With the Green Bay Packers' top two running backs injured, quarterback Aaron Rodgers took matters into his own hands Thursday.
With the Chicago's top two quarterbacks injured, the Bears had no chance.
Rodgers fired a barrage of short passes, finishing 39 of 56 for 326 yards and three touchdowns to send the Packers past the Bears 26-10 at Lambeau Field.
Rodgers set a franchise record for completions, surpassing Brett Favre's 36 against Chicago in 1993.
“It’s fun to win,” Rodgers said. “So, whatever you’ve got to do to win, whether we throw it that many times or have to pound it a little bit more. I think this is closer to how we’re going to have to play moving forward, but I’m proud of the way we responded after the touchdown that put us behind, we put together three drives in a row that obviously put the game away.”
The touchdown Rodgers was alluding to came just 30 seconds into the third quarter. On third-and-10, Rodgers was sacked and stripped by rookie outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, with Floyd pouncing on the loose ball in the end zone to give Chicago a 10-6 lead. It was the fourth fumble by Rodgers that was returned for a touchdown in his past eight regular-season games.
Maybe it was a coincidence, but Rodgers was on fire from that point. He capped each of the next three drives with touchdown passes.
That was more than enough to send Green Bay (4-2) past Chicago (1-6).
“It’s one game. It’s a one-game victory,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “And that’s really the reflection of how you plan for a season. You do what you have to do, you play how you have to play. We have the ability to run it as much as we need to, the ability to throw it as much as we need to. Obviously, Eddie Lacy is a featured, primary player for our offense, so having both him and James (Starks) not available (at running back), you shift gears.”
Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer, making his fifth consecutive start in place of Jay Cutler (thumb), sustained a broken left arm in the second quarter. Matt Barkley finished the game. Barkley didn't have a chance, mostly because Rodgers and the Packers played keepaway.
By the time Rodgers hit Randall Cobb for the third consecutive score, Green Bay had advantages of 26-10 on the scoreboard, 372-138 in yards, 75-36 in plays and 31-10 in first downs. Rodgers had more completions than the Bears had plays.
“If you lose your starting quarterback, it can be disruptive,” Bears coach John Fox said. “It’s not an excuse. It’s just reality. When you play an explosive offense like Green Bay, it kind of helps to maybe be out there a little more offensively, which I think was a problem in the second half.”
First, Green Bay responded to Floyd's score with an 85-yard touchdown drive, its longest of the season. Rodgers converted four third downs with completions. The third was a diving grab by Ty Montgomery in which the ball hit the ground but was deemed a catch after a challenge by Bears coach John Fox. The fourth conversion was a 5-yard touchdown catch by Davante Adams, who reached around the back of cornerback De'Vante Bausby.
Then, Green Bay drove 88 yards for another touchdown. Rodgers was 7 of 7, with four of those passes to Adams, including a 4-yard touchdown in which defensive backs Tracy Porter and Harold Jones-Quartey covered Montgomery at the pylon, leaving Adams wide open for the score.
Next, it was a 74-yard touchdown drive, with Rodgers hitting Cobb for a 2-yard touchdown.
Adams (13 catches, 132 yards, two touchdowns), Cobb (11-95-1) and Montgomery (10-66-0) all had double-digits receptions.
Hoyer completed 4 of 11 passes for 49 yards. Barkley, who joined the Bears’ practice squad on Sept. 5, was 6 of 15 for 81 yards and two interceptions.
“You want to say it’s tough, but I don’t like to think of that because I feel like that’s making an excuse,” Barkley said. “I felt prepared coming into this game, especially on paper, knowing what we were doing and X’s and O’s. But, coming in with throwing to guys you haven’t really repped with, I think, is the biggest thing I did. We moved the ball well at times but we also shot ourselves in the foot.”
The Packers led the Bears 6-3 at halftime. With running back Eddie Lacy placed on injured reserve before the game and his backup, James Starks, inactive following knee surgery, coach Mike McCarthy put the offense in the hands of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ struggling passing game. Rodgers was 19-of-30 passing but for only 150 yards.
Chicago, meanwhile, lost quarterback Brian Hoyer to a broken left arm with about 10 ½ minutes to play in the second quarter when he was hit by linebackers Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews on a third-down incompletion.
Hoyer, who was making his fifth consecutive start in place of Jay Cutler (thumb), had put together franchise records of four consecutive games of 300-plus passing yards and 300-plus passing yards and no interceptions. Barkley entered on the next drive and the Bears got a 39-yard field goal from Connor Barth, with Ka’Deem Carey’s 24-yard run being the key play.
The Packers answered with a 40-yard field goal by Mason Crosby just before halftime.
The Packers dominated the first quarter, with a 104-25 edge in yards, but they went 0-for-2 in the red zone. On the first drive, Crosby booted a 32-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead. On the second, the Bears stopped receiver/running back Ty Montgomery on a fourth-and-goal from the 1.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.