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Game notes: Packers' defense shuts down Justin Fields, Chicago run game

Aaron Jones powers offense with third straight 100-yard rushing game

LB Preston Smith & DL Kenny Clark
LB Preston Smith & DL Kenny Clark

GREEN BAY – The Packers' defense knew it was in for a challenge facing Chicago's No. 2-ranked rushing offense and it answered with perhaps its best performance of the season.

Green Bay took the Bears out of their offensive rhythm with a flurry of blitzes and containment, limiting Chicago to just 75 rushing yards on 25 carries (3.0 yards per attempt) to set the tone in a 17-9 victory that propelled the Packers back to the postseason for the fourth time in five years.

Coming off a stout performance last Sunday in a 33-10 win over Minnesota, Green Bay's defense was tasked with stopping the Bears' fleet-footed Justin Fields and running back Khalil Herbert, who combined for 378 rushing yards and four touchdowns in wins over Arizona and Atlanta the last two weeks.

Defensive coordinator Joe Barry and his front applied steady pressure with inside stunts to neutralize Fields, who was sacked five times while throwing for 148 yards. Perhaps even more importantly, he rushed for just 27 yards on eight scrambles.

Herbert didn't fare much better. Coming off back-to-back 100-yard days on the ground, the third-year running back gained 28 yards on 12 carries.

"We had a really good plan," said defensive tackle Kenny Clark, who was one of the five to sack Fields. "We were physical at the point of attack. Depending on the situation, the formation, the down and distance, we had some good stunts that bottled him up and made it muddy in there for him. It ended up working out."

Chicago had just six offensive possessions in the game, putting points and production at a premium. The Bears finished 3-for-11 on third downs and 0-for-2 in the red zone, settling for three Cairo Santos field goals.

With Chicago struggling to establish the run, Green Bay's pass rushers got to work. Rookie Lukas Van Ness started the game with a first-down sack of Fields to halt the Bears' first scoring drive. At the start of the second quarter, Devonte Wyatt dropped Fields on third-and-6 to force Chicago's first punt.

Clark, who set a new career high with 7½ sacks this year, halted the Bears' first red-zone appearance with a third-down sack later in the quarter and Quay Walker sacked Fields midway through the third quarter to force another punt.

The fifth and final sack might have been the most consequential, though, as rookie Karl Brooks sacked Fields for a loss of six on second-and-16 from the Green Bay 44 with 6:58 left in regulation. Fields missed DJ Moore high on the next play and the Bears were forced to punt with 6:15 remaining.

Green Bay's offense then ran out the clock with a 12-play, 61-yard drive.

"We know any time we can take away his first read, whether we're in man or zone, he's pretty much gonna take off," said Walker, who led Green Bay with nine tackles. "And whenever we can keep him in the pocket and allow him just to play quarterback and not allow him to run, we got a real, real good chance of winning the game once we can do that."

With Jaire Alexander's return helping contain the Pro Bowl receiver Moore, Chicago managed just four plays of more than 16 yards. To help with the pressure, Barry also wasn't shy about sending Walker and fellow inside linebacker De'Vondre Campbell as fifth or sixth rushers on blitzes.

In the end, Chicago finished with just 192 total yards and 13 first downs.

"Joe B's been dialing it up," Preston Smith said. "We've come together, we play for Joe B. Just like he comes every day to coach us. He comes with the energy that no matter what's going on, we've got this together and we are all together. He's been dialing it up the last couple weeks and we've been playing really well."

Check out photos from the Week 18 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024.

Jones' hat trick: Aaron Jones continues to be at his best when the Packers' offense has needed him most.

With AJ Dillon sidelined with neck and thumb injuries on Sunday, Jones was the bell cow Green Bay needed in rushing for 111 yards on 22 carries against the Bears' top-ranked rushing defense.

While several of Jones' runs buoyed scoring drives, the Pro Bowl running back was a catalyst in the Packers' offense running out the clock in the fourth quarter with several pile-pushing runs.

"You know they're going to come try to hit me," Jones said. "So, I've got to deliver a blow too and make them think about the next time they're going to come down and try to hit me, know that you better come with something because I'm bringing it, too."

In support of the offense, Jones became the first Packers player since Ahman Green in 2006 to rush for more than 100 yards in three consecutive games.

Since returning from a knee injury, Jones has rushed for 358 yards on 63 carries (5.7 avg.) over his last three games. He's the first Packer to rush for 355-plus yards with an average of 5.6-plus yards per carry over a three-game span in a single season since Green in 2003 (Sept. 29-Oct. 12).

If that wasn't enough, Jones also eclipsed 8,000 career yards from scrimmage.

"Having him out there gives us so much energy and so much possibility for big plays," center Josh Myers said. "He's just a huge threat for the defense to have to worry about. Having him back is huge. I can't wait to get AJ back and have them both with the 1-2, man. I'm excited."

Another first for Reed: Jayden Reed didn't get the touchdown he wanted off his explosive 59-yard catch-and-run early in the fourth quarter but the Packers' rookie receiver did walk away with his first career 100-yard game.

Reed finished with four catches for 112 yards, the most by a Packers receiver this season. Still, he did 10 pushups on the sideline after getting caught on the 59-yarder that led to an Anders Carlson field goal, putting Green Bay up 17-9.

Later in the quarter, Reed caught a 15-yard pass from Jordan Love to convert on third-and-2, one of two third-down conversions used to run out the clock on the final series.

"A great feeling to be a rookie and just see this program go in the right direction," Reed said. "It just feels great to win and have another opportunity to have another week to compete."

After resetting Sterling Sharpe's team record for receptions by a rookie last week, Reed became the first Green Bay rookie to lead the team in receptions (64) and receiving yards (793) since Sharpe in 1988.

Off to Dallas: With the Cowboys winning the NFC East with a 38-10 win over Washington, the No. 7 Packers will travel to AT&T Stadium to play No. 2 Dallas in the NFC Wild Card playoffs next Sunday.

One player looking forward to the matchup is Jones, a native of El Paso who has 370 yards and six touchdowns on 62 carries (6.0 yards per carry) in three wins over the Cowboys.

"I'm going back home," said Jones with a smile. "I love playing in Texas, love going back home. … It's just special. I'm just honored to be in the playoffs and get to go to battle again and prove people wrong."

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