The Green Bay Packers bounced back in the way that a makeshift offense can against a banged-up defense on a Thursday night. It happened gradually over the course of four quarters, going from stagnant back to ugly and then pushing through the muck toward something semi-inspiring.
Perhaps baby steps are acceptable for the offense after how far it has fallen over the past calendar year. In that regard, Green Bay’s 26-10 victory over the Chicago Bears was a mission accomplished. After a horrible plus-half of offensive play — the type that features 30 first-half pass attempts for just 150 yards and 6 points and surrenders a defensive touchdown on the first possession out of halftime — some of the issues that have plagued the Packers started to scale back. The light poked through the weeds. Aaron Rodgers got back to throwing more decisively as Randall Cobb and DaVante Adams — especially Adams — started to find ways to make contested catches and really bully opposing defensive backs. That opened up a running game starting a second-year wide receiver in the backfield, and all started to feel like it might be OK for once.
But if the Packers offense was a bleeding mess entering tonight, then this win will serve as a band-aid. The wound didn’t heal because of one big half against a beat-up and worn-down Bears defense.
On a night when Bears fill-in quarterback Brian Hoyer exited early in the second half with a broken arm and Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long left the game with him, something was bound to break open, and it did. Adams deserves credit for his big night, when he caught 132 yards and 2 touchdowns on 13 receptions, one off the team record. But the Bears backup defenders lost him as much as Rodgers found him. Literally, his final touchdown grab came on a busted coverage, and it wasn’t the only time.
The concerns didn’t disappear, like Rodgers’ tendency to overthrow receivers at times and the receivers’ struggles to win simple matchups against man coverage. The integration of Knile Davis, acquired via trade from the Kansas City Chiefs this week, should save some of the health concerns in the backfield, but it’s worth wondering what such a unbalanced approach, with passes to runs, will play out against a defense with a better ability to cover. The growth of the offensive line playing together will help mitigate the physical loss of Eddie Lacy, but that loss does make an offense that has struggled to be unpredictable that much easier to see coming.
Tonight, what came ultimately won thanks to talent. But the Packers should be thankful they have a mini bye week now because they could use a little more creativity to really get the offense back on track.
Some other postgame points from tonight’s game:
- Needless to say, the Hoyer injury was a heartbreaker for the Bears. Jay Cutler could well come back soon and keep that position from being a problem, but it’s hard not to feel for what it did to Hoyer and the growth he was showing in the passing game. Hoyer entered tonight with four straight games with at least 300 yards passing. He was starting to wrestle the position away from Cutler in a way nobody else has been able to in Chicago since he arrived, and his run might be over now.
- For a Packers offense that has needed a jolt, it has to be inspiring to see what Ty Montgomery has provided the past two weeks. He’d never caught a pass until he logged 10 for 98 yards against the Dallas Cowboys. Then against the Bears, he was a little of everything, totaling 60 yards rushing and 66 yards receiving on 19 total touches, and he seemed to look more fluid and capable in the running back role as the game wore on. Moving Cobb into the backfield hasn’t worked for as long as the Packers have tried it, but the bulkier Montgomery might be an option as they’re searching for rushing help.
- It was a forgettable game for the Bears, but not for first-round pick Leonard Floyd. The Bears have been desperate to see anything out of him or their 2014 first-round selection, receiver Kevin White, with health the biggest roadblock in their way. Floyd’s first game back since Week 4 featured 2 sacks, including the strip-sack fumble recovery touchdown to begin the second half. Floyd, who had half a sack coming in, showcased speed, moves and a hint of power along the way on Thursday night. Although it’s just one game, it’s not to be dismissed against what has been a fantastic pass-protecting Packers line this season.
- Another case in point of how the Packers’ offensive issues haven’t totally gone away would be the longest drive of the night, an 11-play, 90-yarder that got Green Bay down to the 1-yard line for a 4th-and-Goal. Mike McCarthy called a timeout so he could draw up a play where a receiver would run a single-back dive up the middle right at the strength of the Bears defense, inside linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan. The result was what you’d expect. This makeshift running back scenario is a new one for McCarthy to manage, but he has to have a better pulse than that.