Brown in the first quarter.
"I was like, 'I've been waiting all game for this,'" said Alexander, laughing. "They had gotten me on the flea-flicker. I was like, 'I need something else.' I was getting ready to let that route go and then something told me to just stay with it."
Big E returns: Elgton Jenkins returned to the starting lineup against Chicago, his first in-game action since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last November in Minnesota.
The versatile offensive lineman started at right tackle against the Bears. While Jenkins admitted to being a little "rusty," both Head Coach Matt LaFleur and quarterback Aaron Rodgers praised the former Pro Bowler for his comeback afterward.
Jenkins was part of a productive offensive line that helped pave the way to the Packers' backfield combining for 203 rushing yards.
"It felt good being out there with my teammates," Jenkins said. "I wasn't able to participate in camp for a while. So, it felt good to be able to come out there and compete with my teammates."
Left guard Jon Runyan also started on Sunday after clearing the concussion protocol.
The veteran receiver finished with a game-high 93 receiving yards on three catches, including a 55-yard catch off play-action in the fourth quarter to help put the Bears away.
It was Watkins' longest completion since his 68-yard touchdown grab against Jacksonville on Sept. 8, 2019.
"I (had) a good release, got over top and really it was freakin' wide open," Watkins said. "I thank the coach for dialing that up and that I think was one of my top plays from the last two or three years to go deep on that pass, so it felt really good."
See scenes from the Sunday night matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on Sept. 18, 2022.
Another blast from the past: The Packers threw a bunch of different looks at Chicago's defense, including lining up receiver Randall Cobb in the backfield on a key third down in the second quarter.
The 11th-year receiver ran a wheel route out of the formation and caught a 9-yard pass to convert on third-and-8. Two plays later, Aaron Jones scored on an 8-yard push pass from Rodgers.
"That was actually the play that I scored on whenever I got hurt against the Rams last year," Cobb said. "So yeah, it was nice to get back there and be able to provide a different look for us and make a play."