GREEN BAY, Wis. — The outlook for Knile Davis’ season changed with a late-night phone call.
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On Tuesday, the running back was buried on the Kansas City Chiefs’ depth chart.
By Thursday night, Davis could be a very important player in the backfield for the Green Bay Packers when they host the Chicago Bears in the 193rd meeting of the NFL’s oldest rivalry.
Injuries have hit the running back position for Green Bay, a troubling development for an offense that is also struggling to get consistency from the Aaron Rodgers-led passing attack.
Enter Davis, a fourth-stringer with Kansas City who found out late Monday night that he had been dealt to the Packers for a conditional draft pick. Soon enough, Davis could be taking handoffs from Rodgers.
"He can get the ball out, and then you know we’ve got to run the ball to keep them off of him. So it’s a good balance," Davis said.
It is how it’s supposed to work when the Packers (3-2) are clicking. The past two games, though, hard-charging back Eddie Lacy and the rushing attack have showed more consistency than the passing game.
But Lacy has a left ankle injury. Backup James Starks has already been ruled out with a knee injury.
"We all have a part in it, and we’ve all got to improve individually so collectively we can get back on the right track and start playing a little bit more consistently," Rodgers said.
By yardage alone, the Bears’ offense is humming compared to the Packers. They’re seventh in total offense (375.2 yards per game) and fourth in passing (284.2 yards), with Brian Hoyer having started the past four games with Jay Cutler sidelined by a thumb injury.
But the yardage hasn’t led to a lot of points. Chicago (1-5) is among the lowest in the league in scoring at 16.8 points a game.
This might be the game in which the Bears can take chances deep to open up the offense, especially with Green Bay riddled with injuries at cornerback.
Hoyer plans to take his chances, as long as they’re not too risky.
"So even as frustrated as we are, trying to score touchdowns in the red area, you still don’t want to take points off the board," Hoyer said.
Other notes and things to watch on Thursday night:
FAMILIAR FOES: The Bears-Packers rivalry goes back to 1921, with Chicago holding a 94-92-6 edge in the series. The teams last played on a rain-swept Thanksgiving night last year, when Chicago won 17-13 to spoil a game that marked the return of former Packers quarterback Brett Favre to Lambeau Field.
BEARS DOWN: The Bears are in danger of falling to 1-6 for the first time since 2000. Whether it’s because of a long line of injuries or simple breakdowns, Chicago appears to have taken a step backward in coach John Fox’s second season. The past two weeks have been particularly rough.
The Bears lost to Indianapolis on a late touchdown pass from Andrew Luck to T.Y. Hilton. Against Jacksonville last week, they led by 13 going into the fourth quarter, only to lose 17-16 on a 51-yard touchdown from Blake Bortles to Arrelious Benn in the closing minutes.
CORNER CONCERN: Pass coverage is an issue for the Packers with so many injuries in the secondary . Their best cornerback, Sam Shields, was placed on injured reserve this week with a concussion to make room for Davis. Quinten Rollins says he will miss his second straight game with a groin injury. Damarious Randall also has a groin injury, and he appears unlikely to play after leaving Sunday’s loss to Dallas.
That leaves LaDarius Gunter, who had a poor game last week against the Cowboys, and Demetri Goodson as the likely starting cornerbacks.
AIR BEARS: Hoyer has a franchise-record four straight 300-yard passing games filling in for Cutler. He has also thrown 189 passes this season without an interception.
But the Bears are 25th in the league in red zone offense, having converted just 47 percent.
"We’ve got to be better. We’ve got to execute better," offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. "I’ve got to call better plays and we’ve got to coach it better. In the NFL, the games are so close, you can’t have that point change."
RUN TIME: Davis was studying the Packers’ playbook to try to get ready for Thursday. The fourth-year back’s best season was 2014, when he ran for 463 yards and six touchdowns on 134 carries. Green Bay is also likely to activate rookie Don Jackson, who ran for more than 2,300 yards in his college career at Nevada, from the practice squad.
CHICAGO (1-5) at GREEN BAY (3-2)
Thursday, 8:25 p.m. EST, CBS, NFL Network
OPENING LINE — Packers by 10
RECORD VS. SPREAD — Chicago 1-5, Green Bay 2-2-1
SERIES RECORD — Bears lead 94-92-6
LAST MEETING — Bears beat Packers 17-13, Nov. 26, 2015
LAST WEEK — Bears lost to Jaguars 17-16; Packers lost to Cowboys 30-16
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Teams meeting for 193rd time in NFL’s oldest rivalry, going back to 1921. … Thanksgiving night win last year by Bears snapped Packers’ four-game series winning streak and spoiled return of former Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre to Lambeau Field. … Bears are among last in league in scoring (16.8 points), 25th in red zone offense (47.4 percent). … Brian Hoyer first Bears QB to throw at least 300 yards passing in four straight games. … RB Jordan Howard second among NFL rookies with 303 yards rushing. … WR Cameron Meredith with 20 catches, 243 yards past two games. … OL Josh Sitton, released by Packers before season opener, has ankle injury. … DE Akiem Hicks has sack in two of past three games. … Packers offense first in league in third-down conversions (49.3 percent). … Team minus-3 in turnover margin on season, with season-high four giveaways in loss last week to Dallas … QB Aaron Rodgers 20th in league in passer rating (88.4). … Rodgers has 14 TDs and 127.0 rating in past four meetings against Chicago. … Offensive line has allowed nine sacks, tied for fifth in league. … Defense third in league against run (72.4 yards per game), but allowed season-high 191 last week to Cowboys. … LB Julius Peppers had sack and forced fumble last week. Former Bear has 2 sacks in past three against Chicago. … Fantasy Tip: WR Ty Montgomery career-high 10 catches for 98 yards last week. Packers also line up Montgomery in backfield at times, so role could expand with injuries to RBs Eddie Lacy and James Starks. Montgomery fumbled twice last week, losing one.