The lead in for this story was going to be “Tale of Two Halves” until I saw a teaser with that exact wording on NBCSports Chicago’s post game show.
So the new lead really needs to be “Aaron Rodgers ownership stake in the Bears increases.”
The seventeen year NFL veteran showed why his dominance of his NFC North foe continued, with a 341-yard, four-touchdown performance in front of a nationally televised audience.
Right off of the second half kickoff, the Packers erased a 27-21 Chicago halftime lead with a nine-play 75-yard scoring drive. The Bears then handed their rivals an early holiday gift with a sack fumble in their own territory, which Rodgers capitalized on at the Chicago 23-yard line. Aaron Jones was the recipient of a touchdown pass on the ensuing play.
Chicago may have had a swagger at halftime, but Green Bay rebounded in the second half outscoring the Bears 24-3. They were finally able to free up Davante Adams just before halftime, and he scored the Packers’ final touchdown on first and goal with just over four minutes left. Adams ended up with 10 receptions for 121 yards.
Rodgers commented on how Randall Cobb’s absence helped Allen Lazard. “Once we weren’t able to get (Davante Adams) going early in the game, Allen was going to start in the slot for us. Definitely, there were some opportunities for him, and he made the most of them, beginning with the first catch in the game on a third and long. It’s fun to see him come out tonight and have a really solid game, make some really important plays for us in important game situations.”
The majority of stats don’t mean much, but this rivalry does mean a lot to me.-Aaron Rodgers
He also commented on the fact that he has thrown more touchdown passes against the Bears than any Green Bay quarterback. “I’ve lived here for seventeen years and started for fourteen. I know how much this rivalry means to our fans. To be a part of it has been special. To follow Brett and know how successful he was over his time, and how many big games he played in against them. It’s a sweet rivalry, and one that is very special to me.
Justin Fields ended up starting this game when Andy Dalton became unavailable. He finished 18 of 33 for 224 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, one of which was a pick six that Rasul Douglas returned 55 yards for the score. To his credit, three plays later, Fields hit Damiere Byrd on a perfectly executed pass over the middle, who then outran the coverage 54 yards to the end zone. “We knew coming in from the first half, but we had to finish the second half strong. I felt like I played alright. You know, there’s always room to improve, so I got to keep getting better.” He told the media after the game that he felt “about ninety percent” and was just trying to protect himself out there. He showed more flashes of his upside, which included 74 yards rushing (or scampering) which led all ground gainers.
Matt Nagy commented, “I thought that Justin in the second half, he was really, really good with his decision making, or whether it was push up or push out in the pocket. He didn’t take a lot of hits. He scrambled. he got down, and he kept his eyes downfield. I was really impressed when I went back and watched the tape, with just how creative in making things happen when it wasn’t there.”
Nagy was also asked about Fields’ continued development at QB. “That part of his game, when he stays within the progressions, and the the second part using his legs, and then being smart – not taking any extra hits, knowing when to get up and out. That’s going to be a big time growth for him. When defensive coordinators know that, it’s scary. He can make some special throws. It’s going to be a big weapon for him.”
The real question is why this team has deteriorated so much from 2018 (12-4) to 2019 and 2020 (8-8) to this season’s 4-9, so far. I posed it to football writer Hub Arkush prior to Monday’s press event. He commented that it mostly translates to personnel changes, and I wondered how the loss of Vic Fangio, former defensive coordinator, and current head coach in Denver factored in. “Fangio is one of the best defensive minds in the game,” he replied. I asked him if the Broncos have better personnel that Chicago. “Yes,” he quipped. Arkush also noted that injuries to Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack have played a role as well.
Hicks was also sidelined in 2019, and Eddie Goldman sat out 2020, which had to affect the defensive capabilities of the Bears. That doesn’t account for the weakness on offense. That really falls on GM Ryan Pace. His second round pick Tevin Jenkins didn’t do much to help Pace’s case, as he was flagged several times and had difficulty containing the Green Bay pass rush.
Next up, the Bears have another nationally televised game, next Monday at home against the Vikings, who’d like to use their two remaining games against Chicago to bolster their playoff chances.