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Packers-Bears Recap: Short-handed Packers ride turnovers to 35-14 win over Bears

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Aaron Rodgers tosses four touchdowns Thursday night to lift an injury-riddled Green Bay squad

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers
The Packers defense created more turnovers (3) in the first half alone than the first three weeks combined.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Packers opened Thursday night against their rival Bears with a message before the game even started.

Then, with the first possession, they made a different kind of point. A 10-play, 75-yard drive culminated in a touchdown, the exact kind of opening salvo a short-handed Green Bay team needed to mitigate any confidence the Bears had coming in off an impressive win.

On the first offensive play for Chicago, Clay Matthews beat the block of Dion Sims for a strip-sack, setting the all-time Packers mark for sacks.

Three plays later, Aaron Rodgers found Randall Cobb for his second touchdown pass of the game and it was 14-0 Green Bay.

After myriad injuries, flag after flag, a length weather delay, and a sickeningly dirty hit that sent Davante Adams to the hospital, the Packers finally came out with a 35-14 win.

A successful running game early, before Ty Montgomery left the game with injury, buoyed the offense without David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga.

Mike McCarthy took the creative route, sliding left guard Lane Taylor to left tackle and inserting former practice squad guard Lucas Patrick in at left guard. Meanwhile, Justin McCray took over at right tackle where he’d started against Atlanta.

Early returns set the tone for the Packers. Starting off with three straight Montgomery runs, the Packers set out to prove playing a game without their top two offensive tackles wouldn’t hurt this Aaron Rodgers offense.

Converting those runs set up the play-action game and cooled the heels of Chicago’s edge rushers. Rodgers found Martellus Bennett for 26 on third-and-1 off play action and Green Bay’s offense was clicking on a first drive yet again. A run-pass option on third down turned into a Rodgers touchdown pass to Davante Adams.

Rodgers has now lead first-possession touchdown drives in three straight games.

With the line and quick passing game in a rhythm, the line didn’t allow its first sack until fewer than 2 minutes remained in the first quarter with the Packers already up two scores.

Another fumble stopped a promising Bears drive, but Green Bay was unable to capitalize on the ensuing position.

Still, the two turnovers were a promising development for a team struggling to take the ball away through three games, forcing just a single turnover.

The return of injured starters Nick Perry and Jake Ryan boosted the defense as they were able to control the line of scrimmage better than this Dom Capers unit had the last two weeks.

And the offense utilized a masterful gameplan from McCarthy to score despite the limitations of an undermanned offensive line.

Green Bay changed formations on seemingly every play, keeping the Bears off balance with their personnel and maintaining flexibility with playcalling. Surprisingly, Rodgers didn’t go to the no-huddle, preferring to use the schematic advantages created from formations and play design.

A fake pick play, one set up by Green Bay’s affinity for a concept that cost them twice against the Falcons because of penalties, scored the Packers’ second touchdown.

Both Bears defenders bought the combination route between Adams and Cobb, and when the inside corner went to jump the route, Cobb continued inside completely uncovered.

Rodgers found him for the score.

A five-man protection becomes a max protect when the offense can trick the defense, or at the very least keeping them guessing.

A 47-minute weather delay, as lightning storms tore through the area, could have knocked the game off its axis, but the Packers defense stiffened as Joe Thomas knocked the ball out of Josh Bellamy’s hands at the last second.

Had the ball been completed, it may have been a touchdown, cutting the lead to a single score and inexorably changing the game.

Luckily for the Packers, they have No. 12 under center and the Bears have Mike Glennon.

Midway through the second quarter, Haha Clinton-Dix picked off a heinous throw from Glennon and on the next play Rodgers found Jordy Nelson for 58 yards down to the two-yard line. Aaron Jones, the third running back pressed into duty because of injury, found the end zone on the next play to make it 21-0 and essentially salt away the game.

Jones ended the night as the most effective running back in the game, finishing with 48 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown.

The 1-2 punch of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, Chicago’s only offense to this point in the season, never got on track and Green Bay forced three turnovers in the first half and played disciplined up front.

Cohen and Howard combined for 16 touches and just 36 yards in the first half. Oddly, it was a Mike Glennon touchdown pass that broke the Bears onto the scoreboard, a third-down toss to Kendall Wright late in the first half. Kenny Clark, in particular, dominated the interior of the Bears offensive line, one of the strength of Chicago’s team with Kyle Long, Cody Whitehair, and Josh Sitton.

Meanwhile, injuries piled up, becoming the dominant story of the game for Green Bay. After Montgomery went out with a chest injury (later reported as broken ribs, which the team would not confirm), rookie backup Jamaal Williams also suffered an injury, giving way to fellow rook Jones.

Josh Jones left the game, only to return after the weather delay, but Blake Martinez left in the second quarter. He also returned after passing concussion protocol, but not before Joe Thomas also left the game in the first half, leaving the Packers with just one true linebacker. Williams’ injury left Green Bay with just one active running back as well.

But they still had the most important (and best) player on the field and Aaron Rodgers was 50-0 when leading at halftime at home coming into the game.

Make that 51-0.

A touchdown before the half for the Bears made it 21-7, but a promising drive to open the second went begging as Connor Barth missed a field goal giving Rodgers good field position.

Rodgers took the Packers back the other way for seven to salt the game away, but not without a scary moment that left the Lambeau faithful shaken.

On third-and-goal from the 16-yard line after a holding call nullified a touchdown, Danny Trevathan came in late to spear Davante Adams, leaving the receiver laid out on the field.

Players immediately called for the trainers and the dirty play was so egregious, even Aaron Rodgers got after some of the Bears defenders over the completely unnecessary and dangerous hit.

Adams had to be taken off the field on a stretcher, though he did offer the crowd an encouraging thumbs up as trainers wheeled him off.

Green Bay scored on the next play after the hit drew a flag, but that was hardly on the top of the mind of most Packers fans, and certainly not the team.

Another Glennon interception, this one from Kentrell Brice, set up a fourth Rodgers touchdown pass, Nelson’s second of the game.

By that point, it had been reported Adams was conscious and had feeling in his entire body, a critical update after a sick-to-your-stomach moment.

When the game mercifully ended, the scoreboard showed an impressive Packers win, a defense that had finally created big plays and an offense that weathered a literal and metaphoric storm.

But all that seemed to pale in comparison to the gravity of what was going on at Bellin Hospital with Adams just down the road.

The Packers set out to bring fans together with a gesture of unity before the game. It ended up being a different kind of gesture, one of grotesque and gratuitous violence to coalesce the fanbase, this time around outrage rather than love.

Green Bay easily won a critical game with a shorthanded roster against a tough divisional foe. They even took the lead in the all-time series against the Bears, an edge they had not held since the early 1930s.

Yet it was hard to come away feeling anything but emptiness.