GREEN BAY, Wis. — Lambeau Field is the greatest football stadium in the NFL.
Sorry, Heinz Field, Levi’s Stadium, AT&T Stadium, CenturyLink Field and others who would pretend to vie for the crown. Don’t even speak, Soldier Field. You are too little, too tight, too mashed up architecturally.
But maybe the beauty of this close-up, fan-friendly, oval arena comes from the splendor of watching quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Now in his 10th season (three were spent watching Hall of Famer-to-be Brett Favre play), Rodgers is to passing and game management as Eric Clapton is to guitar-playing and slow blues.
Rodgers came out for this 190th game between the Bears and Packers and shook hands with one of the game officials as he jogged through the tunnel onto the grass. Well, why not? A ref knows when he’s in the presence of greatness, like anybody else.
The Bears started the game in front of the roaring crowd of 78,292 with kick returner Chris Williams cluelessly taking the ball out from eight yards deep in the end zone and getting it back to the 12. That’s eight yards shy of where the line of scrimmage would have been if he simply had watched the ball sail away. Plus, the Bears’ Christian Jones was flagged for an illegal block. Thus, the Bears and quarterback Jay Cutler opened this prime-time game by starting at their own 6-yard line.
I bring this up because the stupidity and listlessness of the Bears began the moment they entered this game. Playing with anything less than passion, skill and knowledge at Lambeau means you soon will become a sacrificial lamb on Rodgers’ altar.
The Bears weren’t even lambs. They were more like pre-packaged lamb chops wrapped in cellophane, little breaded dipsticks ready for heating and gorging upon.
And Rodgers was the chef. He started immediately, masterly slicing and dicing the Bears’ defense on the first drive, going 7-for-8 and finishing with a one-yard touchdown pass to third-string tight end Brandon Bostick. That gave the Packers a 7-0 lead, and the game essentially was over.
There was 8:43 gone, and the Bears would have been better off waving a little white flag — maybe a napkin — and driving back down I-43 to Chicago. Conceding. Doing a mercy killing on themselves, calling a slaughter-rule infraction and slinking into the Wisconsin night. Because Rodgers had just begun.
The Packers’ second drive ended with a four-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to tight end Andrew Quarless. Their third drive ended with a 73-yard scoring pass from Rodgers to receiver Jordy Nelson. That was notable because it was Rodgers’ 16th career touchdown pass of 70 yards or longer, setting an NFL record.
Nelson had more than 100 yards receiving, and the second quarter had just begun. If there were Bears defenders on the field, they resembled highway cones more than humans. This was something to keep your children from seeing, if they have any pride in Chicago and are worried about Packer jersey wearing bullies in their schools.
The Packers’ fourth drive culminated in a 40-yard scoring pass from Rodgers to Nelson, making the score 28-0. Their fifth drive ended with running back Eddie Lacy taking short flip from Rodgers and turning it into a 56-yard touchdown for a 35-0 lead.
On the Packers’ next drive, Bears cornerback Tim Jennings simply tackled Nelson far downfield rather than give up a another humdinger of a touchdown. It was an astounding 53-yard pass-interference penalty. The Packers didn’t score that time, but only because receiver Randall Cobb fumbled into the end zone.
But what we had here was something almost symbolic of deer-hunting season. The Bears became sausage, run through the big crank blender known as Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood.
This was blood sport, a veritable slaughter.
As Rodgers drove his team toward the goal line one more time, with only seconds left in the first half, you wondered whether the Packers could hang 42 points on the Bears in only two quarters or whether they would show some decency and not make Cutler wonder why he even was dressed in a uniform, given how badly he was playing. Intercepted, off-target, sacked, crunched and giving up a fumble — he did it all. Terribly. And in the light shone by Rodgers, he should have slunk into the night.
He didn’t. And the Packers did get 42 points in one half. And Rodgers did pass for six touchdowns in a franchise-record-tying performance.
The blood was everywhere. And the butchery was enough to make one gag forever.