GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers admitted it fired him up.
Losing a fumble early in the third quarter that the Bears fell on for a touchdown turned out to be the last thing Rodgers did wrong on Thursday night.
He rebounded in a big way to lead the Packers on three straight touchdown drives in the second half for a 26-10, color-rush victory over Chicago at Lambeau Field.
“I thought he was very patient and that was needed,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said of Rodgers. “This was going to be a different ride tonight.”
With limited options in the backfield and one of them, practice-squad promotion Don Jackson, lost to a hand injury in the first half, the Packers spread their offense out and put the game in Rodgers’ hands.
He proceeded to set a franchise record with 39 completions, topping Brett Favre’s previous mark of 36, which coincidentally was also set against the Bears back in 1993. Rodgers’ 56 pass attempts were the second-most in his career, and he threw for 326 yards, three scores and a 102.2 passer rating.
Missed opportunities in the first half, including a failed fourth-and-goal run from the 1, produced just six points, and when Rodgers lost the ball in a pile of bodies on the third snap of the third quarter, Bears rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd fell on it in the end zone.
Suddenly, the shorthanded Bears – playing with nearly as many injuries in their secondary as the Packers, and down to backup QB Matt Barkley after Brian Hoyer broke his left arm on a sandwich hit by Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews – led 10-6, and the crowd of 78,217 was getting restless.
Turns out Rodgers was, too. With his chinstrap up under his nose, Rodgers was frustrated with the fumble and the lack of a hands-to-the-face call, and he took it out on the depleted Bears.
Asked if the giveaway score lit a fire under him, Rodgers said simply, “Yes.” Asked to elaborate, he said, “I don’t think I need to.”
The stats do the job. After the fumble, Rodgers completed 20-of-24 passes for 176 yards and all three TDs on consecutive drives of 13, eight, and 13 plays consuming more than 18 ½ minutes on the clock.
“A lot of production on offense,” McCarthy said. “Like anything it starts up front. I thought our offensive line played big, putting them in a tough spot throwing the ball as much as we did.”
As for the completion record, Rodgers wasn’t giving it much thought but was glad it came in a victory.
“A lot of times records like these are achieved in losses when you’re way behind and have to battle back,” he said. “It’s nice, but it’s something you maybe look at down the road. Records are meant to be broken, and I’m sure someone will come along at some point and break it. Maybe myself if I get lucky enough.”
Rodgers almost got receiver Davante Adams another record in the process. Cleared from the concussion protocol earlier Thursday afternoon, Adams had a career night with 13 catches for 132 yards and two TDs, all personal bests.
His 13 receptions tied for second-most in a single game in Green Bay history, behind only Don Hutson’s 14 back on Nov. 22, 1942. Hutson also had 13 in a game 74 years ago nearly to the day, on Oct. 18, 1942.
“Anytime you can talk about records for the Green Bay Packers all-time, that’s unique and special,” McCarthy said.
The Bears put their top corner, Tracy Porter, on Jordy Nelson, which left a matchup for Adams both the QB and receiver felt good about. Adams was telling Rodgers on the sideline what plays to try, and the two kept executing.
“When a receiver is dictating to you what routes he wants, that’s the kind of mindset you want from a guy like that,” Rodgers said. “He felt he was not able to be guarded for a while there.”
The Bears didn’t have much success against Randall Cobb or Ty Montgomery, either. Both also finished with double digits in receptions, as Cobb tied a career high with 11 (for 95 yards and a TD) and Montgomery added 10 for 66 yards.
The combined 34 receptions from those three came on 44 targeted throws, an efficiency that Rodgers appreciated. Montgomery also had nine rushes for 60 yards, including a 30-yard burst on a draw play on the first snap after the Packers trailed early in the third quarter.
“I’m proud of the way he played,” Rodgers said of Montgomery. “There’s a lot to build on.”
On the defensive side, the Packers gave neither Hoyer nor Barkley much. The Bears’ QBs put together a collective 22.9 passer rating, completing 10-of-26 for 130 yards and two interceptions, both late ones by Barkley.
Chicago managed just 13 first downs, 189 yards, and three points on offense. More than a third of the Bears’ 69 rushing yards came on one Ka’Deem Carey run that broke loose for 24.
The win moves the Packers to 4-2 with a short break now before preparations begin for a big trip to NFC South leader Atlanta in 10 days.
“I’m really proud of our football team, with the adjustments we had to make throughout the week to get ready for the game,” McCarthy said. “A lot of moving parts, and a very satisfying victory here at home.”
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