For a team that has dominated time of possession much of this season, the Green Bay Packers were far behind the Chicago Bears on Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field. Chicago held the football for 35:29 to the Packers’ 24:31, and more shockingly had a 74-44 edge in offensive snaps (not including penalties). Still, despite controlling the clock for much of the game, the Bears fell behind early and the Packers were able to win comfortably thanks in large part to a critical ball-control drive in the fourth quarter and a big turnover late.
Almost all of the time of possession difference came in the second and third quarters, as the Packers did hold the football for a significant amount of time in the first and fourth. However, despite the third quarter difference being largely the result of another early-second half lull on offense, the second quarter differential was not due to offensive struggles. In fact, it was quite the opposite — Green Bay got an explosive touchdown of 72 yards and forced a turnover that gave them the football just 22 yards from the goal line. Those two sequences plus Tavon Austin’s fumble on a punt meant that the team went into halftime having run just ten offensive plays in the second quarter, but three of them scored touchdowns.
The Packers’ defense also allowed the Bears to convert five of six fourth-down chances in the game, but gave up just one touchdown in five red zone opportunities. Having an explosive offense and a defense that forces field goals instead of allowing touchdowns in the red zone is how you win a game by 19 points despite being out-snapped by 30.
Here’s a look at the playing time from Sunday’s #1 seed-clinching victory.
OFFENSE (46 plays)
Aaron Rodgers 46
Rodgers was tremendously accurate early and late, completing each of his first 11 passes and then hitting on nine of ten to close the game. Four of his five incompletions came in the middle on the team’s two failed third quarter drives, but one of those was a brutal drop by Marquez Valdes-Scantling that should have gone for a touchdown of more than 50 yards.
As it was, Rodgers attempted just 24 passes on the day, completing 19 in all and racking up 240 yards and four touchdowns. Rodgers did get lucky on a few occasions, having a pick or two dropped in that third-quarter sequence, but his day should be more than enough to sew up his third MVP award.
Aaron Jones 32, Jamaal Williams 12, AJ Dillon 5
Although the Packers’ running game didn’t get going much in this game, some of that was due to a lack of opportunities with the football. Jones did have a handful of nice runs when Matt LaFleur wasn’t calling toss plays to the edge, as he was much better on more conventional outside zone handoffs. He also had a very good day as a receiver, often taking swing passes out of the backfield. Jones finished with 42 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries but added 43 receiving yards on four receptions.
With Williams back, the Packers kept Dillon’s workload light, using him almost exclusively in two-running back packages with the rookie and Jones together in the backfield. The team lined up that way on at least three plays with Jones going in motion out of the backfield, as Dillon got one carry and Jones caught two passes out of that alignment.
Williams had a decent day with a small workload, carrying the ball 5 times for 26 yards.
Davante Adams 41, Allen Lazard 36, Marquez Valdes-Scantling 22, Equanimeous St. Brown 15, Tavon Austin 5
All told, it was a pretty quiet day for the Packers’ wideouts aside from one lightning strike from MVS. His 72-yard touchdown was his third of 70-plus yards in his career and his seventh of at least 40, with four of those coming this season. Of course, he also dropped a would-be 53-yard touchdown after having beaten cornerback Duke Shelley off the line of scrimmage, further entrenching the narrative of his inconsistency.
Adams ended up leading the way with six receptions on the day, with four of those catches coming in the fourth quarter. He broke Sterling Sharpe’s team single-season catch record with his third reception of the day, then tied Sharpe’s touchdown record with a late scoring catch from Rodgers.
Lazard caught two of four targets for 17 yards, but both catches converted third downs. Austin had one reception for seven yards.
Robert Tonyan 28, Marcedes Lewis 21, Dominique Dafney 13
The Packers’ tight ends were again weapons in the red zone, and Tonyan tied a team tight end record with his 11th touchdown of the season. Impressively, Dafney started a second straight game as the H-back in a 12 personnel package and played a significant rotational role. It is also notable that he was active and got the start ahead of Jace Sternberger, who returned from his concussion but was a healthy scratch.
Dafney scored his first career touchdown in this game, hauling in a 13-yard pass from Rodgers. That made this game the first in history to have two players from Indiana State score touchdowns, as Tonyan and Dafney are two of the three players all-time from that school to have scored in the NFL.
Billy Turner 46, Elgton Jenkins 46, Corey Linsley 46, Lucas Patrick 46, Rick Wagner 46
With no David Bakhtiari, we got the line that most expected and that took the field while Bakh was out earlier in the season. Turner mostly held his own at left tackle again, though he did have some trouble with Khalil Mack, who got the Bears’ only sack. Patrick looks much more comfortable at right guard than on the left side, which could explain in part the Packers’ insistence on keeping him there and Elgton Jenkins at left guard instead of moving Jenkins out to left tackle.
DEFENSE (75 plays)
Kenny Clark 63, Dean Lowry 53, Tyler Lancaster 24, Damon Harrison 12, Billy Price 3
Although he did not play much, Snacks Harrison did make his Packers debut and showed why he was such an exciting addition. He is an immovable object against the run and even got some penetration into the backfield, nearly recording a huge tackle for loss at one point. Still, the Packers stuck with Clark and Lowry as their primary two linemen, but expect Harrison to get more playing time with another two weeks to absorb the Packers’ defense.
Clark had another great game as the Packers’ front contained David Montgomery to the tune of just 69 yards. That nice performance by Green Bay’s defense was Montgomery’s lowest mark in terms of yardage since before the two teams’ week 12 meeting.
Za’Darius Smith 66, Preston Smith 62, Rashan Gary 30, Randy Ramsey 6
Green Bay’s edge rushers were largely quiet on the pass rush front, as Mitchell Trubisky was throwing the ball quickly for most of the day and the Bears mostly stayed out of third and long situations. Gary arguably had the best day of the trio, though, recording five total tackles (one for a loss of yardage) and a fumble recovery. Za’Darius had two tackles while Preston had the unit’s lone quarterback hit.
Krys Barnes 59, Christian Kirksey 35, Kamal Martin 11, Oren Burks 1
The Packers saw Barnes leave the game with injuries at two different times, but he managed to lead the team with a season-high 14 total tackles. Kirksey picked up seven stops, including the Packers’ only sack of the day, and looks like an entirely different player at the weak-side linebacker spot instead of at middle linebacker. Martin had a rough go, with a couple of missed tackles.
Adrian Amos 75, Darnell Savage 75, Will Redmond 35, Vernon Scott 1
It was another big, active game for the safeties in this one, with Amos racking up nine tackles and an interception while Savage hit double-digit tackles with ten. Amos’ pick was his second in four games against the Bears, and between he and Savage, the duo accounted for six of the team’s 11 interceptions this season.
Jaire Alexander 74, Kevin King 74, Chandon Sullivan 65
The Bears wisely stayed away from Alexander for most of this game, as the Pro Bowl corner put a stamp on a claim to an All-Pro spot. He made three tackles, broke up a pass, and forced a fumble, while one of his solo tackles was a stuff of Jimmy Graham at the goal line on the game’s final play.
King continues to struggle when forced to tackle, but broke up two more passes to give him five on the season. Sullivan missed a few plays mid-game with an apparent injury, but returned and had a pass breakup (actually a missed interception on the defense’s lone fourth-down stop) and six total tackles.
SPECIAL TEAMS LEADERS
Burks 18, Ramsey 18, Redmond 18, Ty Summers 18, Henry Black 16, Dafney 12, Martin 12, Scott 12, Malik Taylor 12