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Packers QB Aaron Rodgers returns from injury to bury Bears, 24-23

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws during the second half. | Jeffrey Phelps, AP photo

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Matt Nagy started off in the T-formation.

But it was Aaron Rodgers who thrilled the nation.

The Packers quarterback added a dramatic chapter to the Bears rivalry. After injuring his left knee in the second quarter — he was able to walk off the field but was then carted to the locker room — he returned to play the second half, rallying the Packers from a 20-0 deficit to beat the Bears 24-23 on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

He was part “Terminator,” part Willis Reed, leading the Packers to one field goal and three touchdown drives, including the final, crushing blow, a 75-yard catch and run by Randall Cobb with 2:13 to play to give the Packers their first lead.

The score came two plays after cornerback Kyle Fuller, who the Packers wooed this offseason, dropped a sure-fire interception that would have sealed the game.

The result was a crushing blow to Nagy, whose last important game ended similarly.

With Nagy as offensive coordinator, the Chiefs led 21-3 against the Titans in last year’s AFC wild-card game before losing by one. Nagy, who was shaken even as he prepared to interview with the Bears the next day, vowed not to make the same mistake twice.

Sunday night, in his first game as head coach, he did.

“When you have a lead, there’s the balance . . . of, are you not aggressive enough?” he said. “Again, you were getting good yards running the ball, so that’s what we were doing. And I felt like in the third quarter we weren’t as efficient on third down, which we’ll go back and look at it. I’ll use it myself, for our team, in trying to improve us.’’

The Bears failed on third-and-one and third-and-two in the fourth quarter. Nagy and quarterback Mitch Trubisky said they expected the Packers to play man coverage in short-yardage situations. They played zone instead.

Nagy — who ran the team’s first play out of the T-formation as a nod to Bears history — seemed like a genius in the first half. The Bears scored a two-yard touchdown on their first drive after he lined left tackle Charles Leno up as a receiver and ran Mitch Trubisky behind the man blocking in his place, tight end Dion Sims.

The Bears added a field goal, a Khalil Mack pick-six (against backup QB DeShone Kizer) and another field goal to go up 20-0 six minutes into the third quarter. The Packers scored 24 of the final 27 points.

“Aaron Rodgers is a great quarterback,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said. “Aaron Rodgers is going to be a great quarterback for a long time in this league. But I’m afraid I’m a defensive lineman and I can’t just give him everything.”

The Bears gave him more.

“You realize how tough this game is,” Trubisky said. “I don’t even know what type of injury he had, but he came back into the game. It seemed like he was just wobbling around, throwing on one leg and able to find completions.”


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With the one-point lead, the Packers thought they had sealed the victory twice. When Trubisky threw an incomplete pass on fourth down with about 90 seconds to play, the crowd erupted, thinking the Packers had won. But Clay Matthews was flagged for roughing the passer. Five plays later, Trubisky was sacked on fourth down with 58 seconds left to kill any last hope.

Rodgers, who will have further testing on his knee, said he was in pain and expected to have further tests Monday.

“I’m really proud of our team,” he said. “After it was decided I was going to come back, I knew it might give us a little jolt.”