Welcome to one of football’s oldest and finest rivalries. We’re looking at you, Justin Fields.
Fields was streaky in Week 6 -- particularly hot on Chicago’s opening scoring drive, where he went 3-for-3 for 46 yards and drew a defensive pass interference call 26 yards downfield -- but more often than not, Green Bay’s defense reminded the rookie his place in the “Black and Blue” division.
Making just his fourth NFL start, Fields completed less than 60% of his throws (16 of 27) -- he entered the game with a 51.4% completion rate -- and was sacked four times for a gargantuan loss of approximately 40 yards.
The Packers offense overcame a suspect start that probably could be categorized as self-inflicted.
The culprit: Green Bay’s offensive line. An injury to center Josh Myers on the first series put the Packers in a funk up front, and Chicago’s defense responded with two sacks within Green Bay’s first nine plays.
It took the Packers a little longer than expected to hum offensively. It wasn’t until their third possession Sunday -- cued up by a Darnell Savage end-zone interception that Fields threw under the ill-advised impression that Green Bay had jumped offsides -- that Rodgers and Co. started to buzz.
Davante Adams turned his first reception of the game, a short pass over the middle in the second quarter, into a 32-yard gain. Four straight runs by Aaron Jones got the Pack to the Bears 1-yard line, then Rodgers shuffled a pass to Allen Lazard for the lizard man’s first touchdown of the 2021 campaign.
Green Bay’s offense kept the chains moving with a healthy dose of A.J. Dillon and a few more timely bursts by Jones to score 17 unanswered points and take some air out of the fast-starting Bears defense.
In the fourth quarter, Fields finally began to flash some of the scrambling ability that could make him a dangerous dual-threat quarterback in this league. A 14-yard pickup with his legs deep in Packers territory led to a Darnell Mooney touchdown with 8:49 left, which closed the gap to 17-14.
Then came the Thanos (or in this case, the Adams) “I am inevitable” moment. Rodgers stuck one in stride on the best receiver in the NFL sailing across the deep right-middle of the field. Tae bounced off a tackler, nearly going the distance.
No. 12 rounded out his understated performance by one-upping his Bears counterpart and dashing to the right pylon from six yards out. On one knee in the shadows of Soldier Field, Rodgers put the belt on.
Afterwards you could faintly hear him yell “I own you! I still own you!” A savage statement of fact.
Now, let’s peel back the layers of Green Bay’s 24-14 win:
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Kudos to Jones, who eclipsed 100 scrimmage yards (76 rushing, 34 receiving) for the first time in eight career games against the Bears. We’re focusing our attention on the other side of the ball this week, though. And, the game wrecker we’re bestowing our POTG honor upon is waste-maker Kenny Clark, who tallied three tackles, two sacks, which set Chicago back 23 yards and two quarterback hits. Clark’s second sack of Fields pushed the Bears out of field-goal range in the final three minutes, which spelled d-o-o-m for Chicago.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME
This blurb ought to be: Get to know me ... at least for this week. That's because we're all getting to know this guy in real time. The candidate we have in mind has really taken center stage the last three games (despite seeing limited snaps on offense). We’re talking about Dillon, the second-year running back who had a career-long run of 36 yards against the Bears. He trailed Jones in terms of touches, again (nothing new), but managed to leave his stamp on the game with 59 rushing yards via 11 carries. Dillon has gained 235 total yards on 39 touches in the past three weeks. Over the same stretch, Jones has turned 53 touches into 318 yards. Quite the one-two punch.
Rodgers strapping on the “Discount Double Check'' belt that he made famous years ago was the poetic ending Packers fans deserved to a game versus a bitter rival that Rodgers has become so accustomed to winning. What he said after -- whether it was directed at the ruthless crowd and/or Bears players -- was inflammatory but true, so, so true. Sunday was Rodgers’ 21st regular season win against Chicago, his 22nd if you include the postseason. How many times has he lost to the Bears? Count the digits on your hand. He owns them.
What’s one way to determine if Sunday's game was a war of attrition or finesse? Those two figures -- the net passing yards for the Packers and the Bears. Rodgers enjoyed a solid but unspectacular day with 17 completions on 23 attempts and 195 passing yards. Fields was much less efficient, as we expressed earlier, throwing for 174 yards. Both team’s passing numbers take a dip once you account for the seven combined sacks and all the yardage lost. In fact, Chicago netted 140 rushing yards, more than it netted through the air, and Green Bay ran for just 15 fewer yards than it totaled passing. The numbers suggest the game was played, and therefore won and lost, more or less in the trenches than on the edges.
THEY SAID IT
“I’ve owned you all my f-ing life! I own you. I still own you! I still own you!” -- Rodgers’ touchdown tirade
“I love this rivalry, it’s been a lot of fun over the years. … Unlike any other in our game.” -- Rodgers
“Sometimes you black out on the field, in a good way. … I looked up in the stands and in the front row all I saw was a woman giving me the double bird. I’m not sure exactly what came out of my mouth next.” -- Rodgers explaining what prompted his choice words
“I think that’s kind of how we’ve been winning the last few weeks, as banged up as we’ve been up front. ... It’s been a little more ball control, not a lot of tempo, not a lot of down-the-field shots. We've been trying to control the line of scrimmage, get those guys kind of comfortable up front. It’s nice having both those guys.” -- Rodgers on the impact of two monster backs
“It wasn’t pretty early, and that’s a credit to the Bears -- I mean, that is a good football team, it’s the best defense we’ve seen.” -- head coach Matt LaFleur
“Listen, all I can say is a lot of stuff gets said on the field that nobody ever hears, and it’s one of those moments of competition where things get said ... that’s just one of those moments where you see the competitor in Aaron come out.” -- LaFleur on his quarterback expressing himself
Green Bay heads home for a tune-up that easily could turn into a trap game versus the Washington Football Team. How so? The Packers are riding a five-game winning streak, playing at Lambeau Field for the first time in several weeks against an opponent that hardly stacks up on paper. Plus, just look at what lies ahead … back-to-back road games against Arizona and Kansas City, the last undefeated team and two offenses that are bound to give Green Bay’s defense some personnel fits that it has been fortunate to avoid thus far.