Jordy Nelson was the first person inside Soldier Field that knew Aaron Rodgers was about to, with a flick of his right wrist Sunday, once again rip the Bears’ hearts out.
The Packers quarterback added Cre’Von LeBlanc to his list of Bears victims — alongside Chris Conte and others —by hitting Nelson on a 60-yard post on third-and-11 from the Packers’ own 26 with 36 seconds left.
One spike and a 32-yard Mason Crosby field goal later, and the Packers won, 30-27, to drop the Bears to 3-11.
“It hurts,” LeBlanc said. “It hurts deep.”
They went deep.
Nelson lined up on the left flank across LeBlanc, who gave him a seven-yard cushion and played off his inside shoulder. He was in quarters coverage. Rodgers saw Bush square his shoulders and chase Davante Adams’ deep crossing route — as he was assigned — clearing the way for one-on-one coverage in the deep post.
Before he reached the 50-yard line, Nelson threw his left arm in the air. The receiver was open — by about three steps.
Rodgers sidestepped left and lofted a pass that landed in Nelson’s arms at the 22-yard line with 28 seconds left.
“Great ball, great throw,” LeBlanc said. “Aaron Rodgers led him.”
The Packers played backyard football all day, with mixed results, as Rodgers improvised despite a calf injury that kept him from practicing all week. Bears coach John Fox seemed dubious the quarterback was hobbled, though Rodgers struggled after leading the Packers to a touchdown drive on their first series. He went 19-for-32 for 252 yards, no scores and was sacked four times.
Porter warned his teammates to “kinda keep their antennas up” in the huddle during the Packers’ injury timeout right before the Nelson catch. He suspected they’d throw deep, wanting no part of overtime against a Bears team that rallied from 17 down in the fourth quarter.
Fox said he was being aggressive by refusing a 10-second run-off offered as part of the injury timeout. He wanted his offense to have that time if they stopped the Packers on third-and-11.
LeBlanc heard Porter’s alert. The rookie, who a week earlier returned a Matthew Stafford interception for a touchdown, said he should have challenged Nelson at the line of scrimmage and not let the receiver get behind him.
“Pretty good ball by No. 12,” Fox said. “He can do that.”
Neither the play call nor the execution was a surprise. Porter guessed maybe two other NFL quarterbacks — Tom Brady and Drew Brees — could have made the throw.
Those familiar with the Bears-Packers rivalry, which moved to exactly .500 on Sunday, would concur. That Rodgers exploited perhaps the Bears’ worst unit — Fox admitted the defensive backs have “done all they can to give us their best” — was also fitting.
In fact, the coach almost foretold the play earlier this week, referencing a 48-yard Marvin Jones catch the Bears allowed on third-and-16 in the second quarter against the Lions.
“That’s something you need to avoid,” he said then. “Those types of things can cause you not to win.”