GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Green Bay Packers rattled and robbed Jay Cutler while Aaron Rodgers and Co. sputtered at times against the stout Chicago Bears defense.
So with all those stars on the field for the NFL’s most storied rivalry, the biggest play of the day was a gutsy call for a perfectly executed fake field goal in Green Bay’s 23-10 victory at Lambeau Field on Thursday.
With the Packers lined up for a field goal late in the second quarter, punter Tim Masthay flipped the ball to backup tight end Tom Crabtree, who streaked into the end zone.
Watching from the sideline, Rodgers thought something went wrong.
“I saw Crabby running out the back side, I couldn’t believe it,” Rodgers said. “That’s a gutsy call. A gutsy call. You’ve got to score on that.”
The Packers’ defense did the rest.
Cutler threw four interceptions, including a pair to Tramon Williams. Facing a fierce pass rush all night, Cutler was sacked seven times, including 3 for Clay Matthews. New Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall was held to two catches for 24 yards.
It was an impressive rebound from an unsettling season-opening loss to San Francisco.
“We got kicked in the (rear end) four days ago,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “And we were motivated.”
While the Packers are known for their high-octane offense, McCarthy said he’d rather have his team be known for its defense — and Matthews certainly made an impression.
“I thought Clay was off the charts, just with the energy and production that he brought,” McCarthy said.
Thursday’s game was a huge step backward for the Bears, who were filled with confidence after steamrolling Indianapolis in their opener.
“Of course it was a disappointing effort,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “I thought we would play better. We’re better than we showed tonight.”
The Bears also lost running back Matt Forte to an ankle injury. Smith said it wasn’t clear how severe the injury was.
“Maybe we’re not as good as we thought we were,” linebacker Brian Urlacher said. “We’ve got a long ways to go.”
Rodgers finished the game 22 of 32 for 219 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
The touchdown went to Donald Driver, who barely played in the loss to San Francisco. Driver did a celebratory dance in the end zone, recalling his stint on the “Dancing With the Stars” reality television show.
Rodgers got roughed up, too, getting sacked five times. Green Bay got a scare when the NFL MVP appeared to hurt his right arm early in the game, but he stayed in.
Cutler was 11 for 27 for 126 yards, and visibly expressed his frustration throughout the game.
“If they want a quarterback that doesn’t care, they can find somebody else,” Cutler said.
Cutler threw a late touchdown to Kellen Davis, cutting the lead to 23-10 with 6:49 remaining. But the Bears couldn’t mount a comeback as Matthews and the Packers kept turning up the heat.
Earlier in the week, a confident Cutler wished the Packers’ defensive backs “good luck” in trying to match up physically with a new-look wide receiver corps led by Marshall. Stalked by Williams for much of the night, Marshall didn’t see much of the ball. And he couldn’t convert his one big opportunity, dropping a potential touchdown in the third quarter.
Forte provided much of what little offense the Bears could muster before leaving the game in the third. He appeared to twist his right ankle while being tackled by Charles Woodson.
Mason Crosby hit three field goals for Green Bay, including a 54-yarder in the fourth quarter.
The biggest play of the night, though, came from the unlikely tandem of Masthay and Crabtree.
With the Packers facing fourth-and-26 on the Chicago 27 late in the second quarter, Masthay, the punter who also functions as the holder on field goals, and Crosby appeared to line up for a field goal attempt.
But Masthay took the snap and flipped the ball to Crabtree, who ran through a huge hole and streaked all the way to the end zone.
McCarthy said the Packers have been working on the fake field goal play for two or three years, although he acknowledged it wasn’t the ideal situation to bring it out.
“I was trying to send our team a message when I did call it,” McCarthy said. “And, frankly, I would have been fine with the field position.”
Cutler then threw an interception to Williams near midfield with just over a minute left and the play was upheld on a replay review, giving the Packers one last chance to score. Rodgers marched the Packers into scoring range, and Crosby hit a 35-yard field goal.
Marshall missed a huge opportunity early in the third, when Cutler found him streaking wide open in the end zone — but the wide receiver couldn’t haul it in, and the Bears had to settle for a 45-yard field goal by Robbie Gould that cut the lead to 13-3.
Cutler threw his second interception of the night late in the third, this time to Woodson, and the Packers appeared poised to score when Charles Tillman punched the ball away from Jermichael Finley and recovered the ball for the Bears. NOTES: Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings was inactive with a groin injury. … Tillman played despite a shin injury, and Urlacher played his second straight game after having knee surgery during training camp. … Thursday’s attendance was 70,543.