Ever since the writer of this blog got this inspired idea, The Presteblog has brought its readers the perspective of big Packer wins from the perspective of the losing side.
I believe the tradition started with the National Football League’s oldest rivalry, meeting number 197 of which occurred Sunday night at Lambeau Field. I recall during the Packers’ Super Bowl XXXI season enjoying reading Chicago media eviscerate Da Bears, even to the point of, in the Chicago Tribune’s case, assigning a sportswriter to cover the Packers the rest of the season.
Before we go on: I freely admit to watching the wrong half of Sunday night’s game. After Khalil Mack’s interception for a touchdown that gave Da Bears a 17–0 lead, I stopped watching given the fact that the season seemed lost not merely because of one half of one game, but because of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ left knee injury.
I was not the only one who thought the game was over. The Tribune’s Colleen Kane reports:
With the Bears holding a precarious six-point lead against the Packers with 2 minutes, 39 seconds to play, the Bears cornerback was in position to intercept quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He leaned forward to make the catch on a short pass attempt but dropped it.
In frustration, he flung the football and then sat on the field for a few seconds to absorb the missed opportunity.
“I’ve just got to make the play,” Fuller said afterward.
He’s hardly the only Bears defender who can say that.
Many Bears played a part in the massive collapse that allowed the Packers to score 24 second-half points on the way to a 24-23 victory. The 20-point comeback victory was the Packers’ second-largest ever at Lambeau Field, behind only a 21-point comeback against the Saints in 1989.
“The whole team got lazy,” Bears safety Eddie Jackson said. “We got too complacent, especially on the defensive side of the ball. We didn’t finish. We came out the first half swinging. The energy was there. The second half I felt like the energy was low. Everybody got complacent, and we lost focus that we still had a game to finish.”
Jackson was at the center of the Packers’ winning play, two plays after Fuller’s missed opportunity.
He was playing in the middle when Rodgers, with plenty of time to throw, found wide receiver Randall Cobb just behind him. Jackson dived toward the pass but was too far in front to make a tackle. Cobb ran free for the 75-yard, go-ahead touchdown, also leaving outside linebacker Leonard Floyd falling in his wake.
It was the last of three second-half touchdown passes from Rodgers, who left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury that he said afterward was “painful.”
He returned in the third quarter, and he found Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison for a 39-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Allison made a diving catch behind Fuller in the back right corner of the end zone to cut the Bears’ lead to 20-10.
Rodgers zeroed in on wide receiver Davante Adams on the next drive, connecting with him on passes of 51 and 6 yards before a 12-yard touchdown. Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara was in coverage on the first and last plays as the Packers pulled within 20-17.
Afterward, Amukamara took 30 seconds to collect his thoughts when asked about what happened to the defense after a first-half shutout in which the Bears sacked Rodgers and backup quarterback DeShone Kizer twice each and forced two turnovers.
He said he didn’t think the Bears were overly confident at halftime and they weren’t necessarily surprised Rodgers came back in.
“They started going up-tempo and stuff like that,” Amukamara said. “We just couldn’t stop the bleeding. Outside looking in, it looks like we pooped our pants. We just have to finish. Even coming in here, we were saying, ‘We had a good first half; we need to have a better second half.’ We were aware we needed to turn it up in the second half, but for whatever reason, our actions didn’t show up.”
Jackson said coach Matt Nagy’s message after the game was to not point fingers.
“This is on us as a team,” Jackson said. “We have to come back and get better from it. … We have to come out and finish like we’re capable of.”
The Tribune’s Brad Biggs adds:
One game in, suffice to say Nagy has an understanding of how warped this series has been for the Bears for quite some time.
It’s impossible to equate Sunday night’s 24-23 loss to the NFC championship game after the 2010 season, when the Packers thwarted the Bears’ Super Bowl bid. And it’s not quite the gut punch the Bears got in the 2013 regular-season finale, when a loss at home kept them out of the playoffs and propelled the Packers to the postseason.
But this one stings, and Nagy and fans who were worked into a frenzy for the start of a new era will not forget it anytime soon. They shouldn’t, either, after Randall Cobb scored on a 75-yard touchdown catch and run with 2:13 remaining and the Bears found a new and unusual way to lose to Aaron Rodgers.
The Bears had complete control at Lambeau Field in Nagy’s nationally televised debut. They were throttling the Packers even before Rodgers went to the locker room on a cart during the second quarter with a left knee injury that clearly hobbled him after he returned.
The crowd of 78,282 was lustily booing as the Packers headed to the locker room at halftime. That’s because the Bears led 17-0, their largest halftime lead over the Packers in any game — home or away — since Dec. 7, 1980, when the Bears won 61-7 at Soldier Field, the most lopsided game in the rivalry’s history.
