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Packers Time Capsule: Packers and Bears endured a wild second quarter in 2021

The end of the Matt Nagy era was at least interesting.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

If you watch football for a certain amount of time, fewer and fewer things will surprise you. By and large, most games tend to go about how you expect them, and seasons will follow suit. You’ll win most of the games you expect to win, lose most of the games you expect to lose, and your season will more or less reflect those expectations.

But then there are games you look back on and can only wonder what in the world happened. And even though we’re less than a year removed from the last Packers/Bears game, it’s hard not to feel that way about what went down in Week 14 of the 2021 season.

The Packers welcomed the Bears to Lambeau Field on that Sunday night fresh off their bye week and their biggest win of the season, having downed the Los Angeles Rams 36-28 in Week 12. The Bears, meanwhile, were skidding into the final weeks of the Matt Nagy era. After a 3-2 start, they’d lost six of seven and were reeling, having broken 20 points just three times in that seven-game span while giving up 33 or more three times and 29 in a fourth game. Things, in short, weren’t going well.

But rivalry games can get weird in a hurry, and early on, it looked like things were headed that direction. It all started, as things so often did for the 2021 Green Bay Packers, with a special teams miscue.

The Bears punted on their first drive, but the Packers responded with a three-and-out. Corey Bojorquez managed to get away a good punt, but Bears return man Jakeem Grant reeled off a 34-yard return to set Chicago up in Packers’ territory — and it wouldn’t be the last time the Packers heard from him.

A short drive led to a Bears field goal and a 3-0 lead, and after the Packers punted again, back came Grant. On the seventh play of the next Bears drive, Grant took a shovel pass around the left side of the Bears line and outraced the entire Packers defense for a 44-yard touchdown — and it wouldn’t be the last time the Packers heard from him.

But first, the Packers had to get in on the action. By this point, the offense had shaken off their bye-week cobwebs and were ready to roll. Aaron Rodgers found five different receivers on a 75-yard touchdown drive, capped with a short touchdown pass to Allen Lazard. The good vibes continued to roll on the next Bears’ possession, when Justin Fields threw his second touchdown pass of the night. But this time it was to Rasul Douglas, who stepped in front of an out rout and then outmaneuvered Fields for his second pick-six in as many games.

But the big plays weren’t over. Far from it, in fact. The Bears needed just three plays to respond, and this time it was Damiere Byrd getting loose for 54 yards and a touchdown as the Packers continued to lose track of Chicago’s speedy receivers.

The Packers’ next possession started strong, but stalled out when Davante Adams was flagged for pass interference on third down at midfield. And that’s when Jakeem Grant inflicted his final indignity of the night.

Backpedaling as he caught a strong kick from Bojorquez, Grant froze Oren Burks with a juke then sprinted for the left sideline. He picked up a couple of solid blocks and was in the clear by midfield, cashing in his second big score of the night.

With the wild second quarter winding down, the Packers weren’t set to play conservative. The offense was pushing for points, and Aaron Rodgers needed just four plays and 40 seconds to seal the deal, connecting with Davante Adams for 38 yards and a score to finish.

A 20-yard scramble by Fields set the Bears up for a final field goal, and the wild first half came to an end with the Bears on top, 27-21.

If there was a crazier second quarter in the Packers’ 2021 season, I don’t know what it would be. The teams combined for more than 40 points and six touchdowns, three of which were on plays of more than 50 yards.

Sadly, the second half couldn’t offer the same fireworks. A three-drive stretch in the third quarter basically ended the game. The Packers completed a workmanlike 75-yard touchdown drive to open the second half, and needed just one play to score another touchdown after a Justin Fields fumble on the Bears’ first drive. Mason Crosby connected on a field goal and Davante Adams caught his second touchdown of the day to finish the Packers’ scoring efforts.

After the Bears managed an inconsequential field goal late, the Packers offered up another special teams gaffe and allowed Chicago to recover an onside kick. Chandon Sullivan picked off Fields on the ensuing drive, though, and Kurt Benkert kneeled out the clock.

In the end, the result was hardly a surprise. The Packers were deserving double-digit favorites and ultimately played like it, putting the Bears to rest after a strange second quarter. But for that strange, strange quarter, the Bears looked like they were going to stick around and make things interesting, and from a certain perspective, they did. In one way, at least, the Bears fulfilled the mantra to which bad football teams should aspire: if you can’t be good, at least be interesting.