Bears Grades: Defense wears down under assault from Aaron Rodgers and Packers

Bears Grades: Defense wears down under assault from Aaron Rodgers and Packers

GREEN BAY, Wisc. — It was a bright spot, a small one on an otherwise dismal night of losing to the Green Bay Packers. But it was at least something.

After struggling for months to stay healthy and gain NFL weight, Leonard Floyd finally played like the ninth-overall pick of an NFL draft.

The rookie outside linebacker collected a sack in the first half, then exploded past Green Bay right tackle Brian Bulaga as part of stunt with fellow linebacker Willie Young on the third play of the second quarter for a second sack of Aaron Rodgers, one that came with a strip of the football and recovery in the end zone.

"We had a great play called,” Floyd said. “Willie came down and picked the guard for me and I looped around and the play was done and I made it. It felt great [to get a touchdown], but at the end of the day I wanted a win."

That was one of the very few bright spots as the Packers piled up 311 yards through three quarters, at times using wide receivers Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery as running backs because of injuries. The drumbeat continued with touchdowns on three straight Green Bay possessions in the late third and early fourth quarters.

The defense has allowed 23 or more points in five of seven games this season, with the Packers rolling off consecutive touchdown drives of 85, 84 and 57 in the second half as the Bears were limited to 2:49 time of possession in the fourth quarter.

“It helps when you’re playing [defense], to actually have a little bit of a break,” head coach John Fox said. “Unfortunately in the second half, I think that probably caught up with us a little bit.”

The defense had its fullest complement of personnel yet this season, with outside linebackers Floyd and Pernell McPhee both active (McPhee for the first time this year following offseason knee surgery), in addition to starting cornerbacks Bryce Callahan and Tracy Porter, both of whom were injured during the Jacksonville game. It was not enough.

[BEARS GRADES: Quarterback woes take offense to new low in loss to Packers]

Defensive line: F

The interior of the line was quiet for most of the game, with wide receivers lining up as running backs averaged more than five yards per carry. Cornelius Washington had the only hit by a defensive lineman on Rodgers as the line rarely collapsed the pocket with center-push or even kept him in the pocket.

Linebacker: B-

Floyd started after two games inactive and a zero stat sheet vs. Detroit. He struggled too often getting disengaged from Green Bay left tackle David Bakhtiari at the outset before breaking through with second effort for his first career solo sack. That was topped by the strip-sack and recovery for a touchdown in the third quarter. Floyd had a third hit on Rodgers and a tackle for loss.

"It is very tough,” Floyd said. “He gets the ball out pretty quickly. You just have to keep rushing every snap. He is at his best when he is scrambling around playing backyard football."

McPhee was a welcome addition to a slumping defense, even in his limited capacity (19 snaps). McPhee was not credited with any tackles but was surprisingly fast off the ball initially, and got penetration to alter running lanes and some pressure on Rodgers, although he appeared to slow somewhat, not unexpected considering how limited he has been throughout the year because of the surgery.

Sam Acho provided some edge pressure with two hits on Rodgers and a pass deflected. Jerrell Freeman had a quarterback hit and delivered a game-high 13 tackles.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Secondary: D

The secondary was forced to cover long into plays because of absent pressure on Rodgers but the coverage had its own problems with an offense that threw 56 times but was never intercepted. Three Green Bay receivers totaled double-digit receptions: Davante Adams (13), Cobb (11) and Montgomery (10).

Cre’Von LeBlanc started at corner as the Bears opened with six defensive backs, and delivered a goal-line stop in the first quarter, stuffing Montgomery, who was used as a running back because of injuries to the Green Bay backfield. LeBlanc finished with seven tackles and a hit blitzing Rodgers.

Porter matched up with Jordy Nelson and allowed the Green Bay wideout just one catch on four targets through three quarters. But breakdowns were deadly, allowing the Packers to stage their two longest scoring drives of the season in the second half. The second came when Porter and safety Harold Jones-Quartey both covered the same man in the end zone early in the fourth quarter, leaving Adams alone for his second TD catch of the game.

Adrian Amos interfered with Nelson to give the Packers a 44-yard penalty pickup in the first quarter. De’Vante Bausby had a number of solid plays despite a lack of meaningful pressure from the front. But Bausby had two holding penalties on the Packers’ second fourth-quarter scoring drive.

"There were a lot of penalties out there.,” Bausby said. “We had a good scheme and plan, but we just didn't finish in the second half as a group. Facing Rodgers is a challenge, but I felt like our play calling was excellent. We just didn't finish."

