GREEN BAY, Wis. – When Cody Parkey’s 33-yard field goal gave the Bears a 20-0 lead early in the third quarter of Sunday night’s season opener, it looked like they would cruise to an easy victory over the rival Packers.
But after Aaron Rodgers missed the final two series of the first half with a knee injury, Green Bay’s star quarterback hobbled back onto the field in the third quarter and rallied the Packers to a stunning 24-23 win at Lambeau Field.
Rodgers produced points on his first four drives, setting up Mason Crosby’s 42-yard field goal late in the third quarter before throwing three touchdown passes in the fourth period, spoiling Matt Nagy’s head-coaching debut.
“That’s a tough one for us,” Nagy said. “It stings. I want our guys to feel that. I want our coaches to feel it. We talked about finishing and we didn’t do that. But I’ll say this: I’m really proud of our team, I’m proud of our guys. They did a lot of good things tonight. We’re going to learn from it. It’s a long season.”
Rodgers tossed scoring passes of 39 yards to Geronimo Allison with 13:59 remaining and 12 yards to Devante Adams with 9:01 left to make it 20-17.
After the Bears widened the margin to 23-17 on Parkey’s 32-yard field goal with 2:39 to play, Rodgers threw a short pass over the middle to Randall Cobb, who raced 75 yards for the winning touchdown with 2:13 remaining.
The Bears reached their own 46 on their final drive, but quarterback Mitchell Trubisky threw three straight incompletions before being sacked and losing a fumble on fourth-and-10 with :58 to play.
With the heart-breaking defeat, the Bears have now lost 15 of their last 17 games to the Packers dating back to 2010 and have dropped 10 straight contests to NFC North opponents.
“You’ve got to give credit to Green Bay,” Nagy said. “Obviously ‘12’ coming back into the game, he showed he was. We knew that. So give credit to them, their coaches, their defense stepping up in the red zone.”
The loss overshadowed an impressive performance by new Bears pass rusher Khalil Mack. The recently acquired outside linebacker generated takeaways on the two drives that Packers backup quarterback DeShone Kizer was in the game in place of Rodgers at the end of the first half.
First, Mack wrestled the ball away from Kizer while sacking him after the Packers had reached the Bears’ 9.
Mack followed by intercepting a pass that Kizer dumped over the middle while trying to avoid a sack by Roy Robertson-Harris. Mack, who missed all of training camp and the preseason due to a contract holdout with the Raiders, showed the elusiveness of a running back while returning the pick 27 yards for a touchdown to give the Bears a 17-0 lead with :39 left in the half.
The Packers were booed off the field at halftime.
The Bears had taken a 10-0 lead, scoring on their first two possessions on Trubisky’s 2-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter and Parkey’s 26-yard field goal on the first play of the second period.
Trubisky completed 8 of 9 passes for 99 yards to five different receivers on the two scoring drives, including passes of 33 yards to Allen Robinson II and 31 yards to Taylor Gabriel.
After scoring a touchdown on its first possession, the Bears offense failed to get into the end zone again the rest of the night.
That gave the Packers a chance to rally, and Rodgers took advantage of the opportunity. He finished the game completing 20 of 30 passes for 286 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 130.7 passer rating.
Trubisky connected on 23 of 35 passes for 171 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions and a 77.2 passer rating for the Bears, who lost their fifth straight season opener.
“Our guys are going to be battle-tested,” Nagy said. “They understand that. We’re a young team that is going to learn from these situations. I told them, ‘You can feel it tonight, that’s OK.’
“It’s OK tonight to feel bad, be pissed, all that. But once we get back at it tomorrow, we learn from it. We look ourselves in the mirror, starting with myself, and we see how we can get better, and that’s what we’ll do.”