The Green Bay Packers did little right in the first half and went into the locker room at halftime trailing the Chicago Bears 17-0. Chicago would increase that lead to 20-0 early in the third quarter, but it’s what happened just before the start of the second half that is key.
Aaron Rodgers went down with a knee injury in the first half and was carted off to the locker room. There it was determined that Rodgers injury, which caused him considerable pain, couldn’t get any worse. So Rodgers walked and then jogged back onto the field for the second half, declaring himself fit to play in the second half.
“This is what we’re paid to do,” Rodgers said. “We’re paid to deal with injuries and play through them. That’s what everybody’s doing and will be doing throughout the season. That’s the measure of a teammate, is what are you willing to put on the line?
“To me it’s a no-brainer. Being out there is special.”
Rodgers missed nine games last season due to a broken collarbone suffered in Week 6 against Minnesota. As Rodgers got up and tried to walk off, but immediately grabbed his left knee and went back down to the turf. Many Packers fans feared the worse at that point.
While Rodgers was away, Kizer fumbled the ball deep in their own territory when Khalil Mack stripped the ball away, snatching the ball away from Kizer. Then, late in the first half, Kizer was picked off by Mack, who returned it 27-yards for a touchdown and a 17-0 Chicago lead.
It was ugly, but things changed when Rodgers returned to action. He led the Packers on a 12-play drive that led to the Packers first points of the night, a Mason Crosby field goal.
As the Packers defense was busy holding the Bears to two-straight three-and-outs, Rodgers connected with Geronimo Allison and Davante Adams for scoring strikes in the fourth quarter.
Chicago would interrupt the Packers momentum with a 14-play, 61-yard drive, but settled for a 32-yard Cody Parkey field goal. That made the score 23-17 and the Packers could still take the lead with a touchdown and extra point of their own. And they had plenty of time, more than 2 1/2 minutes to go for that game winning score.
As it turned out though, Rodgers found Randall Cobb on a catch and run for 75-yards and a touchdown. The score came just 26 seconds after the Bears field goal and the extra point to follow gave the Packers the lead. They scored too quick.
But while Chicago moved the football on the Packers, thanks in part to a fourth down roughing the passer penalty called against Clay Matthews.
The rest of the defense got Matthews off the hook by eventually stopping the Bears, including a fourth down sack of Mitch Trubisky by fellow linebacker Nick Perry.
It took the Packers defense some time to get rolling, but when they eventually did, Mike Pettine’s group was solid.
Chicago converted 3 of 4 third downs in their first 15 plays, then went 4 for 13 the rest of the way.
“We expected a lot of man on third-and-short and they came out and played a bunch of zone,” said Bears head coach Matt Nagy. “Credit to them for mixing it up. A lot of our calls were built for man. We had some risky calls that we just went with and we blew them and they just made plays that we didn’t.”
The Packers will need more from their back-up quarterback when called on. Had Rodgers missed any more time, the Packers may have dug themselves too big of a hole to crawl out of. But as it was, Rodgers returned to the lineup and the players around him performed better and started making plays.
It took a team effort to come from 20-points down, but Rodgers return is what energized the fans and his teammates into make that comeback.
A win in the 197th meeting between the two long-time rivals goes to Green Bay. The return matchup on December 16th in Chicago promises to be a good one.