All week, the Green Bay Packers talked about establishing their running game in their week two contest against the Chicago Bears. Head coach Matt LaFleur was emphatic about getting his running backs, Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, more touches after the two had just 23 combined in the team’s week one loss in Minnesota.
He called more plays for the two dynamic backs on Sunday Night Football, and they delivered — Jones especially. The sixth-year back had his first 100-yard game of the season on the ground and dominated the second and third quarters of the game, scoring two touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air, to jump-start the offense. Dillon did his part as well with some tough running, but Jones was the star of the game, finishing with a final rushing line of 15 carries for 132 yards, adding three catches for another 38 yards.
Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers had a highly efficient performance, completing 19 of 25 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns. That was good for a passer rating of 131.1 on the day, his fifth straight game against Chicago with a rating above 125.
After Green Bay opened up a three-possession lead in the second quarter, the Bears looked like they would threaten to make it a close game early in the fourth. They closed to within two touchdowns with a field goal and nearly pulled back within seven points, but a critical play came when the Packers defense stopped Bears quarterback Justin Fields at the goal line on fourth down. That effectively ended any viability of a Bears comeback threat midway through the fourth quarter, and the Packers put the final nail in Chicago’s coffin for the game with a Mason Crosby field goal to re-establish a 17-point lead and provide the final margin of victory.
The Packers got on the board first after an opening drive that moved the ball despite a number of fits and starts. Working around a few awkward moments with his rookie receivers, Rodgers hit Aaron Jones and Allen Lazard, who was back on the field after missing week one, for first-down receptions before a few incompletions and a sack brought on Mason Crosby. His 40-yard field goal attempt was true, giving Green Bay an early 3-0 lead.
The lead did not last long, however, as the Packers’ defense let Chicago drive down the field, providing little resistance. The Bears moved 71 yards in seven plays, led by four David Montgomery carries for 38 yards before Justin Fields got to the edge on a designed quarterback run for a three-yard touchdown and a 7-3 Chicago lead. The only positive play for the Packers’ defense on the drive was an aborted snap that Fields recovered for a loss of one yard; otherwise, Chicago picked up at least four yards or a touchdown on the other six snaps and had four plays of at least nine yards.
The Packers would respond with an explosive drive of their own to retake the lead. The big play was a 24-yard slant to Sammy Watkins before the team got the power running game going. With Lazard back on the wing, the Packers ran a toss to Aaron Jones off the right side behind Josh Myers and Royce Newman, pulling from center and right guard. Lazard and the two linemen blew open a massive hole and Jones plowed through for a 15-yard touchdown.
Green Bay’s defense then forced a quick three-and-out, led off with a sack by Preston Smith, and gave the ball back to the offense near its own 40-yard line, but Rodgers and company went three-and-out themselves. Following another Bears punt, the Packers started driving once again, getting the power running game moving. The Packers faced a 2nd-and-28 on the drive after a holding penalty and a sack, but a 20-yard screen to Romeo Doubs and a nine-yard conversion to Randall Cobb (running a Texas route out of the backfield) set up Jones’ second score of the game.
This touchdown would go down as a pass from Aaron Rodgers, as Jones’ jet motion carried him in front of the quarterback for a push pass. He sprinted around the right side of the line into the end zone for an 8-yard score to extend the Packers’ lead to ten points. Another defensive stop led to a third touchdown before the half for Green Bay behind Jones’ tough running. A run of 14 and a screen pass for 15 yards, along with a big 20-yarder to Randall Cobb set the Packers up near the end zone with seconds left in the half and Rodgers found Allen Lazard for a quick touchdown to give Green Bay a 24-7 lead at the break.
Coming out of the half, it was more of the same for both teams. Rashan Gary got on the board with his second sack of the season on the Bears’ first drive of the third quarter to help force a punt, while the Packers’ running game continued to gash the Bears, with Jones slashing for a 36-yard gain. However, the first true mistake of the game for Green Bay was an awkward exchange between Rodgers and Dillon, which resulted in a fumble that the Bears recovered. Chicago stalled out in Packers territory, however, as the Packers’ defense held them to a field goal that brought the score back to 24-10.
Following a Packers punt, the Bears’ running game found a burst through the middle of the field. After a sack by Preston Smith forced Chicago into a 2nd-and-long, back-to-back carries by David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert went for 28 and 27 yards as the Packers got manhandled up front on the line. Montgomery was a problem for the Packers in the second half, finishing the day with 122 yards on 15 carries.
After those big gains, however, the Packers’ defense mounted a tremendous goal-line stand, holding the line on 4th-and-goal on a run by Justin Field from just inches away. The Bears challenged the play, but it was ruled that there was not clear evidence that he had crossed the goal line and the Packers’ two-touchdown lead stood with about eight minutes left.
Backed up at their own goal line, the Packers got some tough running from Dillon and Jones to escape the shadow of the end zone before Rodgers kept the football on an option on third down to move the chains. Two plays later, he hit Sammy Watkins off play-action for a 55-yard gain, flipping the field and giving the Packers a chance to extend their lead back up to three possessions once again. Crosby put through a 28-yard field goal to do just that, extending Green Bay’s lead to 27-10.
If that score was the dagger in this game, Jaire Alexander would twist that knife a bit more just to be sure. Sprinting at full speed, Alexander made a diving interception off Fields, putting a final exclamation point on the game for a Packers defense that largely stepped up after a rough opening drive.
Green Bay escaped the game with no notable injuries, moving to 1-1 on the season, while the Bears fell back to 1-1 themselves. The Packers will head to Florida next weekend to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while the Bears will return home to play the Houston Texans.