Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been perfect.
The Bears, playing for their playoff lives, have not, and trail their rivals 21-13 at halftime. The Bears must win Sunday’s game or hope the Rams beat the Cardinals in order for them to make the playoffs. The Rams lead the Cardinals 12-7 at halftime.
The Packers, meanwhile, are playing for the No. 1 seed and a first-round playoff bye. Rodgers is making his case for the NFL MVP, too. The Packers have scored a touchdown all three times he’s taken possession. Rodgers is 10-for-10 for 155 yards, three passing touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
He’s tortured a Bears defense depleted by the loss of, at least this season, their best player. Roquan Smith, a candidate to be an all-pro inside linebacker, went to the locker room after hurting his left elbow on the Packers’ first possession. He returned to the sideline but hasn’t played since.
The Bears got off to a dream start, though it started with a hiccup. Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson chased the opening kickoff as it bounced at the 1 yard line along the left sideline. As his feet slid out of bounds, he corralled the kick.
Rather than spot the ball at the 1, officials ruled that, because he was standing out of bounds when he caught the bounce, the Packers would be penalized for kicking it out of play. Packers coach Matt LaFleur challenged the call and lost, and the Bears got the ball at the 40.
The Bears took their time going the next 60 yards. They played “keep-away-from-Rodgers” to the tune of a 14-play, 60-yard touchdown drive. Head coach Matt Nagy was aggressive when it counted. Rather than lining up a 49-yard field goal, quarterback Mitch Trubisky threw a seven-yard slant pass to Anthony Miller on fourth-and-3 from the Packers’ 31.
David Montgomery, who left the game with an apparent knee injury but returned just minutes later, plunged for a two-yard score to give the Bears the lead.
The Packers converted their own fourth down — with the help of a flag — on their first possession. On fourth-and-4 from the Bears’ 23, Rodgers threw toward Davante Adams in the end zone. Duke Shelley was called for pass interference — he grabbed Adams’ jersey — and the Packers got first-and-goal at the 7. Two plays later, Rodgers found tight end Robert Tonyan, a McHenry HIgh School alum, for a three-yard touchdown to tie the game.
The Bears punted quickly on their second possession — but then got the ball back seconds later, when Packers punt returner Tavon Austin fumbled. #Bears safety DeAndre Houston-Carson dove on the ball at the 20. Cairo Santos kicked a 30-yard field goal after the Bears ran the ball for one yard on third-and-3.
The Packers didn’t take long to take the lead. On third-and-4 from their own 28, Rodgers caught the Bears in a slow-developing blitz. Speedster Marquez Valdes-Scantling outran Danny Trevathan down the right seam, caught a pass in stride and scored a 72-yard touchdown.
The Packers’ third touchdown was easier than their first two — but they still made it too hard. Rookie tight end Cole Kmet fumbled at the Bears’ 22. The Packers lost 20 yards because of offensive penalties but pulled ahead 21-10 when Rodgers found Dominique Dafney for a 13-yard score with about four minutes to play.
The Bears drove deliberately down the field on their next drive. They got as far as the 9 before Trubisky threw an incomplete pass in the end zone. With 6 seconds left and no timeouts to their name, the Bears sent out Cairo Santos for a 27-yard field goal with 3 seconds to play.
Measuring up: Mayoral field swells to 11 with Lightfoot, Garcia, other late filers — but now battle begins to cut that number down