GREEN BAY—Maybe it was the different start that led to such a different day for the Packers’ offense on Sunday in Chicago.
In the previous two games against the Jets and Lions, the Packers fumbled the ball away on their first and second snaps, respectively. Against the Bears, the second snap produced a 43-yard completion to tight end Richard Rodgers, and the offense was off and running.
“Hitting the big play on the second play, that will get anybody going,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday. “It got me going.”
The offense seemingly never stopped, putting together long touchdown drives on all three of its first-half possessions. Two interceptions by the defense created two short fields in the second half for two more TDs.
The only struggle for the offense was running the ball, as Eddie Lacy gained just 48 yards on 17 carries (2.8 per rush), but the Packers aren’t fretting that. If a defense like Chicago’s is going to stop the run but give up more than 10 yards per pass attempt (302 yards on 28 passes), they’ll take it.
“There’s no reason to beat our head against a wall and try to run it when we have matchups outside and that’s what the numbers give you,” receiver Jordy Nelson said. “We’ll continue to just adjust to what they’re doing and be sound in what we’re doing.”
Nelson’s 10 catches for 108 yards and two TDs on Sunday vaulted him into the league lead in both receptions (33) and receiving yards (459). Quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ 151.2 passer rating moved him into second in the league in that category, at 109.1.
Where the Packers don’t look so good in the rankings is on defense, which fell to last in the league against the run and 26th in total yards allowed after the Bears rushed for 235 yards and gained 496 overall.
The struggles against the run in Chicago were disappointing, particularly in light of what appeared to be a recovery of the run defense after a rough opener in Seattle. In Week 2 against the Jets, backs Chris Houston and Chris Ivory combined for just 64 yards on 25 carries (2.6 avg.). Then in Week 3 in Detroit, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell were effective but not dominant, posting a combined 94 yards on 27 attempts (3.5 avg.). The Bears averaged 5.7 yards on 41 runs.
“We got gashed on some plays. I think that’s evident,” safety Micah Hyde said. “But we won the game. Everything is a lot better when you win. We can build off the tape and correct the run fits.”
McCarthy said the Bears caught the Packers with some new looks schematically, and the Packers got away from the fundamentals that had been successful.
“I’m aware what the numbers are. Nobody likes it,” McCarthy said. “There are some things we did the last two weeks technique-wise … this particular game against Chicago we didn’t do those types of things.
“We’re very critical of ourselves and our players are very accountable. Giving up that much yardage, that’s no excuse for that. We understand that. There are things we can definitely work on and improve on.”
The improvement will need to come quickly, with Minnesota visiting Lambeau Field on Thursday. The Vikings don’t have Adrian Peterson, but Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata combined for 213 yards and three TDs on 38 carries in Minnesota’s win over Atlanta on Sunday.
That result surprised many, given QB Teddy Bridgewater was making his first NFL start against a playoff contender. But the first month of this season has been like that across the league. The Buccaneers got blown out by the Falcons but came back to beat the Steelers on the road, the 3-0 offensive juggernaut Eagles went to struggling San Francisco and didn’t score a point on offense, … and the Packers went from scoring seven points to 38 in back-to-back division road games.
“This game is so competitive. The parity has been evident for decades,” McCarthy said. “To sit there and think this team is going to beat that team, looking further out than seven days, you’re guessing. It’s the way this game is played.
“Anybody beating anybody on Sunday, to me it’s never a surprise. That’s why you keep playing. It’s professional football. The first instant you take anything for granted, you’re going to get yourself in trouble. We had some success yesterday by winning the game, but we haven’t figured it all out.”