Aaron Rodgers’ absence still has Bears’ ‘D’ on alert vs. Brett Hundley

SHARE Aaron Rodgers’ absence still has Bears’ ‘D’ on alert vs. Brett Hundley

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) celebrates a touchdown pass against the Bears in a 35-14 victory at Lambeau Field on Sept. 28. Rodgers has thrown 42 touchdown passes and nine interceptions in 19 regular-season games against the Bears. | Matt Ludtke/AP photo.

The last time he played the Packers without Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara couldn’t help but think the obvious — what a break.

“It’s like we have a chance,” said Amukamara, who was a starter with the Giants in 2013, when they faced Scott Tolzien and the Packers at the Meadowlands. “We had a chance before. But our chances are [better] now. If we didn’t [have a chance] before, we do now.”


Joe Fortunato, three-time All-Pro and NFL champ in ’63, dies at 87

Bears’ TE depth tested with Dion Sims still sidelined by illness

And then in the second quarter, Tolzien burned Amukamara deep for a 45-yard pass to James Jones.

“I was like, ‘God! Even though Aaron’s not here, it still happened,’ ” Amukamara said.

Tolzien later burned former Bear Trumaine McBride for a 52-yard deep ball and threw for 311 yards overall. But by then, the reality had set in. Tolzien was not Rodgers. He was intercepted three times and did not throw a touchdown pass, and the Giants won 27-13.

The Bears know they’re getting a huge break in facing the Packers without Rodgers. The two-time league MVP is 15-3 against them in regular-season games he has started and finished, with 42 touchdown passes and nine interceptions for a 107.2 passer rating. The Bears never have faced Brett Hundley, who will be making his third NFL start.

“I’m not disappointed,” linebacker Pernell McPhee said. “I hope Rodgers has a speedy recovery. He’s a legend in this game. I’d rather play Brett than Aaron.”

Who wouldn’t? The Packers are a different team when they don’t have Rodgers at quarterback. In games in which Rodgers starts and finishes, the Packers are 94-44 (.681). They’re 2-10-1 (.192) in games he either does not start or finish because of injury, including 0-3 this season after Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone in the first quarter against the Vikings in Week 6.

The Packers have had an uncanny resilience — often on both sides of the ball —when Rodgers is at the helm. With a makeshift offensive line that was missing starting tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari, they crushed the Bears 35-14 in Week 4. But without Rodgers, their magic touch has dissipated. The Packers had lopsided time-of-possession disparities in losses to the Saints (23:04-36:56) and Lions (23:05-36:55). And their defense has not stepped up, allowing 26 points to the Saints and 30 to the Lions.

“We respect every opponent we face,” Amukamara said. “[Hundley] still does pose a threat with his feet. But, yeah, it’s not a knock on Hundley. Just no one in this league is like [No.] 12.”

Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson has six touchdown receptions in four games with Rodgers but none in three games with Hundley.

“Nobody’s on the same page as much as those two are,” Amukamara said. “Those two, with the back-shoulder fades, the scramble drill, whether he comes up or comes back down . . . the fact that Nelson and Hundley probably don’t have that same chemistry as him and Aaron did, I think that helps us.”

But the Bears aren’t going to allow themselves a sigh of relief that they’re not facing Rodgers.

“I hear what you’re saying, but, no, not at all,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said. “This guy can sling the ball just like anybody else in this league. He’s not Aaron Rodgers. But he’s still a quarterback that’s good enough to be in the NFL. I think you have to prepare yourself accordingly.”

But it can be a little bit of a mind game. They know they’re not facing Rodgers.

“You’ve got to protect your mind,” linebacker Sam Acho said. “Otherwise, you’re sitting there [thinking], ‘This is our chance.’ And then you go out and lose by 100 points.”

Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

The Latest
Too often, insurers deny coverage for genetic tests that have been established as a standard of modern health care and can have a significant impact on people’s lives.
Her boyfriend’s family watched him pop the question, and woman’s aunt is hurt that she wasn’t invited too.
Some Democrats issued statements of strong support for the vice president, others stayed mum, for now — with just weeks to go before the Democratic National Convention kicks off in Chicago on Aug. 19.
The band is now making money on the road, a turn that vocalist Katie Gavin calls ‘a game-changer.’