Packers lose Rodgers, defense loses game and division lead to Bears
By Bob McGinn, Journal-Sentinel
~Green Bay — The Green Bay Packers couldn’t have picked a worse game to turn in an abominable performance on defense.
Playing without their finest player and leader, Aaron Rodgers, after the first series, the Packers allowed backup quarterback Josh McCown to dissect them Monday night in a 27-20 upset loss to the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.
Rodgers suffered an injury to his left shoulder of undetermined severity on a sack by defensive end Shea McClellin 2½ minutes into the 187th meeting between the ancient rivals.
“They want to run more tests,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “An exact diagnosis has not been given. No timeline.”
That sent veteran backup Seneca Wallace, 33, onto the field for his first action since joining the team Sept. 2. It also put the onus on the defense, the running game and the special teams to win the game.
Ranked ninth in yards allowed, Dom Capers’ defense gave up 442 yards (171 rushing), sacked McCown once and again didn’t force a turnover. The tackling was atrocious as the Bears won for the first time in Green Bay since 2007.
“Defensively, we didn’t do a very good job stopping the run,” said McCarthy. “We had a lot of missed tackles and the passing game … the way the fourth quarter went, disappointing.
“Disappointing loss, no doubt. We fully expected to win the game. We have no excuses. We didn’t play well. They beat us.”
The Eddie Lacy-powered ground game accounted for 199 yards against a Bears’ defense missing linebackers Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams as well as defensive tackle Henry Melton because of injury. Lacy had 150 yards in 22 carries.
Guard T.J. Lang left early in the second half with a concussion, leaving the Packers without eight starters. With Don Barclay replacing Lang and Marshall Newhouse taking over at right tackle, the ground game stagnated in the second half (14-36) and the pass protection collapsed, too.
The Bears had five sacks, four fewer than they had in the first seven games, as McClellin (three sacks) and Julius Peppers (one) probably played better than they have all season.
McCarthy stole a possession early in the third quarter on an onside kick. Jamari Lattimore made the recovery, setting up a go-ahead field goal, and his blocked punt in the second quarter set up a touchdown.
The offense on first and second down met McCarthy’s approval, but the Packers were just one of nine on third down,
“Seneca needs to play better and he definitely will with a full week of practice,” said McCarthy. “There’s nothing like live reps. It was evident tonight.”
The Packers, 10½-point favorites, lost for the first time to the Bears as a double-digit pick in 45 years. McCarthy’s previous defeats when favored by 10 or more came at Tampa Bay (38-28) in 2009 and at Kansas City (19-14) in 2011.
Under McCarthy, the Packers had been 33-8 when favored by a touchdown or more, including 20-2 since late 2010.
“Tough loss,” said McCarthy. “Hate to lose at home. Division game.”
The Packers’ four-game winning streak was snapped just as their half-game lead went poof in the NFC North. Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay now share the lead at 5-3.
The Bears had lost six in a row to the Packers, and Rodgers was 9-2 against them.
McCarthy also was riding a 16-1 streak against division opponents.
Hundreds of Bears fans hung around the empty stadium cheering their team more than 15 minutes after the final gun.
“We have a long road ahead,” said Bears coach Marc Trestman. “It doesn’t mean much right now. It will mean a lot more down the road.
“We never want to see anyone get hurt. (Rodgers) is one of the great players in our game. I think that Mike will be challenged by what is ahead, and he will take it on. He knows what to do.”
Rodgers directed the Packers on an eight-play, 68-yard drive to open the game, setting up Mason Crosby’s 30-yard field goal. The drive bogged down when McClellin fell with most of his weight on Rodgers’ shoulder.
“I don’t like it when anybody gets hurt,” general manager Ted Thompson said. “But it’s all part of the game.”
The Bears marched 71 yards for a touchdown on their first possession as McCown settled in immediately. On third and 6, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers blitzed, and McCown, under heavy pressure, fired a pass in the right corner to Brandon Marshall for a 23-yard touchdown.
