GREEN BAY—Had the Packers been able to pull out a victory in Aaron Rodgers’ absence on Monday night, a lion’s share of the credit would have gone to the special teams.
Linebacker Jamari Lattimore blocked a punt and recovered a surprise onside kick, leading to 10 Green Bay points. The punt team pinned the Bears on their own 1-yard line once and at their 10 and 11 on two other occasions. The kickoff team tackled Devin Hester inside the 20 twice.
The Packers couldn’t have asked for a more impactful night from their units in the 27-20 loss.
“Big impact, especially with all the adversity we had to battle through with injuries,” said rookie safety Chris Banjo, who recovered Lattimore’s blocked punt in the first quarter to set up a 32-yard TD run by James Starks on the very next snap.
“Having that X-factor part of the game to create field position was real big. It’s something we can grow on and improve on.”
The surprise onside kick in the third quarter was a daring move, but it paid off by resulting in a go-ahead field goal. The Packers had just scored a touchdown to tie the game at 17 when the coaches called for kicker Mason Crosby to attempt his patented high-bouncer to the right side. Micah Hyde had the first shot at it for the Packers, and Lattimore came out from the pile with the ball.
“When he called that play, it’s like ‘Who’s going to get it?’” Banjo said. “You don’t get nervous. It’s about making plays in this league.”
The only hiccup on the night for the special teams was allowing Hester to return a punt 23 yards late in the third quarter. The return put the Bears across midfield at the 47, and they drove for their only second-half TD.
No style points: For the fourth time this year, the Packers topped 180 yards rushing in a game, piling up a season-high 199. Eddie Lacy led the way with 22 carries for 150 yards, with Starks adding six carries for 40 yards, including his 32-yard TD.
That running game could be needed more than ever, depending on the status of Rodgers and his injured shoulder, but the numbers didn’t mean anything to those involved immediately after the game.
“I don’t care if we rushed for 1,000 yards if we’re not winning at the end of the game,” left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “I don’t care if we rush for two yards. We need to win the game.”
Lacy’s most impressive run came on the Packers’ first play from scrimmage in the second half. He blasted through a hole on the right side and was off to the races, going 56 yards before getting dragged down at the one.
“It was perfectly blocked,” said Lacy, whose 150 yards were the most by a Packers RB in one game since Ryan Grant in 2007. “I just had to make one guy miss and run as fast as I can, pretty much.”
The offensive line was dealing with its own injury, as right guard T.J. Lang did not play in the second half due to a concussion. Right tackle Don Barclay slid over to right guard, with Marshall Newhouse coming in to play right tackle.
The running game didn’t suffer, but breakdowns in pass protection led to backup QB Seneca Wallace getting sacked four times in 23 drop backs, including on back-to-back snaps on the Packers’ last ditch drive in the final minute of the game.
“We just have to keep grinding,” left guard Josh Sitton said. “We’ve been in these positions before. We just have to keep playing. No excuses.”
More on injuries: In addition to the injuries to Rodgers (shoulder) and Lang (concussion), the Packers also reported injuries to outside linebacker Andy Mulumba (ankle) and inside linebacker Sam Barrington (hamstring).
Mulumba’s injury leaves the Packers with only two healthy outside linebackers at the moment in Mike Neal and rookie Nate Palmer. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry both remain sidelined. Complete game coverage