The Bears blew another second half lead in a 26-10 defeat to the Packers Thursday night that extended their losing streak to three games. Here are three things that stood out about the game:
(1) Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers.
Football analysts devoted a lot of time and space heading into Thursday night's game debating what was wrong with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The two-time NFL MVP had posted career-low numbers through the first five games of the season and actually had been booed at Lambeau Field, a development one writer compared to the Pope being booed at the Vatican.
Aaron Rodgers threw touchdown passes on three straight possessions against the Bears.
There were even more boos Thursday night when Rodgers failed to lead the Packers into the end zone in the first half and then coughed up the ball while being sacked by Leonard Floyd early in the third quarter. The Bears rookie outside linebacker recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, giving his team a short-lived 10-6 lead.
From that point on, however, Rodgers reverted to the form that has made him a Packers icon. He threw touchdown passes on three straight possessions—capping drives of 85, 88 and 74 yards—to help Green Bay turn a 10-6 deficit into an insurmountable 26-10 lead. In the process, Rodgers set a Packers record with 39 completions, the second most by an opponent in Bears history.
Rodgers had won 10 straight games he had started and finished against the Bears before they shut him down in a stunning 17-13 win last Thanksgiving night in Green Bay. But the future Hall of Famer rebounded from that defeat with another outstanding performance Thursday night and still hasn't lost back-to-back games to the Bears since becoming Packers starting quarterback in 2008.
(2) The Packers did a much better job than the Bears of overcoming a slew of injuries and also taking advantage of the key players their opponent was missing.
The injury bug that has decimated the Bears this season has been well-documented, but the Packers also have been hit hard. Playing without top running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks Thursday night, Green Bay relied on two wide receivers to carry the ball and outrushed the Bears 103-69.
Ty Montgomery, who had gained 20 yards on eight carries in two seasons with the Packers, rushed for a game-high 60 yards on nine attempts, including a 30-yarder that set up Green Bay's go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. Fellow receiver Randall Cobb rushed for 21 yards on five attempts.
The Packers were also missing their top three cornerbacks in Sam Shields, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. As a result, LaDarius Gunter—who entered the NFL last year as an undrafted free agent—started at one cornerback spot and shadowed receiver Alshon Jeffery, limiting him to just three catches for 33 yards. Of course, that may have had more to do with the Bears losing Brian Hoyer to a broken arm early in the second quarter.
Rodgers, on the other hand, provided a blueprint for attacking an injury-depleted cornerback position. With Kyle Fuller on injured reserve and Bryce Callahan hampered by a hamstring injury, the Packers quarterback targeted the inexperienced De'Vante Bausby, a first-year pro who was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster Oct. 10. Bausby gave up Davante Adams' go-ahead 5-yard touchdown reception and drew three penalties in the second half.
(3) After missing two games with a calf injury, Floyd performed like the player the Bears envisioned when they selected him with the ninth pick in this year's draft.**
With the Bears rebuilding, it's important for their high draft picks to develop. Unfortunately, their top four choices in last year's draft—receiver Kevin White, nose tackle Eddie Goldman, center Hroniss Grasu and running back Jeremy Langford—are all out indefinitely with injuries.
This year's first-round pick, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, has also dealt with injuries. But he provided a ray of hope Thursday night with a breakout performance. Floyd recorded two sacks, including one that he turned into a touchdown by stripping the ball from Rodgers and recovering it in the end zone to give the Bears a 10-6 lead early in the second half.
It was the Bears' first defensive touchdown since Sept. 22, 2014 when safety Ryan Mundy returned an interception 45 yards in a 27-19 road win over the Jets.
The Bears are hopeful that Floyd will remain injury-free the rest of the season and build on Thursday night's performance while gaining confidence and experience.