Forget the score, Bears OLB Leonard Floyd had his breakout game
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers, meet Leonard Floyd. He’s the athletic, rangy guy the Bears drafted in the first round this year to chase you around and put you on your behind.
As Thursday showed, that chase is on.
‘‘It gave me confidence,’’ Floyd said of his performance. ‘‘I’m ready to play the next game.’’
It was a noteworthy night for the Bears at Lambeau Field, and it had little to do with their 26-10 loss to the Packers.
Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee was activated from the physically unable-to-perform list and played, quarterback Brian Hoyer suffered a broken left arm and right guard Kyle Long was removed from the game in the second quarter after he injured his arm.
But it also was Floyd’s breakout night. It doesn’t matter that the Bears lost to the Packers. Any outrage should be reserved when Matt Barkley is in at quarterback. The Bears have more injuries than there are letters in the alphabet.
But it does matter that Floyd finally showed why the Bears traded up to draft him with the ninth overall pick. His athleticism makes him an intriguing foil for Rodgers and his elusive ways.
‘‘At the end of the day, I wanted the ‘W,’ so I’m pretty down about that,’’ Floyd said.
In the third quarter, Floyd lined up inside, raced around outside linebacker Willie Young, struck Rodgers, forced him to fumble and recovered the ball in end zone.
‘‘It came from Willie setting a good pick for me on the guard,’’ Floyd said. ‘‘It was just effort.’’
It was a feel-good moment in a rough night overall for the Bears. Floyd also sacked Rodgers in the second quarter, and Rodgers barely escaped his grasp in the first.
All of it was encouraging for Floyd. He not only had missed the last two games because of a nagging calf injury, but his struggles were becoming alarming.
The Bears need Floyd to be healthy and productive. As a top-10 pick, he needs to show up on the stat sheet. And he did that against Rodgers and rival Packers.
‘‘I just let it loose,’’ Floyd said. ‘‘I went out and played hard. The plays were there, and I made them.’’
Floyd’s big night overshadowed the return of McPhee, who had a slow and arduous recovery after having surgery on his left knee in February.
It wasn’t surprising that McPhee played this season because his football movements had improved in the last few weeks. The surprise was that he played without really practicing at all. He returned to practice last Friday, which was the first day he could participate because he was on the PUP list.
At the very least, the Bears’ decision to activate McPhee from the PUP list was a sign they aren’t throwing in the proverbial towel.
McPhee was limited, but he was on the field during crucial moments in the first half, including the Bears’ goal-line stop of receiver-turned-running back Ty Montgomery on fourth down late in the first quarter.
McPhee also was one of the pass rushers during the Packers’ final plays of the first half, when the Bears held them to a field goal. On his very first play, McPhee avoided a cut block by right tackle Bryan Bulaga.
‘‘I was just a little rusty, man,’’ McPhee said. ‘‘But in due time, I’ll get back right. I was just happy to be out there, man.’’
Floyd was looking forward to playing with McPhee. From the moment Floyd was drafted, the Bears envisioned his speed as
the perfect complement to McPhee’s power.
‘‘It definitely was a morale boost,’’ Floyd said. ‘‘The whole team was energized and ready to play.’’
McPhee said he was in Floyd’s ear all night. He had a message for him.
‘‘Don’t be no robot; just be yourself and go out and make plays,’’ McPhee said. ‘‘They drafted him No. 9 overall for a reason. Just be yourself. That’s it.’’