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By CHRIS HAVEL
Green Bay’s defense stymies Bears while McCarthy’s offense finds itself in 2nd half
The Packers’ 26-10 victory over the Chicago Bears begs for no qualifiers, asterisks or apologies. It demands no disclaimers of any kind.
While it appears the 1-6 Bears still suck, it’s also true that the injury-depleted Packers’ offense was scuffling mightily going into Thursday night’s game at Lambeau Field.
One of the NFL’s most oft-asked questions was parroted early and often: “What’s wrong with Aaron?”
As the Packers limped into the locker room with a 6-3 lead at the half it seemed nothing had changed since the Dallas loss. McCarthy’s offense had racked up plenty of plays and yards but zero touchdowns.
That changed in the second half. That’s because Rodgers got into a rhythm while Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery emerged alongside Randall Cobb as legit play-makers when needed most.
Adams for the Win
Adams, who has been quiet but effective after an awful 2015 season, essentially took out a giant Sharpie and scrawled his name in huge letters in the Packers’ record book.
Adams caught 13 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns to fuel the Packers’ offensive resurgence. Adams’ 13 receptions put him just one catch behind the great Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver, Don Hutson, for most catches (14) by a Packers receiver at Lambeau Field.
It wasn’t just Adams’ numbers that were impressive. He and Montgomery flashed a determination, force of will and second effort set the tone after a largely lackluster first half.
Adams made two terrific touchdown catches on Rodgers’ throws that were less than perfect. His leaping, two-handed grab over a defender in the corner of the end zone was amazing. It came in the third quarter and gave Green Bay a 13-10 lead.
His diving grab on a low pass for a 4-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter made it 20-10.
Montgomery, Cobb, and the Packers Offense
Montgomery contributed as a receiver and runner. He lined up predominantly in the backfield and ran nine times for 60 yards. He also caught 10 passes for another 66 yards to join Adams and Cobb as the only Packers’ receiver trio to catch at least 10 passes each in a game.
Cobb had 11 for 95 yards and a touchdown.
The offensive line allowed two sacks but held up great for the most part. Right guard Don Barclay allowed one sack while replacing T.J. Lang on one series, and Rodgers finally took a sack after eventually running out of time on another.
Injuries forced McCarthy to improvise
The Packers’ fumbles were down from five to two, which is nice. It also was encouraging that McCarthy found a way to make do without so many of his weapons. He didn’t have Eddie Lacy or James Starks, so he improvised by using the short-passing game to replace the running game.
“A lot of moving parts, a very satisfying victory at home,” McCarthy told reporters.
The Packers (4-2) needed a win above all else. In the process, they found an offensive identity that can be nurtured until it quite possibly sprouts into something special.
McCarthy likes to talk about the importance of repetitions. Undoubtedly Rodgers’ rhythm arrived in part because he threw it 56 times for a team-record 39 completions.
The combination of better execution by all (line, receivers, QB) – meaning minimal penalties, fumbles, drops, etc. – led to more first downs and therefore more snaps.
As the game wore on, and the Bears’ defense wore out, Adams and Montgomery kept on racking up yards after the catch. Rodgers finished with 39 completions to eight different targets for 326 yards, three touchdowns and a 102.2 quarterback rating.
Bears’ starter Brian Hoyer struggled before exiting with a broken left arm in the first half. Matt Barkley replaced him and went an inconsequential 6 of 15 for 81 yards and two interceptions. Both of Barkley’s picks were made by Packers’ linebackers (Nick Perry and Blake Martinez) and reflected the position’s improvement.
Kenny Clark, the Packers’ first-round pick, continued to flash at nose tackle. He hustled downfield to make tackles, and he knifed his way into the backfield to either stop or disrupt run plays.
The defense played exceptionally well as a whole. A secondary without Sam Shields, Damarious Randall and Quentin Rollins held up against the Bears’ quality receivers.
Looking ahead to Atlanta
Perhaps the most important occurrence was that the Packers’ overall level of play improved. Victories are essential in September, October and November, but a constantly ascending level of play is critical in December and beyond.
The Packers aren’t there yet, but they’ve got time to get there.
It begins with a nine-day stretch to rest, heal up and gather for a four-game stretch that includes three on the road beginning at Atlanta on Oct. 30.
When this upcoming stretch ends, I suspect the Packers will be no worse than 7-3, awaiting the return of tight end Jared Cook and recapturing enough of its form to make a serious run.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games. Also check out our new Podcast: Between the Lines for more Packers insights. New episodes every Wednesday.