Coverage was by Tramon Williams.
“I thought we had really good pressure,” said Thompson. “It was kind of a desperation throw. It was a great throw and great catch. We had good coverage on it. What are you going to do?”
The Bears, who played almost the entire first series with both safeties deep, immediately went to a one-shell look in an effort to stop the run and force Wallace to throw.
Lacy ran like a man possessed, carrying four straight times for 29 yards. Then he picked up 4 with second effort for a first down at the Bears 39. One play later, Wallace’s slant for Jordy Nelson was tipped by Peppers, who seized the carom above his head for the interception.
Said Thompson: “Batted ball. He (Peppers) is a pretty athletic guy.” Lattimore then surged past tight end Dante Rosario and blocked an Aussie-style punt by Adam Podlesh. On the next play, James Starks smashed through an enormous hole inside, zipped by safety Chris Conte and surged into the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown
“It just sort of opened up,” said Thompson. “He hit it aggressively. There were a couple guys in the secondary and he ran past ’em.”
In the second quarter, McCown found Forte alone in the left flat and, after Morgan Burnett and Sam Shields missed tackles, the gain was 33. “Looked like somebody was supposed to have been there,” Thompson said.
Martellus Bennett beat A.J. Hawk by several steps across the middle and McCown delivered a strike to his big tight end for 27 to the 1. Forte high-stepped across and the Bears led, 14-10.
“I think McCown performed very well tonight,” Thompson said. “Was in control and made good throws. He’s got some good targets.”
Wallace eluded a sack on third and 11 and threw a sideline dart to Andrew Quarless, who juggled the ball about 15 yards downfield and failed to make the catch. Tim Masthay then punted for the third time of the first half.
“(Wallace) did a nice job,” said Thompson. “We had a couple pretty good drives and petered out a couple times.
“He’s a professional. He’s been around. He’s seen it (all), so he won’t be spooked by this.”
McCown led a 12-play, 93-yard drive to close the first half on Robbie Gould’s 24-yard field goal for a 17-10 lead.
Mixing runs by Forte and crisp completions to Marshall, the Bears faced third and 9 at the 26. Under siege, McCown escaped to the left and ran for 20 to the 6.
“We’re covering as hard as we can in the back end,” Thompson said. “We had some pretty good pressure there.”
On the Packers’ first snap of the third quarter, Lacy barged through a hole inside, made Conte miss and charged 56 yards to the 1. Lacy plowed across on the next play and the score was tied.
Crosby’s surprise onside kick set up Crosby’s 23-yard field goal and the Packers regained the lead, 20-17.
After a pair of rushing first downs, Wallace threw a deep sideline comeback to James Jones that should have been intercepted by linebacker James Anderson. Instead, the ball went through Anderson’s hands and was caught by the surprised Jones for 17.
Devin Hester returned a punt 23 yards to Green Bay’s 41, and seven plays later the Bears were in the end zone when Alshon Jeffery snatched a fade over the head of Davon House for a 6-yard score.
“Marshall is a special player and Alshon is, too,” said McCown, a journeyman making the 34th start of an 11-year career spanning seven teams. “In ’02 and ’03 I was with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. I never thought I would play with two guys that good again.”
The Packers had one fourth-quarter drive halted at the Chicago 48 when Peppers batted down a third-and-5 pass, and then another at the Chicago 40 when McClellin beat Newhouse with a spin move for a sack on third and 3.
Starting from their 1 with 9 minutes 48 seconds remaining, the Bears ran off all but 53 seconds against a feeble Packers defense for Gould’s insurance field goal of 27 yards.
“Our offensive line blocked their tails off,” said McCown.
Down by a touchdown with 46 seconds left, Wallace found Nelson for 15. Then defensive tackle Corey Wootton blew past Barclay for a sack before McClellin beat Newhouse around the corner for another sack to end the game in ignominious fashion for Green Bay.
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