CHICAGO—Just three games into the season, the Packers have a two-game lead over their archrival, a quarterback that is generally regarded as the best in the game, and a defense that is nearly impenetrable against the run.
The question Aaron Rodgers faced following the Packers’ 27-17 win at Soldier Field on Sunday was: Are the Packers ready to take their game to an even higher level?
Rodgers considered the question and then responded diplomatically: “I think we have a chance to be a really good football team,” he said.
In winning a game that wasn’t as close as the final score, Rodgers threw for 297 yards and added three more touchdown passes to his season’s total; he now has eight. His only regret was a fourth-quarter interception that threatened to trigger a Bears rally, but was rendered meaningless by a defense that was, at times on Sunday, immovable.
The Packers allowed the Bears just 13 net yards rushing, and that total stood at two yards for the longest time in the second half. Despite playing much of the game in “nickel” and with only two defensive linemen, the Packers completely shut down Matt Forte, who rushed for just two yards on nine carries.
Even the Packers’ pass-defense took a step forward, intercepting quarterback Jay Cutler twice and holding Cutler to 302 yards, after allowing 851 yards through the air in the first two weeks of the season.
To all of that, add 92 yards rushing by Ryan Grant, in a breakout performance in his comeback from an ankle injury that ended his season in 2010 in Week 1.
“Ryan was big for us. He did a good job of running downhill. It was important for us to be balanced today. He’s a physical runner,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said.
Grant also was big for the Packers because James Starks had an afternoon he’ll want to forget. Starks rushed for just five yards on 11 carries and lost a fumble in the fourth quarter that allowed the Bears to move to within 10 points of the Packers. It marked the first fumble a Packers running back has lost since 2009 and, even worse, it offered the potential to kick-start a Bears rally.
Rodgers is the guy who killed the Bears’ hopes. He converted on third down twice and those completions helped protect the lead.
“Aaron’s a fine athlete. He’s a very good pocket player and he does a very good job of transitioning to an out-of-pocket player. He’s got the arm strength to make all of the throws,” McCarthy said of his quarterback.
“Our two targets were to win the game and improve as a team.”
Clearly, the Packers were successful at each endeavor. Had they been better in the red zone, the outcome wouldn’t have been close. Twice the Packers had to settle for field goals.
“Left too many points on the field,” McCarthy said.
“It’s Week 3 and statistically the evaluation process isn’t even close to who you are at this point,” McCarthy said.
The coach praised the play of safety Morgan Burnett, who intercepted two passes and provided stability at a time when the Packers were playing their first game without Nick Collins, lost for the season following a neck injury in Carolina.
Tight end Jermichael Finley was the recipient of all three Rodgers touchdown passes. Greg Jennings made a career-high nine receptions.
“We’re really focused on a fast start. We have a chance to go 4-0. That would qualify as a fast start,” McCarthy said. Additional game coverage - Packers vs. Bears