The Packers have now beaten the Bears four times in a calendar year, and one of the biggest keys to doing so was not letting Devin Hester get the best of them.
Green Bay’s special-teams units clamped down on Hester once again Sunday night, rendering the return dynamo a non-factor in the 35-21 victory at Lambeau Field.
“Considering he’s one of the best in history, I thought we did fairly well containing him,” said Jarrett Bush, who was credited with three of the Packers’ seven special-teams tackles. Brad Jones and Pat Lee added two tackles each.
Hester managed just seven yards on two punt returns as punter Tim Masthay and his unit had another strong outing. Masthay posted a 42.3-yard net average on four punts, placing three inside the 20. Two of his punts weren’t returned.
More productive on kickoff returns, Hester still didn’t have anything approaching a game-breaker. He averaged 23.4 yards on five returns and got loose only once for a 35-yard runback.
Including one touchback, the Bears started at their own 20-yard line or worse three times following a kickoff.
The most interesting of those came early in the third quarter, when Mason Crosby’s low, angled kick bounded into the end zone, where Hester picked it up. He stood just behind the goal line but didn’t kneel down and, after a long hesitation, he tried to catch the Packers napping by taking off up the far sideline.
The coverage team was alert, though, and Bush shoved him out of bounds at the 20.
The Packers, of course, had been fooled by Hester on a punt return back in Week 3 in Chicago. That’s when Hester pretended to field the ball to his left when the punt actually went to his right, where Johnny Knox picked it up and raced all the way for a touchdown that was called back for holding.
The trickery didn’t work nearly as well this time.
“Hester tried to be Hester,” Bush said. “He tries to throw a stick in the spokes a little bit. That’s just his style. He kind of freelances back there.”
Looking for more: The Packers defense once again had a rather ugly game statistically in victory. With Josh McCown making his first start at quarterback in four years and the Bears down to their third- and fourth-string tailbacks, Chicago rolled up 441 yards, including 199 on the ground.
The Bears still only scored 10 points until the last half of the fourth quarter, but the Packers were looking for a better performance, to be sure. The Packers gave up more than 400 yards in a game for the 10th time this year and the fifth time in the last six games.
“All season long,” cornerback Charles Woodson said. “It’s just not about tonight. We expected to play better as a defense all season, and we just haven’t on a game-in and game-out basis put it together (to) be the type of defense we expect to be.
“We have to get ourselves ready mentally for the long haul in the playoffs. We have a long way to go.”
Major QB milestones: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ 283 passing yards gave him the franchise’s single-season mark for passing yards with 4,643. That tops the 4,458 by Lynn Dickey in 1983.
Rodgers’ five TD passes matched the single-game franchise record, accomplished seven other times, most recently by Brett Favre at Carolina in 1998.
This marked the fifth time this season Rodgers has thrown at least four TD passes in a game, tying Favre’s franchise record (1996), and it was the 10th time he’s thrown at least three TD passes in a game this season. He became just the third QB in NFL history to do that, joining Tom Brady (12 in 2007) and Dan Marino (10 in 1984).
For the 13th time this season, Rodgers posted a passer rating above 100, at 142.7. That’s an NFL single-season record, beating the 12-game mark held by Steve Young (1994) and Brady (2007).
More milestones: Receiver Donald Driver went over 10,000 receiving yards in his career with 29 yards. He now has 10,008 yards, and he’s the only Packers player to top 10,000. He’s the 36th NFL player to do so.
Fellow receiver Jordy Nelson went over 1,000 yards in a season for the first time. His 115 yards give him 1,101 on the year, and four 100-yard games. Nelson also caught two TD passes in a game for the third time this season after having never previously done that in his career.
Receiver James Jones’ first career two-TD game pushed his season touchdown total to seven, a career best.
The interceptions by linebacker Clay Matthews (third) and Charlie Peprah (fifth) added to the career highs for both players.
Injury update: The only injury Head Coach Mike McCarthy reported from the game was an ankle bruise for running back James Starks.
Starks, who had six carries for 13 yards and caught one pass for six yards, was playing for the first time in three weeks after already dealing with knee and ankle injuries. Additional coverage - Packers vs. Bears