Think about that for a moment. As dominant as the Bears were in the mid-’80s when the Packers weren’t particularly good, they never had a better start to a game against their rivals, at least not on the scoreboard. As well as the Bears did under Lovie Smith for a brief period against the Packers, they never controlled a game so thoroughly from the outset.
The Bears haven’t coughed up a lead and choked away a game like this in an awfully long time either. There’s no other way to describe what happened after they went from leading 20-0 late in the third quarter to falling on their face.
Not even second life provided by a boneheaded roughing-the-passer penalty on Clay Matthews could save the Bears, who lost the season opener for the fifth straight year after Nick Perry sacked Mitch Trubisky on fourth down with 58 seconds to play.
Rodgers, even slowed, was deadly as he finished 20 of 29 for 286 yards with three touchdowns. That’s what happens when one side has a future Hall of Famer and the other a young quarterback learning a system. Trubisky looked rattled in the fourth quarter, trying throws back across the field and missing high on a throw to Tarik Cohen in the flat.
The meltdown — and both sides of the ball were to blame — spoiled a magnificent debut by new outside linebacker Khalil Mack. If you watched only the first half, you’d think the only person having a worse night than Rodgers might have been Raiders coach Jon Gruden.
Mack was dominant from the first time he came in the game on the fourth snap, lining up on the left side over Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga. It was Mack’s pressure from the outside that forced Rodgers up in the pocket when he was sacked by Roy Robertson-Harris and injured. Rodgers spent an entire series for the Bears offense in the blue medical tent before being taken by cart to the locker room.
DeShone Kizer relieved him at quarterback on the next series, which Mack ended when he stripped Kizer and had the ball in his lap before landing on the ground. Later, when Robertson-Harris whipped center Corey Linsley to blow up a screen pass, Mack intercepted the attempt and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown. It was also Mack’s pressure that created a sack for first-round draft pick Roquan Smith when he briefly spelled Danny Trevathan.
The Bears added one player who has made an immediate ripple effect on the defense, allowing them to rotate a wave of players on the line. Defensive end Akiem Hicks had a sack and forced fumble as the Bears pummeled Rodgers early. Robertson-Harris led the unit with three quarterback hurries.
The Bears have closed the gap on the Packers. No doubt about that. But the thing the Packers still have going for them is Rodgers, who’s now 17-4 against the Bears and 1-0 versus Nagy — who saw right away what kind of wild and crazy this series contains.
The Chicago Sun–Times’ Rick Morrissey:
Aaron Rodgers was taken off the field on a cart in the second quarter Sunday night. He has always done the improbable, so when he was listed as questionable for the second half, it was reasonable to expect him to toss aside crutches, take a joyride on a gurney back into Lambeau Field and declare himself healed.
No, it was more than that. It was a given.
How did the Bears respond to the sight of Rodgers’ return? By going red-state conservative with a big lead in the second half. So the way the game ended up playing out, while dramatic, was hardly shocking. Rodgers did what he usually does, this time finding a receiver for a 75-yard touchdown play in the closing minutes.
And the Bears’ offense, under new coach Matt Nagy, reverted to the 2017 vintage under stodgy John Fox. The result was a 24-23 Packers’ victory that will stick with the Bears for a long time.
They led 17-0 at halftime and 20-0 in the third quarter. Mitch Trubisky looked good. If you came into Sunday’s game with doubts about the young quarterback, they should have evaporated quickly as he moved his team confidently in the first half.
But that wasn’t the prevailing feeling as the Bears trudged off the field at the end of the game. It was that they let one get away by shying away on offense in the second half. Did Nagy take his foot off the gas? So much so that you suspected the gas pedal came with an electric shock.
“No, not at all,’’ he said. “We were running the ball pretty well. We were getting some good yards. We had a couple third-and-ones where we ended up getting a five-yard gain and a four-yard gain and had a third-and-one and didn’t get it. There would have been some times there where it would have been nice to get that first down.
“… If you stay aggressive, (you’re asked), ‘Why aren’t you running the ball?’ Right?’’
But some of the pass plays Nagy called were maddening. After the Packers had cut the lead to 20-10 early in the fourth quarter, the Bears badly needed to convert on a third-and-one at their own 34. Trubisky threw a pass to tight end Dion Sims that arrived short of the first-down marker. Tackle. Punt.
“If we get the right look, then it’s wide open, we look like geniuses,’’ Trubisky said
“We needed to chew up some yards to get some first downs, which we didn’t do,’’ Nagy said. “And then before you know it, they’re right back in it.’’
That part earlier where Nagy said he didn’t take his foot off the gas? Just to review: He took his foot off the gas.
