GREEN BAY, Wis. — Handing out grades following the Green Bay Packers’ 55-14 win over the Chicago Bears in Week 10 of the 2014 season:
When a quarterback throws six touchdowns before halftime, it’s obviously going to be a game for the record books. Such was the case with Aaron Rodgers tying the franchise mark for touchdown passes in a game . . . in just two quarters. Even having witnessed it in person, it still doesn’t seem possible. It’s something that had only been done once before in NFL history, and that was 45 years ago.
It was that type of night for Rodgers and the Packers’ passing offense. He was removed from the game midway through the third quarter with Green Bay winning 45-7. At that point, Rodgers had completed 18 of 27 passes for 315 yards with six touchdowns, no interceptions and a 145.8 passer rating. Late in the second quarter, Rodgers had five touchdowns compared to just three incomplete passes. Rodgers’ final three passing attempts were all incomplete, which lead to his passer rating dropping from its previous position at a maximum-possible 158.3.
Rodgers spread the ball around quite evenly, too. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Eddie Lacy were all targeted six times each, while Andrew Quarless had five passes sent his way. Nelson was the biggest producer, catching all six balls Rodgers threw him for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Nelson’s 73-yard touchdown catch made Rodgers the NFL’s all-time leader in TDs of 70-plus yards.
After the tight end group had not been as involved in the offense this season compared to recent years, Rodgers started the night off by throwing a touchdown to Brandon Bostick and then to Quarless. It was a rare contribution for Bostick, who only had one catch all season before Week 10. Rodgers also made sure to get Lacy going in the passing game right away, throwing him the first pass of the night. Not long after that, Lacy exploded for a 56-yard touchdown catch off a screen pass.
The only negative in the offensive passing game was Cobb fumbling in the red zone near halftime. However, Cobb made up for that when he had one of the most spectacular touchdown catches of his career with 14 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Lacy’s best play of the game was on the screen pass that he took all the way for a touchdown. In the running game, Lacy was only somewhat productive, finishing with 50 yards on 14 carries (3.6 yards average).
On Green Bay’s first drive, Lacy had rushes of 0, 4, 3 and 5 yards. Lacy then had a three-yard carry on the next series and a run for minus-1 yard on the third drive. So, in the time that it took the Packers to take a 21-0 lead, Lacy had only 14 rushing yards on six carries.
The most important note from that, though, is that Lacy was in for the first three series. He didn’t rotate with James Starks. Lacy was the clear-cut featured running back. That had not been the case in most games earlier in the season.
DuJuan Harris closed out the game very well on the ground. Harris hasn’t been involved in the offense much, totaling just 31 snaps in the first eight games. But with the score well out of reach and Mike McCarthy content to just keep running it, Harris led the team with 52 yards on eight carries (6.5 average). John Kuhn added 20 yards on five rushing attempts.
So, Clay Matthews is an inside linebacker now. At least on downs that aren’t obvious passing situations. And, especially in the running game, it worked incredibly well.
Dom Capers had been searching for answers at inside linebacker all season. Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington all had their opportunities to work with A.J. Hawk, but none of them got the job done to the Packers’ liking. Lattimore was even a healthy scratch on the gameday inactive roster.
Matthews still lined up at his traditional outside linebacker spot on third-and-long plays. The move to inside linebacker might have been just what the defense needed, though, and this was easily one of the best games Matthews has played this season.
Coming into the game ranked last in the NFL in stopping the run, Green Bay held Matt Forte to 54 yards on 17 carries (3.2 average). As a team, the Bears finished with 55 rushing yards on 24 carries (2.3 average). It was the first time all year that the Packers held an opponent to less than 100 rushing yards.
It was such a difference from what Green Bay had done in the first eight games that it boosted the rushing defense in the league rankings from last (32nd) to 30th. And considering that Chicago rushed for 235 yards in the first meeting this season, yeah, this was a huge improvement for the Packers.
"With our defense, been struggling a little bit against the run, you get up two, three, four scores, the run game becomes an afterthought," Rodgers said.
Micah Hyde and Casey Hayward didn’t say it, but they were probably thinking it. "Same old Jay." Jay Cutler threw another two interceptions against Green Bay, making Charles Woodson’s comment from 2012 just as relevant now as it was then.
When the game was still close (7-0), Hyde picked off Cutler on a pass intended for Martellus Bennett. It gave the Packers the ball near the red zone, scoring a touchdown four plays later. Hayward’s interception came when the game had become a blowout, but he topped it off by returning it 82 yards for a defensive touchdown. Sam Shields nearly had an interception, too, and his would’ve also been a likely pick-six. However, Shields’ dropped interception came on fourth down, so Green Bay got the ball anyway.
When Matthews was at outside linebacker on a third-down play with the score 14-0, he sacked Cutler to end the drive. Morgan Burnett sacked Cutler on fourth down when it was 35-0.
Julius Peppers had his second strip-sack forced fumble and fumble recovery of the season. The first time came Week 3 in Detroit, and this one happened against Peppers’ former team.
Shields seemed a bit rusty after missing the past two games with a knee injury. He had a couple missed tackles, including one against Brandon Marshall that ended the Packers’ shutout. Marshall finished with eight catches for 112 yards and one touchdown.
But, as it has so often been since Cutler was traded to the Bears in 2009, this was about Green Bay’s defense getting the best of him.
There were so many positives for the Packers’ special teams early in the game, but a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Chicago’s Chris Williams took this grade down. Even though the score was 55-7 before it happened, it’s still a play that will disappoint special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum.
Other than that, this was a great performance by Slocum’s group. The Bears’ first three offensive drives started from the 6, 20 and 15 yard lines. That’s some solid kickoff coverage work by Green Bay in an area that it has really struggled in this season.
In what was perhaps the most bizarre "blocked punt" ever, Jarrett Boykin went unblocked toward punter Pat O’Donnell. Boykin got there before O’Donnell could even kick it, with Boykin’s foot actually touching the ball on its way down. O’Donnell never was able to hit it. Because of the way it happened, Boykin got credit for forcing a fumble and a loss of 12 yards rather than a blocked punt.
Mason Crosby made both of his field-goal attempts, including a 52-yarder.
The Packers beat their division rival by 41 points on national television. They embarrassed the Bears. It was a "heads should roll" type of defeat that Chicago suffered. And while the Bears deserve a ton of blame and criticism for the horrible way in which they played this game, it takes a strong opponent to force some of that. Green Bay wasn’t just handed this game. The Packers took it.
Rodgers was incredible. Lacy proved for the second game in a row that screen passes are his best friend. Nelson moved closer to being a first-team All-Pro. Cobb added more money to the contract extension he’ll eventually sign. The tight ends got involved and scored two touchdowns. The offensive line pass-blocked almost perfectly, with Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang toughing it out despite challenging injuries. The run defense was great for the first time in 2014. Matthews made a seamless transition to inside linebacker. Peppers had another huge play.
There’s not much more Green Bay could have done to make Chicago look like a completely helpless opponent.