GREEN BAY – The Packers overcame a rough first quarter and a crazy second one to beat the Bears, 45-30, on Sunday night at Lambeau Field.
Here are five takeaways from the triumph:
1. When the game settled down, the Packers dominated.
Down 27-21 at halftime after an explosive 45-point second quarter – the first time in the history of complete NFL scoring data (since 1925) that five touchdowns of 35-plus yards were scored in one period, according to NFL Research – the Packers started the second half with an impressive nine-play, 75-yard TD drive.
It wasn't just that the Packers took the lead there, 28-27, and never gave it up. It was how they did it, pounding AJ Dillon five times for 36 yards, mixing in two completions to Davante Adams plus one to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and then having Aaron Jones finish it off with a 3-yard TD run – all while never even facing a third down.
"Anytime you can start to put some stuff together, have some long drives, mix up different ways to attack them … it just keeps them honest," said Adams, who finished with 10 catches for 121 yards and two TDs, the first a 38-yarder in the final minute of the first half that effectively started Green Bay's rally.
"It's tough, especially when (numbers) 2-8 and 3-3 are back there. It makes it tough, it puts them in a bind, because we've got so many players all over that they've got to worry about."
From there, Preston Smith's strip-sack set up a one-play TD drive on a 23-yard scoring toss to Jones, and the Packers were in command, eventually scoring 24 unanswered points. The lead reached 18 when at one juncture late in the first half the Packers were down by 10.
"That was definitely one of the turning points of the game," said quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the early third-quarter surge.
Rodgers went on to post a 141.1 passer rating (29-of-37, 341 yards, four TDs), his fourth straight against Chicago of 125-plus while passing Brett Favre for both wins (23) and TD passes (61) vs. the Bears.
2. The defense didn't allow much beyond two big plays for TDs in the first half.
Getting beat on a jet sweep/push pass to Jakeem Grant and a slant pass to Damiere Byrd for two long scores was frustrating for Green Bay to be sure.
But the Packers' defense stemmed the tide by making two big plays of its own – a pick-six for a second straight game by Rasul Douglas, a 55-yarder this time; and Smith's turnover on the Bears' second snap of the second half.
The defense also responded by not allowing the Bears a first down in the second half until just over four minutes remained in the game. The Bears posted just 17 total yards of offense over a stretch of four possessions.
"We came out and made sure that we didn't allow them to make those big plays again, and we eliminated our mistakes," said Smith, who added a second sack late in the game. "We showed who we were as a team and as a defense."
3. Special teams were a sore spot all night and remain a major concern.
The list of miscues on special teams in the first half alone is exhausting.
The Bears started three straight drives after kickoffs at the 40-yard line or better due to two long returns and a kickoff out of bounds. Grant returned a punt 34 yards early in the game and then another 97 yards for a TD in that wild second quarter.
The Packers also started one drive on their own 5-yard line when Malik Taylor inexplicably tried to catch a kickoff that was headed out of bounds.
Special teams were forcing the Packers to play uphill in this game for a long time, and being able to overcome the blunders was little consolation due to the sheer volume of them.
"Certainly, the special teams was not good enough," said Head Coach Matt LaFleur, who said coaching changes were not a consideration.
"It's not up to our standard. It's never an excuse. We lost some key special teams guys tonight, and that's just the reality, and we've got to find guys to step into those roles, and we've got to execute better. Bottom line. We've got to coach better, and we've got to execute better."
Green Bay also caught a huge break when Amari Rodgers' muffed punt was nullified by a Chicago penalty. The turnover would have given the Bears the ball in scoring territory early in the fourth quarter, down 38-27, but instead the Packers used the reprieve to kill 8:38 off the clock and go 71 yards in 13 plays for the game-sealing TD.
That score proved all the more valuable when the Bears managed to recover an onside kick after a late field goal, handing the Packers one final special-teams letdown.
Lambeau Field hosted a Sunday night matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears on Dec. 12, 2021.
4. Yet another injury struck on the offensive line.
"Yeah, we've gotten decimated, no doubt about it," said LaFleur, who had no update on the severity of Turner's injury. "But nobody's feeling sorry for us, I can promise you that.
"The mindset that we have is it doesn't matter, you find a way to get it done."
That's becoming the weekly norm and the offense, other than a shaky first quarter that saw two coverage sacks and a botched handoff exchange, continues to roll along. By all accounts, Kelly filled in fine, but it's a wonder how much more one position group – and the team as a whole, frankly – can take.
"I really haven't seen anything quite like it," Adams said. "It's tough, but we're figuring out a way to win, regardless."
5. Packer Nation will be scoreboard watching Monday night.
The Packers didn't get any help in the NFC playoff race from any other results in Week 14, but they'll see if that changes Monday night.
Improving to 10-3 with the win, Green Bay is now just a half game behind Arizona (10-2) for the top position in the NFC, and the Cardinals host the Rams on MNF. An Arizona loss would put the Packers in the No. 1 spot by virtue of the head-to-head result back in Week 8.
Also, the Packers are just one more win (or one more loss by the Vikings) from clinching a third straight NFC North title. Minnesota doesn't play next week until Monday night, so Green Bay will be on its own to try to wrap up the division crown next Sunday at Baltimore.