CHICAGO – Somehow this injury thing still isn’t bothering the Packers.
No Nick Collins? Safety Morgan Burnett intercepts two passes against the Bears on Sunday. No Mike Neal on the defensive line? Jarius Wynn notches two sacks.
“This league just continues to get younger where these guys have to come in to play,” veteran cornerback Charles Woodson said following a 27-17 victory at Soldier Field. “They’re becoming veterans very fast. It’s great to watch those guys grow.”
The best performances to date in the young careers of Burnett and Wynn were key in the Packers’ top defensive outing thus far in 2011. After allowing 400-plus passing yards each of the first two weeks, the Packers held the Bears to just 291 total yards. Chicago had only 10 points through the first three-plus quarters.
It was a considerable improvement, but a seasoned pro like Woodson wasn’t about to claim everything had been fixed.
“My thing is, it’s one game,” Woodson said. “The first two games were hard to look at on film. We were able to tough them out and get wins, but today is one game and next week will be another challenge.
“One week won’t make that big a difference. You have to continue to do it over and over again. That will tell you what kind of defense we’re headed back to being.”
If players like Burnett and Wynn keep making plays like they did Sunday, that will help.
Burnett’s first interception came in the first quarter, when he ranged far to his left to snag Jay Cutler’s overthrow intended for Roy Williams. His second pick came early in the fourth quarter, on another overthrow for Williams.’
“You have to play the defense, and you don’t want to go out there and try to do too much,” said Burnett, who now has three interceptions in the last two games and was quarterbacking the defense much of the time with Collins out. “You just have to do your responsibility, and when you play to the defense, good things happen.”
Wynn got both of his sacks in the third quarter, the first when he was left unblocked on the first snap following halftime. His other one came two possessions later on third down. Both led to punts.
Neal was supposed to provide the Packers with another interior pass-rusher alongside B.J. Raji, but he hasn’t taken the field this season and is out indefinitely with a knee injury. Wynn now has three sacks on the year and keeps earning more snaps by the week.
“I’m definitely taking full advantage of it,” Wynn said. “I worked hard during the offseason. The lockout was a great thing for me. It gave me a great chance to get better, as a D-lineman overall. I just have to keep playing like I’m playing.”
The Packers also coped with an injury on the offensive side on Sunday, as right tackle Bryan Bulaga left with a knee injury on the second play of Green Bay’s second series.
Second-year pro Marshall Newhouse stepped in and appeared to hold up well. Newhouse was called for a false start and also was ineligibly downfield once, though that penalty was declined but, at first glance, he didn’t have any glaring breakdowns.
The severity of Bulaga’s injury isn’t yet known. Normal procedure is for further tests to be done, with an update likely coming on Monday.
Nothing doing: It was almost an historic day for the Packers’ run-defense.
Until Cutler scrambled for a 9-yard gain in the final minute of the game, the Bears had rushed for just four yards. Had that total remained at four, it would have been the second-fewest rushing yards allowed in a game in Packers history, behind only the minus-7 recorded against Philadelphia in 1940.
As it turned out, the Bears’ 13 rushing yards were the fewest the Packers had allowed since 1999, when they allowed 13 to Carolina. That total is tied for the fourth-fewest in franchise history.
“We came in with our defensive plan, and we stuck to our defensive plan,” Burnett said of forcing the Bears to throw.
Chicago’s premier running back, Matt Forte, finished with just two yards on nine carries.
“I think any team would be frustrated if you come in with the mindset you’re going to do a particular thing, and you can’t do it,” Woodson said. “Our guys today, up front, did a fantastic job of making sure the Bears didn’t do what they wanted to do.”
Hidden ball trick: The Bears really fooled the Packers on Green Bay’s final punt with just over a minute left but, fortunately for the Packers, it didn’t cost them.
Regular return man Devin Hester veered to the left side of the field and pretended to be settling under Tim Masthay’s punt as Green Bay’s coverage team surrounded him. Only the ball was actually sailing to the other side of the field, where Johnny Knox ran it down along the right sideline.
With no potential tacklers in sight other than Masthay, who obviously knew where the punt had gone, Knox took off and raced 89 yards for a touchdown, only to have the play called back by a holding penalty on Chicago’s Corey Graham.
Had the touchdown counted, the Bears would have trailed by just three with a chance at an onside kick to get the ball back for one final drive.
“Never seen it, but it was outstanding on their part,” Woodson said of the trick play. “We were very fortunate there was a holding call on that play. They knew a tendency, they played it well, and it worked out to perfection for them. Fortunately we got the penalty and got the win.” Additional game coverage - Packers vs. Bears