GREEN BAY – Significant history was made when the Packers and Bears met back in late September, as Green Bay took the all-time lead in the series for the first time in 84 years.
Sunday’s game at Soldier Field will provide another historical nugget in the NFL’s oldest rivalry, regardless of who wins or loses.
Brett Hundley will become the first Packers quarterback other than Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers to start against the Bears in 26 years.
That covers a stretch of 52 games against Chicago with only two Green Bay QBs as starters. Favre never missed a game, of course, and Rodgers never missed a Bears game until now.
Back in 2013, Rodgers broke his collarbone against the Bears at Lambeau Field and then famously returned in time for the rematch in Chicago in Week 17.
The last Packers QB not named Favre or Rodgers to start against the Bears? Ironically, it was a former Bears quarterback – Mike Tomczak (pictured above, right of Hundley), on Dec. 8, 1991, in Chicago.
Green Bay’s leading rusher that day was Darrell Thompson, and its second-leading receiver, after Sterling Sharpe, was Erik Affholter.
Yeah, that was a while ago.
But this game isn’t about history, and it isn’t about the rivalry. Not with where the Packers stand at the moment.
This game is about righting the ship, and this was the time when the Packers started to turn the corner in the wake of Rodgers’ injury four years ago.
Back then, Green Bay lost the game to the Bears in which Rodgers went down and then dropped the next two. An important division game against Minnesota was next, and behind QB Matt Flynn, Green Bay rallied in the second half to salvage a 26-all tie – a tie that ended up being the half-game margin by which the Packers won the NFC North following the dramatic finish a month later in Chicago.
A loss on Sunday would drop the Packers below .500 for the first time this season. More critically, it would drop them to 1-3 in NFC North games, a precarious position to say the least.
“We’re 4-4, we’ve lost two division games,” cornerback Davon House said. “I think every game from now on is a must-win.”
Head Coach Mike McCarthy challenged his team earlier this week. He said “no one has stepped up” in Rodgers’ absence to lead the way through this. The message clearly filtered through the locker room.
“It’s bigger than pride,” Clay Matthews said.
Players on both sides of the ball, particularly veteran players, spoke of making the big plays that change games.
The Packers have had a few here and there –Matthews’ 63-yard fumble return in Minnesota, Aaron Jones 43-yard TD run against the Saints, Randall Cobb’s 46-yard catch-and-run vs. the Lions – but they either weren’t followed up to any meaningful degree or happened too late to really make much difference.
“It’s all about momentum,” Cobb said. “This is a game of momentum, a game of explosive gains, and we have to be better from that standpoint.”
When something happens that can swing that momentum, the Packers have to seize it, fully. One side of the ball has to capitalize on the other. Not go three-and-out after a missed field goal or turnover by the opponent. Not allow a quick score right after one of their own.
The Packers know what they need to do. On offense, make plays downfield and find balance. On defense, stop the run and get off the field on third down.
The how is obvious. But sitting on three straight losses, the how is not the primary concern. The end result is.
“More than anything else,” Matthews said, “we need to get a win.”
“That’s all it’s about,” Cobb said. “That’s all that really matters. It doesn’t matter the performance that’s on the field. It’s all about getting a win, whatever it takes to win a game.”