Special teams: B

Connor Barth converted from 39 yards to tie the game in the second quarter. It was Barth’s seventh in his last eight attempts. Pat O’Donnell turned in another strong night punting, averaging 43.8 net on five punts. Coverage helped keep three of those inside the 20.

Top 5 moments in Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers rivarly history

Top 5 moments in Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers rivarly history

With sports on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, sheltered fans get to relive their favorite moments in sporting history through re-airs of classic games.

And that includes Bears fans.

On Thursday, April 2, NBCSN will re-air the 2015 Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers Thanksgiving Day game. You know, the night the Bears ruined Brett Favre’s jersey retirement.

But it had us thinking… where does it rank amongst the top five moments in this storied rivalry.

Here are the top five moments, Bears moments, in the history of the rivalry.

And don't forget, you can watch that Bears-Packers classic on NBCSN at 8:30 CT.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Brett Favre's number retirement against Bears healed deep wounds with Packers


Brett Favre's number retirement against Bears healed deep wounds with Packers

As far as Thanksgiving evenings go, it was as miserable as it gets. Cold. Rainy. Windy.

And yet, no one inside Lambeau Field seemed to mind. The 78,488 fans in attendance were just happy Brett Favre was actually there.

For a long time, many wondered how long they would have to wait to see Favre’s No. 4 retired. It had to happen eventually, but the divorce between Favre and the Packers was so messy that over seven years passed before the quarterback was finally honored at Lambeau Field.

Nov. 26, 2015. A primetime game on Thanksgiving. Against the Chicago Bears.

As a Chicagoan growing up in the 90s, Favre wasn’t exactly a fan favorite. But like many outside Wisconsin, I came to respect the gunslinger who went 22-10 against the Bears in his career. Honestly, it felt more like 30-2. As time passed and I gained the perspective of covering the NFL for a decade, I now look at Favre as the most exciting quarterback I ever saw. Considering the quarterbacks I witnessed in Chicago over the course of Favre’s career, that conclusion shouldn’t be too surprising.

But it’s a big reason why I was genuinely excited to cover Favre’s number retirement ceremony in 2015. Typically, I’m not too thrilled to leave my family on Thanksgiving, but since our Thanksgiving dinners take place in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, I was able to sit down for an early meal before driving over to Green Bay.

As cruel as it seemed, the NFL did a good job scheduling the game against the Bears. It’s still a crime that Favre wore a Vikings jersey before his number was retired in Green Bay, and those wounds were still too deep to have the ceremony occur against Minnesota. It had to be a Bears-Packers game.

Few will remember that John Fox got his only win over the Packers that night or that Marquess Wilson caught a touchdown in the 17-13 Bears victory. From Chicago’s perspective, they got a little revenge and sent Favre out with a loss, even though he didn’t play in the game.

"I grew up a Brett Favre fan, so that night, I was definitely aware of the fact that Brett Favre was being recognized and I thought it was really cool that we spoiled that," former Bear Kyle Long, who played right tackle in that game, told NBC Sports Chicago this week.

In Wisconsin, the Bears' win is just a footnote. Despite the ugly weather and being subjected to “Simply The Best” for 15 straight minutes, the halftime ceremony was perfect. Bart Starr stole the show, making it onto the field at 81 years old despite suffering two strokes and a heart attack the year before. He clearly shouldn’t have been there, but refused to miss it -- a true testament to Favre.

Few remember that Jim McMahon won a Super Bowl in Green Bay. In fact, I don’t even think Packer fans remember that. So it was a little weird seeing the former Bears quarterback on the field in a Packer jersey, but there he was.

The most significant moment came right as the halftime ceremony was ending. The players were running back onto the field and Aaron Rodgers went out of his way to find Favre. The two exchanged a genuine handshake and hug, signaling an end to the frozen war of Wisconsin.

In 2013, Rodgers and Favre surprised everyone when they took the stage together at the NFL Honors. It was a scripted, intentionally awkward appearance, and provided some hope that Favre and the Packers could reconcile and settle their differences. But Favre and Rodgers were anything but friends at the time, so the embrace at Lambeau Field in 2015 was meaningful. Today, that relationship is much different. By the time Starr passed away in 2019, Rodgers was posting messages like this one on Instagram.

In Wisconsin, Nov. 26, 2015 will be a night that healed wounds and brought together the Packers’ three greatest quarterbacks ever.

In Chicago, it was the time a bunch of random Bears like Chris Prosinski and Jeremy Langford spoiled Favre’s big ceremony.

For this sportswriter, it was a night that fused my childhood with my professional career. It was a night I’ll always remember.

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