Packers continue to win with 'next man up'

Green Bay endures despite injuries on both sides of the ball

Packers linebacker Jonathan Garvin

The injury bug that has bitten the Packers through the first month of the 2021 season followed the team down to Chicago on Sunday afternoon.

But as it's done all season, however, Green Bay's locker room again came together to lift the Packers to their fifth consecutive victory with a 24-14 win over the Bears at Soldier Field.

Preston Smith was out with an oblique injury or former undrafted free agent Henry Black finishing the game at safety after Darnell Savage suffered a concussion.

The Packers have needed to go deep into their bullpen at several turns this year, with David Bakhtiari on the physically unable to perform list and Za'Darius Smith, Jaire Alexander, Marquez Valdes-Scantling all on injured reserve.

"We talked about that after the game. A lot of guys stepped up," defensive captain Kenny Clark said. "Guys have been coming in and just making an impact on our team. It says a lot about our depth. It says a lot about how the guys prepare. Everybody prepares as a starter. It's a next-man-up mentality."

In addition to an extensive injury list, the Packers entered Sunday knowing they'd be without starting cornerback Kevin King because of a shoulder injury.

In King's place, Green Bay used a perimeter platoon of Isaac Yiadom and Rasul Douglas, both of whom were acquired in the last two months, across from rookie first-round pick Eric Stokes.

Still, there was perhaps no better example of the early-season adversity Green Bay has needed to overcome on the injury front than the opening minute of the second half.

Shortly after announcing Myers was out with a knee injury and linebacker Preston Smith was questionable to return, the Packers lost Savage after a nasty collision with Bears running back Khalil Herbert.

Yet, the Packers responded on both sides of the ball. Without Smith, 2020 seventh-round pick Garvin made his presence felt with a second-quarter sack of Chicago quarterback Justin Fields to force a three-and-out.

In the third quarter, Garvin also stopped Fields short of the first down on a third-and-6 scramble to force a punt. The Packers' offense scored both after the sack (Mason Crosby field goal) and the stop (12-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Jones).

"He's coming along great," said Rashan Gary of Garvin. "I'm loving how he's taken a role and studying his film, knowing what's coming, communicating on the field, flying around. He keeps doing it and he's going to be a great player for us."

With Black patrolling centerfield for the injured Savage, the Packers also received a somewhat unexpected jolt in the secondary from the recently acquired Douglas, who was signed less than two weeks ago off Arizona's practice squad.

Douglas finished with five tackles and was part of a Packers passing defense that limited Fields to just 16-of-27 passing for 174 yards, one touchdown and one interception (75.2 passer rating).

"They did a great job," said running back Aaron Jones of how the defense responded to injuries. "Holding a team to 14 points in the NFL, that's hard to do, especially away. They have the next-man-up mentality and they're flying around. They have leaders over there. I'm proud of the defense."

Offensively, the Packers received a boost this week with the return of Pro Bowl offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins, who missed three games with an ankle injury.

Soldier Field hosted a Week 6 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021.

By the end of their opening possession, however, the Packers lost Myers to a knee injury. The veteran Patrick, who started at center in place of Myers last week in Cincinnati, stepped in and finished the game for Green Bay.

Along with helping relay calls at the line of scrimmage, Patrick helped spring AJ Dillon with a block of Alec Ogletree during the second-year running back's 36-yard carry in the second quarter.

"We have guys on our offensive line, period, that can come in and it won't be a drop-off," said Jenkins of Patrick. "He came in, handled himself like a pro, did what he had to do. It was really big for us in getting this win."

The Packers still have nearly two months to go before their Week 13 bye but are hopeful to have Bakhtiari, Valdes-Scantling and possibly Alexander back in the not-so-distant future.

But if the first six games have proven anything, it's that the Packers have both the depth and resiliency to weather whatever a long and arduous NFL season throws at them.

"I think it shows we're going to be OK. We can win games in multiple ways," Jones said. "We have the leaders that we need. We have everybody in the locker room that we need to get the job done. Just continue to put in that work and stack success."

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