GREEN BAY — Fueled by an injured Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers (1-0) erased a 20-0 deficit to beat the Chicago Bears (0-1) 24-23 on Sunday night at Lambeau Field in the season opener for both teams.
Here’s what we saw:
The scoreboard at halftime had the Bears leading 17-0, but in Aaron Rodgers’ mind the Packers had already won. Never mind that 30 minutes earlier the quarterback was leaving the field on cart after suffering a knee injury.
“Walking out [before] the second half,” Rodgers said when asked when he knew they were going to win. “When I got the ovation [from the crowd], at that point I said, ‘We might as well win this thing.’”
Hobbled and playing out of the pistol and shotgun for almost the entire second half, all Rodgers did was lead scoring drives on the first four possessions, going 17 of 23 for 273 yards and three touchdowns. It included what proved to be the game-winner to Randall Cobb with 2:13 left in the fourth quarter.
Rodgers’ effort is one few will forget, including the man himself.
“This is what we’re paid to do. We’re paid to deal with injuries and play through them. That’s what everybody is doing and will be doing throughout this season,” Rodgers said. “That’s a measure of a teammate. It’s what are you willing to put on the line for your team. To me, it’s a no brainer. Being out there is special.
“This will definitely go down as one of my favorite memories, especially in this rivalry.”
Green Bay had no business winning the game. Chicago outplayed them and had a three-score lead midway through the third quarter. But Rodgers is the ultimate field tilter. The entire feel of the game changed when he jogged out for the second half and it seemed almost as if the Bears knew there was no stopping it. That it was just a matter of time before he ripped their hearts out and it’s exactly what he did. Rodgers, even on one healthy leg, proved once again that he’s the best quarterback in the league and one of the best to ever do it.
2) Rodgers played at a high level in the second half and his wide receivers matched him. Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison and Cobb all made plays in clutch situations.
Four of Allison’s five catches came on the first touchdown drive, including a brilliant grab for a 39-yard score on a dime from Rodgers. It was Adams’ turn on the next possession, breaking free for a 51-yard catch and run before hauling in a 12-yard touchdown in which he broke the cornerback’s ankles with a juke. And finally, it was Cobb, who turned a short 10-yard pass into a 75-yard touchdown for the win.
There has been plenty of talk about the wide receiver group this offseason, with many wondering if — perhaps some hoping — Cobb would be released. Instead, the trio, with Rodgers pulling the strings, abused the Bears in the second half. They’ll face a tougher matchup next week against Minnesota, but the early returns on the top three guys is encouraging.
3) Green Bay’s first defensive possession had some jokingly calling for Dom Capers to return. But after that opening drive in which the Bears went 86 yards in 10 plays and scored a touchdown, new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s unit did its job. They were only responsible for 16 of the points the Bears scored and continually got the ball back in Rodgers’ hands, doing their part in the comeback.
“They have gotten a bad rap at times, but I thought they played really well tonight,” Rodgers said. “Gave up 16 points. You should win games when the defense gives up 16 points in this league.”
Two of the biggest plays came in the fourth quarter and both on the third down. Helped by some questionable play calls by Chicago, the Bears tried to pass on third-and-short and Green Bay held them to no gain on the first and got an incompletion on the other. Both stops made the comeback possible.
“We have to be able to stop people from scoring and we were able to do that down the stretch,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “Started off a little shaky at the beginning, but we settled down and made the plays we needed to make to get off the field.”
4) Khalil Mack was worth the two first round picks the Bears gave up for him and you could make the argument he was worth so much more. Despite not playing in the preseason and getting traded from Oakland to Chicago last weekend, Mack was an absolute nightmare for the Packers in the first half. He had a sack, a forced fumble and an interception that he returned for a touchdown.
Green Bay could not block Mack, especially when it left Bryan Bulaga in one-on-one situations. Whether they paid more attention to him in the second half, he wore down or they just played better, he was much less effective for Chicago after the break. Still, he’s everything the Bears possibly could have hoped for and is going to be a thorn in the Packers side for a long time to come.
What the numbers say:
— According to Elias Stats, this is the first time the Packers have won a game when trailing by 17 or more points in the fourth quarter.
— Randall Cobb’s 142 yards receiving were the most of his career, topping his previous best of 131 against Tampa Bay in 2014.
— Rodgers passer rating of 130.7 was his best since Dec. 11, 2016 against Seattle. It’s Rodgers 81st passer rating of 100 or more in his career