It wasn’t the greatest debut for a new head coach, but the unfortunate part of it is that it should have been so much more. The Bears looked so good in the first half. Trubisky completed 11 of 14 passes for 109 yards, with a passer rating of 99.1 in the first 30 minutes. The Bears’ first drive was 10 plays and 86 yards, and it ended with a two-yard touchdown run by Trubisky.
But it never got better than that the rest of the night. Trubisky threw for 62 yards in the second half. …
The ending was beyond unfortunate. For a half, Trubisky surely brought a tear to the eye of Chicagoans who have been on a quarterback quest the past 30 years. Is this the one they have been seeking? Perhaps, but we’ll need more than a half to tell.
But there were good signs. Trubisky’s ability as a runner was obvious last season, but he showed a real ability to escape a pass rush Sunday. It’d be silly to compare him to Rodgers, who gets out of more trouble than a principal’s son, but he was Rodgers-esque at times. He had a nice run on third-and-one to keep a drive alive in the fourth quarter.
But by that time, the Packers were doing what the Packers usually do to the Bears.
“When we got the ball back with 2:30 left, I was pretty confident we were going to win the game,’’ Rodgers said.
One 75-yard pass play to Randall Cobb, and that was that. Too bad. It shouldn’t have ended that way.
The Tribune’s Steve Rosenbloom continues the fine Chicago sports media tradition of kicking the local team when it’s down:
Before Matt Nagy ended up looking and sounding bad and stupid at the end of Sunday night, it was all there for the rookie coach and the Bears, and all of it was on national TV for Football Nation to witness and fear.
While Rodgers looked like he was using last year’s Bears offense, Mitch Trubiskylooked like Rodgers back there — accurate, making the right reads, putting the ball where only his target could grab it, chewing up yardage, scoring points. It was a thing.
Meanwhile, there was Khalil Mack, the Bears revelation of an attack unit acquired from the Raiders on Sept. 1, registering a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, an interception and a TD, and that was just in the first half, an NFL first. SEAL Team 52 was reporting for duty, sir.
After the first drive of the third quarter, the Bears were up 20-0 against their evil, dreaded rival with Rodgers hobbled on a bad knee. Yes, it was all there for Nagy and the Bears.
And then they proceeded to choke away every bit of that lead because, imagine, they couldn’t stop a guy who had to be carted off the field in the first half.
How epic was this gag job? The Packers were 0-111 when entering the fourth quarter trailing by 17 points or more, according to ESPN.
That’s the kind of soul-crushing loss that gets Bears coaches fired.
Nice start, son.
Nagy was outcoached when he wasn’t trying to out-cute himself, and was particularly awful when it came to managing the clock and the ball late in the game.
With the Bears’ 20-point lead down to three in the final three minutes and the Packers out of timeouts, the Bears faced third-and-2 at the Packers’ 14. Jordan Howard had run for 27 yards on his two carries on the drive. On third down, the Bears passed. Incomplete. The clock stopped. What the …?
Instead of running the ball on fourth down to gain a new series that could’ve ended the game, and even if it didn’t, it certainly wouldn’t have left Rodgers so much time, the Bears kicked a field goal that didn’t put them up by a TD.
You have to give the ball to Howard there. You have to be able to get 2 yards. You have to be able to win the line of scrimmage. There was no need to try to get cute. Just play football. Why risk stopping the clock? The Bears didn’t look like a team with 2,000 snaps since organized team activities. They didn’t execute like a team that could afford to skip live game action in the preseason.
Earlier in the second half, Nagy called a pass play after Howard had gained 9 yards on first and second down, and on that critical third down pass across the field, Dion Sims couldn’t figure out he needed to get past the sticks to make any of it work. Was that covered in any of those 2,000 snaps since OTAs?
But wait. This is where stupid meets bad. Nagy’s postgame explanation included the point that Bears starters didn’t get a lot of snaps in the preseason.
Yes, and who’s decision was that, Coach Nagy?
Galling. His team wasn’t fit enough to compete, and he dares to bring up preseason snaps. Embarrassing.
It wasn’t all Nagy. He could’ve used some help. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio never found a way to beat the hobbled Rodgers’ use of the no-huddle offense. Bears defensive linemen were fatigued and weak and unable to get off the field for a sub. Rodgers couldn’t move, but he could carve up supposedly healthy Bears. Maybe they weren’t in game shape because Nagy didn’t let them play tackle football games in the preseason.
Nagy’s players face-planted like Marc Trestman or John Fox was still here. Prince Amukamara got destroyed on one series. Kyle Fuller absolutely gagged what would’ve been a game-deciding interception two plays before Randall Cobb scored on a 75-yard reception that in fact did decide the game. Mack didn’t make the kind of play in the second half that the highest-paid defensive player is expected to make. Trubisky too often looked like his quarterback coach was Tyler Chatwood.
