GREEN BAY, Wis. — Games, and seasons, have turning points. Thursday night’s game in Green Bay — won by the Bears, 17-13, turning away Aaron Rodgers and the Packers four times with the football at the Chicago 8 in the closing seconds — had all the markings of precisely that for a Bears team so often humiliated in this exact venue.
“It’s a game I’ll never forget,” said defensive end Willie Young, who’d never won here as a Bear or Detroit Lion but marked this night, on which the Packers retired Brett Favre’s No. 4 jersey, with a sack of Rodgers. “The only thing I didn’t get to do was shake Brett Favre’s hand.”
That was one of the few things the Bears didn’t accomplish.
They reached 5-6, matching their victory total for all of last year, not just by winning in Green Bay, not just by winning three of their last four, but by winning two road games on short weeks. They came back from a West Coast win at San Diego to defeat one of the NFL’s top defenses in St. Louis and went into the den of untold horrors against the team that has owned them, taking down the Packers (7-4) at Lambeau Field.
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They did it by shutting out Rodgers and the Packers in the second half, by making Rodgers the seventh quarterback out of 11 this season to be held under 200 yards passing by the Bears defense. They did it by twice coming back from deficits to tie or go ahead and by delivering defensive stops against a quarterback who has enhanced his legend so many times at their expense.
They did it by turning Rodgers away in a situation that easily could have gone the way of the one at the end of 2013, when Rodgers and Randall Cobb ripped out the Bears’ hearts with a late-fourth-quarter touchdown.
“It’s not just another win,” said linebacker Shea McClellin, on the field for every snap and finishing with 10 tackles. “This moves us in the right direction from here on out.”
From here on out means the San Francisco 49ers (4-6) and Washington Redskins (3-7) at home and with 10 days to recover.
But within the game lay one stretch that the Bears hope defines them “from here on out.”
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Suddenly, midway through the second quarter of a game threatening to slip away from the Bears, something came together. Actually, three things came together, specifically all three phases of a Bears team that has needed all of them to come together for a while now.
First, after special teams had allowed a 64-yard kickoff return that set Rodgers up at the Chicago 33, the defense rose up, produced stops on three Packers snaps inside the Chicago 7 and forced the Packers to settle for a field goal.
Second, Deonte Thompson popped a kickoff return for 37 yards, the second-longest of the season, to put the Bears at the Chicago 42.
“At first, when they scored, our sideline was a little down,” Thompson said. “Then after I came to the sideline after the return, everybody was up, we scored on the next drive and the rest was history.”
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Third, the offense drove 58 yards for a go-ahead touchdown, and the Bears were up 14-13 after Mason Crosby converted a 50-yard field goal as the half ended.
But for once, that was the end of Green Bay's scoring. And the Bears are again looking at more than just respectability.
“Every game is big, but we are still in the playoff hunt so this game was huge,” said cornerback Tracy Porter, who intercepted Rodgers and broke up four of his passes, including one in the end zone on a third-and-goal from the Bears’ 8 with 36 seconds remaining.
“We just have to come out and play together, execute all phases, and that’s what we did.”