GREEN BAY, Wisc. — The first half belonged to the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history. The second half belonged to the highest-paid offensive player in NFL history.
The Bears didn’t have an answer for Aaron Rodgers, as has so frequently been the case in the last dozen years, as their quarterbacking nemesis led a massive second-half comeback to lead the Green Bay Packers to a 24-23 win Sunday night at Lambeau Field. A game in which the Bears dominated the first 30 minutes was ruthlessly turned on its head by Rodgers, who returned for the second half after leaving the game with a knee injury in the second quarter.
Prior to his injury, Rodgers completed only three of seven passes for 13 yards and was constantly under pressure by the likes of Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Roy Robertson-Harris. But Rodgers was ruthlessly effective in the second half, while the Bears’ offense sputtered until a 14-play, 61-yard drive — that, crucially, ended with a Cody Parkey field goal when Mitch Trubisky couldn’t convert a third-and-one in the red zone.
Another dagger: Kyle Fuller dropped a sure-fire interception on the first play from scrimmage on the Packers’ ensuing drive. That should’ve iced the game; instead, Rodgers did what he does best.
And the Bears, in their biggest moment, choked away what could’ve been a massive statement win to begin the Matt Nagy era when Rodgers had time and found Randall Cobb for a 75-yard run-after-the-catch dagger. It didn’t matter that the Bears still had 2:13 and two timeouts left or that Clay Matthews threw a lifeline with a fourth-down roughing the passer flag. The game was lost on that play.
The larger story here, though, is the second-half adjustment made by Mike McCarthy and Rodgers to mitigate the Bears’ pass rush. Vic Fangio’s defense had no answers for Rodgers in the second half, and after he returned he completed 17 of 22 passes for 273 yards with two touchdowns.
And the Bears’ offense, after getting off to a strong start that resulted in 10 points on its first two drives, managed this: Punt, turnover on downs, punt, field goal, punt, punt, field goal, fumble (on fourth down). Not ending that 14-play drive late in the fourth quarter with a touchdown was all the window Rodgers needed to get the Packers a win, as a third-and-one passing play fell incomplete.
Prior to Sunday night, teams that held a 20-0 lead at any point in a game were 98-2 in those games since 1990. The Bears made it 98-3.
More importantly: In their last 20 meetings with the Packers, the Bears have only won three times. If this was a growing pain of the Nagy era, it was an awfully painful one.