It wasn’t always pretty, but the Green Bay Packers overcame a rash of injuries and some early struggles to beat the Chicago Bears 26-10 Thursday night.
After a rough showing against Dallas at home earlier in the week, the Packers offense rebounded against their divisional rival with 406 total yards of offense, which was particularly impressive considering this came on a night when they were without their top two running backs.
Many may qualify the victory because it came against a 1-5 Bears club that isn’t particularly good. However, the offensive production did come at the expense of a Chicago defense that ranked 11th in total yards allowed in the NFL and 10th in passing defense going into this week.
Leading up to the week much was made of the Packers up-and-down offense over the first six weeks of the season. Aaron Rodgers got the brunt of the criticism after a terrible performance against the Cowboys, which only capped off five weeks of semi-mediocre play for the former MVP quarterback.
With an anemic backfield, there wasn’t a lot of hope on the offensive side of the ball going into Thursday night. It became difficult to find anything good to say about the Packers offense.
In the first half against the Bears, the Packers moved the ball relatively well, only punting once in four offensive possessions against a Vic Fangio squad that definitely played with a bend-but-don’t-break mentality in the game. However, Green Bay still only went into the half with six points on the board.
The short passing game was working for Rodgers and the Packers offense, but they struggled to capitalize in the redzone, settling for two field goals and failing to convert a 4th-and-goal on the one-yard line.
Two quarters into the game, and it seemed like the same old problems were plaguing the Packers offense. Receivers struggling to get open. Rodgers hesitating to pull the trigger. A complete lack of a running game making Green Bay one-dimensional and predictable. Only incremental improvements for the Packers to hang their hat on going into halftime.
Things seem to take a turn for the worst in the Packers opening drive of the second half. On a 3rd-and-10 at his own 15, Rodgers dropped back and fumbled the ball into the end zone when he was sacked by rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd. The Bears recovered the ball to get their first and only touchdown of the game.
With Chicago leading 10-6 early in the third quarter things appeared grim for the Packers. After all, this was a Bears team with a mediocre defense and a third-string quarterback in the game.
How could the Packers lose this one? Were they really this bad?
On a day where the Packers typical offensive playmakers were null and void–Lacy sidelined with an ankle injury and Jordy Nelson smothered in coverage and struggling to get open–Green Bay turned to its young players to kickstart their offense.
Ty Montgomery answered the call and may have been the hero of the game. He filled in at running back–a role that he claimed most of the game with Don Jackson leaving early because of a hand injury–and finished the night with 60 yards rushing on nine attempts.
The biggest run coming on the following play of the Bears defensive touchdown. With the Packers offense waning, Montgomery broke loose up field for 30 yards on a draw play, which seemed to get Green Bay’s offense back in gear. It was a key play in the game and came at a time when the Packers desperately needed somebody to step up and make a splash play.
The Packers would then later go on and score their first touchdown of the game, giving them a 13-10 lead. From then on it was all Green Bay. The Packers offense was moving the ball and they were ready to put the Bears in their rearview mirror.
Montgomery continued making plays in his new halfback/wide receiver hybrid role. He was effective running the ball, but he also made plenty of plays in the passing game. The versatile wide wideout’s ability to be a receiving threat out of the backfield was a new wrinkle defenders had to account for.
Montgomery was also effective out of the slot. He created mismatches all over the field and made things happen with the ball out in space.
He finished the night with 126 yards of total offense and 10 receptions. It was easily the best game of his young career, and it came at the most opportune time. The Packers really needed someone to step up Thursday night, and Montgomery certainly emerged as a playmaker.
Montgomery brought new life to the Packers offense this week, but it wouldn’t tell the whole story if we didn’t mention Cobb’s contributions and the night Davante Adams had.
Cobb played hard. He split time with Montgomery in the backfield and out of the slot. He finished the evening with 95 receiving yards, a touchdown, and 21 yards rushing. The ability to use Cobb and Montgomery in creative ways on offense should help keep defenses on their toes.
However, there may have not been a more impressive player on offense than Adams. Rodgers set a personal best Thursday night with 39 completions, and exactly a third of these passes were completed to Adams.
In fact, the third-year receiver’s 13 receptions on the night were just one shy of the Packers single game record. He was also the first player to record over 10 receptions, 100 yards (132), and two touchdowns in Lambeau Field history.
Adams was assertive. He was effective on comeback routes. He boxed out defenders and hauled in receptions while covered. His first touchdown was a beautiful example of using his size and strength to haul in a catch while smothered by a defender.
For the first time this season, Adams was making defenders miss in the open field and gaining yards after the catch. Once a staple of the Green Bay offense, this is something the Packers have desperately missed the last two years.
If plays aren’t open downfield the Packers are going to have to rely on their receivers to make plays after the catch and turn intermediate routes into big gains.
We saw examples of this Thursday night with Adams, Cobb, and Montgomery.
Now, I know it’s not time to overreact. This production did come against a pretty bad Bears team, who played a majority of their game with Matt Barkley under center. It was hardly fair.
However, the small gains, especially in the second half are encouraging. I’m not ready to make any big claims about the Packers offense at the moment. Their offense still has a long ways to go before we can feel confident they can hold their own against some of the top clubs in the NFL.
However, lets allow ourselves to enjoy this win. They generated 406 yards of offense and completely dictated the game with 19-minute advantage in time of possession against a solid NFL defense on a short week, while dealing with numerous injuries and a completely decimated backfield.
Will they be able to produce like this on the road against Atlanta next week? Or against top-tier defenses like Seattle, Houston, or Philadelphia?
I’m not ready to go that far.
However, Thursday night’s game is something to build from going forward. A step in the right direction for an offense that has struggled to carve out an identity this season.
But in order to continue having success running this type of offense the Packers will need their young playmakers, like Cobb, Montgomery, and Adams, to continue to step up and make plays on game day.