For one half, the 204th meeting between the Bears and Packers was everything that any NFL fan would want when tuning into Sunday Night Football. There were explosive offensive plays, big swings on defense, and of course, Jakeem Grant’s 97-yard punt return touchdown. But in the second half, the Bears’ dreams of pulling off an epic upset in Lambeau came crashing down to earth, and they ended up losing by double digits. Here are three of the biggest reasons why the game turned out the way it did.
BEARS CAN’T BEAT AARON RODGERS IN A SHOOTOUT
Trying to beat Rodgers by trading explosive scores is a tough task that the Bears have rarely accomplished. On Sunday it looked like they had a shot to pull it off, but after scoring 24 points in the second quarter, the Bears only managed three more the rest of the way. Meanwhile the Packers barely lagged behind the Bears with 21 second quarter points of their own. The difference was they kept up the crazy scoring pace with 24 points in the second half. Considering the Bears were averaging a measly 16.8 points per game heading into Week 14, their first half explosion was remarkable. It was maybe unreasonable to expect them to keep it up, too.
PASS RUSH DISAPPEARS AFTER FIRST QUARTER… AGAIN
The Bears defense got out to a hot start, sacking Rodgers on each of the Packers’ first two drives. On those two drives, the Bears managed to keep the Packers from scoring. They managed the exact same in their first meeting with the Packers this season, too. And just like the Week 6 matchup, that pass rush dried up the rest of the way as Matt LaFleur made in-game adjustments to neutralize the Bears coming off the edges. The Packers began to lean on the run, get Rodgers out of the pocket, and dialed up quick developing routes to get the ball out of Rodgers’ hands fast. And with no pass rush, the Bears weren’t able to stop Rodgers. The Packers scored on six of their next eight drives (not counting kneel downs at the end of the game), and left the Bears in their dust.
INJURIES PILING UP
One of the biggest storylines of the season has been how many major injuries the Bears have sustained to key players. Khalil Mack is out for the year. Akiem Hicks has missed half of the season. Allen Robinson, David Montgomery and Eddie Jackson have missed chunks of time too. On Sunday night, their injury fate got even worse. It started when Jason Peters left with an ankle injury, leading to the debut of rookie Teven Jenkins at left tackle. Jenkins struggled in his first game playing on offense too, committing multiple penalties, and whiffing on a block that led to a strip sack. Roquan Smith had been battling a hamstring injury for the past couple of weeks, and ended up sidelined with another hamstring injury. Duke Shelley’s absence forced the Bears to use Xavier Crawford as the team’s slot corner heading into the game. Crawford went down with a concussion, so the team turned to third-string safety DeAndre Houston-Carson in the slot. But then DHC went down too, and all of a sudden Jackson found himself playing nickel, with Deon Bush moving to safety to take his place. In the NFL you always hear coaches and players talking about “next man up” mentalities. But if the Bears keep going at this pace, they’re going to run out of men.