A strange night in Green Bay, interrupted by a 47-minute lightning delay, ended in a familiar fashion. The Packers‘ 35-14 victory over the visiting Chicago Bears was notable for its total lack of suspense, the home team holding a two-touchdown lead before the Bears even ran a second offensive play.
The comfortable margin of victory comes at a great time for a Packers team beset by injuries and erratic play through September. Coach Mike McCarthy’s crew hasn’t played particularly well yet and they have been particularly unlucky, yet the team hits the quarter mark of the season at 3-1. That’s how successful organizations manage the schedule and the Packers should be happy to avoid digging another early season hole to the season. Here’s what we learned:
1. This felt like a Pyrrhic victory in some ways for the Packers because of all the injuries. The scariest one happened when wide receiver Davante Adams was taken off the field in a stretcher after taking a vicious hit to the helmet from Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan. (Adams was taken to a hospital for evaluation with a head and neck injury. He was conscious and had feeling in all his extremities.)
It wasn’t the only Packers injury. As NFL Network’s Rich Eisen sagely put it, the annual ritual of the Packers being forced to play a running back you’ve never heard of has arrived. Starter Ty Montgomery, who has played a higher percentage of snaps than any running back in football, broke his ribs early on the team’s first drive, stayed in for several carries, and left after five rushes for 26 yards. Montgomery’s backup Jamaal Williams subsequently hurt his knee, leaving rookie runner Aaron Jones and fullback Aaron Ripkowski to take over. Packers inside linebacker Joe Thomas, who made a crucial pass breakup early in the game, left with a knee injury.
2. Trevathan is at risk of facing a hefty fine or even possibly a suspension for the hit. The league’s ownership made a point of emphasis this offseason that a player can be ejected immediately for a particularly egregious hit to the helmet and a suspension is possible even for a first-time offender. Trevathan was not ejected, but could be at risk of missing time.
3. Playing without both his starting tackles, Aaron Rodgers did a great job managing this game. He threw for four touchdowns and 179 yards on only 26 attempts because he wasn’t required to do more. Rodgers got the ball out of his hands quickly on the team’s opening drive and didn’t force the issue for much of the night. His 58-yard completion to Jordy Nelson late in the first half, in which Rodgers avoided pressure to step up in the pocket and flip the ball deep downfield, is a play that perhaps no other quarterback could make.
“I’m so proud of my guys up front,” Rodgers told CBS after the game. “Those guys battled all night, I’m really proud of them. That’s a great group of guys … they had a great approach tonight. We kind of have a mantra going on right now, ‘no excuses.’ Those guys stepped up and played really well tonight and I’m proud of them.”
4. This Packers defense is completely different when outside linebacker Clay Matthews is playing well. Matthews was off to his best start in years leading into Thursday night, then set the tone in this game with a sack-fumble on Chicago’s first offensive play. Matthews became the franchise’s all-time sack leader with the play. After a few down years, it would be a huge boon to Green Bay if they can get Matthews and fellow edge rusher Nick Perry cooking at the same time.
5. Bears starting quarterback Mike Glennon had a night to forget. He lost a fumble on his first dropback and watched a bad snap bounce off his knee right back to the Packers later in the first quarter. Glennon mixed in some nice throws while completing 21-of-33 passes for 218 yards and a score, but he threw two ugly interceptions. Glennon has five interceptions and five fumbles in four games. Coach John Fox is not a fan of playing rookies early, but No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky could give this team a spark. At 1-3, Fox could be staring at his final season as Bears head coach unless he does the most un-Fox thing possible and plays a rookie quarterback.
“We need to make a lot of changes. We will evaluate everything. We got a lot of work to do here,” Fox said after the game.
6. The Packers defense did a great job limiting Bears running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen to a combined 77 yards on 24 carries. As CBS analyst Tony Romo pointed out, the Bears‘ running game is limited by Glennon’s lack of mobility and inability to run bootlegs and pass plays with a moving pocket. A change is gonna come at quarterback in Chicago. The only question is when.