It was all there for Nagy and the Bears. A 20-point lead. A big road win against the biggest of rivals. A piece of first place in the division. A nationally televised coming-out party. Validation of the change of coaches and the new, dynamic plan.
But no. Didn’t happen. New coach, same pantsing.
Dan Bernstein of 670 The Score:
If Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller holds on, we have an entirely different narrative.
If Fuller makes that interception, the Matt Nagy regime is off and rolling, writing its early history with an offense of stretch plays and efficiency, starting us down a road of runaway optimism fueled by weeks of trust that still may not be deserved. We’ll see.
It wasn’t to be for the moment, undone by undoing and not doing and not being what has to be, at least yet. Yet could have been now and should’ve been. And what ended up kinda sucks after all that.
The Bears’ 20-0 lead over the Packers in the third quarter Sunday evening isn’t the memory Nagy wants, anymore. The Bears blew it in an eventual 24-23 loss, even with Khalil Mack living up to absolutely everything possible, setting a record with his single-half sack, touchdown, interception, forced fumble, fumble recovery, home run, power-play goal, Olympic biathlon record and hole-in-one.
This was brutally painful for the Bears fans who might remember Randall Cobb putting his hand up just as Chris Conte bit on the fake that he was coached to expect, now again seeing Cobb carve away again at the flesh of belief.
Aaron Rodgers was down an out until he was up and celebratory, because he and his coaches learned to neutralize Mack by getting the ball out and away, wide and wider, and the Bears failed to tackle in the middle of the field. A long-held NFL lesson is to not give Rodgers extra lives, but the Bears kept pumping quarters into that old arcade game and let him keep hitting the fire button.
Second-year Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky didnt’ rise to the stage. That’s on him and Nagy and all of what we were told was being honed so finely in practice. Get better at getting yards when you have to get them. That was the point of all of this.
Kyle Fuller could’ve caught that ball. He didn’t, and for the Bears, that’s really too bad.
Pro Football Weekly’s Hub Arkush:
I originally wrote this lead to read that it was impossible to tell which side of the ball for the Bears was more impressive Sunday night at Green Bay, the offense or the defense.
But that was at halftime of the Bears 24-23 loss to the Packers and by the end of the game it certainly wasn’t true.
The offense was versatile, explosive, exciting and productive as Matt Nagy took his bag of tricks he’d been hiding throughout the preseason and dumped it out all over Lambeau Field.
But once most of Nagy’s best moves were visible in plain sight, Green Bay’s new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine began to make adjustments and quarterback Mitch Trubisky was forced to focus more on avoiding big mistakes than setting off huge explosions.
After running 19 plays for 146 yards in the first quarter, the Bears managed just 6 yards on 10 plays in the second quarter.
They did come out of the locker room at halftime and open the third period with a 12-play, 60-yard drive that netted 3 points, but their only other third-period possession was three-and-out for eight 8 yards, and they opened the fourth period with a three-and-out for just 9 yards. …
The defense was clearly the better unit for the Bears, dominating the entire first half and sending Aaron Rodgers to the locker room on a cart with 9:05 to play in the first half.
Akiem Hicks appeared to be taking on the Packers all by himself early as Packers guard Justin McCray was helpless in his efforts to stop him while the Packer were using any help they might have otherwise given McCray to try to stop the newest member of that Bears’ defense, Khalil Mack.
But Mack was not to be denied, getting a strip sack and recovery off backup DeShone Kizer.
After the Bears offered one of those three-and-outs following the fumble, Mack left nothing to doubt, intercepting Kizer thanks to a huge rush from Roy Robertson-Harris and taking it to the end zone for a 17-0 lead.
With Mack well on his way to his second NFL Defensive MVP Award before he’d completed his first half as a Bear, Hicks, Robertson-Harris, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan and rookie Roquan Smith all chipped in plays to show how special this Bears defense is eventually going to be.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the after-party.
The Packers came out of the locker room with Rodgers back under center, went to their no-huddle offense and quickly began to wear out the Bears’ pass rush.
Was it Mack’s lack of a preseason that stole a quarter step from him late in the game? Was it the lack of the entire team’s preparation in the exhibition slate that allowed the Packers to dominate the second half, storming back from a 20-0 deficit to lead 24-23 with three minutes to play?
Again, a different conversation for a different time.
The bottom line is after one of the best halves of football the Bears have played in decades, the Packers were able to reduce the offense to nothing but Jordan Howard in the second half, and the defense simply wore out.