1st-and-10: Packers have Aaron Rodgers, but Bears have hope in Justin Fields
This looks like it’s going to be a long process. But Fields also presents the prospect of a breakthrough performance against a quality team.
In March, the prospect of Andy Dalton vs. Jordan Love against the Packers was looking pretty good to Bears fans. But Justin Fields vs. Aaron Rodgers is not a bad alternative.
The specter of facing Rodgers is as daunting as ever. The three-time league MVP has a 114.7 passer rating — with 10 touchdown passes and one interception — since a disastrous performance in the Packers’ 38-3 loss to the Saints in the season opener. And Bears fans can recite by heart Rodgers’ record against the Bears — 20-4 with a 107.2 passer rating (55 touchdowns, 10 interceptions) in regular-season games he started and finished. Plus the NFC Championship Game loss.
But Fields provides hope regardless of the outcome. No matter how painfully Rodgers might torture the Bears on Sunday — five or six touchdown passes in a first-half beat-down, an uncanny late throw to win a tight game — if Fields is still standing at the end, the Bears have real hope that someday that torment will end and better days are ahead.
We’re still at the cherry-picking stage of that process with Fields — a well-thrown deep ball to Allen Robinson, a third-down dart to Darnell Mooney, an athletic recovery of his own fumble and an 11-yard scramble for a third-and-four conversion serving as evidence of future greatness.
The big numbers have yet to come — 209 passing yards against the Lions; 111 against the Raiders. Four rushes for 14 yards. This looks like it’s going to be a long process. But Fields also presents the prospect of a breakthrough performance against a quality team. That’s the fun of watching Fields at this point — and underscores the importance of Matt Nagy’s decision to make him the full-time starter: You never know when it’s going to happen, but it could happen at any time.
2a. For the record, Fields will be the eighth Bears quarterback to start against Rodgers and the first rookie. Mitch Trubisky’s lone start against the Packers in his rookie season of 2017 came against Brett Hundley, a 23-16 loss at Soldier Field.
Trubisky was 1-6 against the Packers. The lone victory came at the absolute peak of the Nagy era in 2018 — a 24-17 victory at Soldier Field after beating the 11-1 Rams the previous week.
The others: Mike Glennon (0-1), Matt Barkley (0-1), Brian Hoyer (0-1), Jay Cutler (2-11), Josh McCown (1-1) and Kyle Orton (1-1).
2b. The last Bears quarterback with a winning record against the Packers is Brian Griese (1-0), who threw two touchdown passes in a 27-20 victory over Brett Favre and the Packers at Lambeau Field in 2007.
3. The worst part about a rookie’s first Packer Week is when we prod him to gin up some sudden understanding of the Bears-Packers rivalry and hatred for the Packers when he’s never, ever been a part of it.
For what it’s worth, when Fields played at Ohio State, he was 1-0 against Michigan — 14-of-25 for 302 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in a 56-27 rout of the Wolverines in 2019 at Michigan Stadium.
4. With former Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine on Nagy’s staff, the Bears would seem to have as much useful and relevant intelligence on the Packers’ defense as they’ve had in recent years.
“He’ll have his input on what he sees and what he thinks and that sort of thing,” Nagy said. “But if it’s something we think we want to use, we’re obviously going to use it.”
Nagy also said Pettine’s knowledge could come in handy on the other side of the ball. “He’s [gone] against their offense and that quarterback [Rodgers] the whole time, so there might be some things,” Nagy said.
The key is not to over-think it and out-smart yourself.
“You’ve got to be careful. You start getting into the whole thing of this and that and before you know it …” Nagy said. “He’ll do a good job of helping us out in certain things.”
5. Packers coach Matt LaFleur took the blame for a miscommunication that led to Tom Brady’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Scotty Miller with one second left in the first half in a 31-26 loss to the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game — but still let Pettine go after the Packers’ defense finished ninth in yards and 13th in scoring last season.
The Packers’ were shaky in their opener under new defensive coordinator Joe Barry, but have recovered since then — even without leading pass-rusher Za’Darius Smith, who was put on injured reserve after Week 1 with a back injury.
Over the past four weeks, the Packers are second in takeaways (eight), seventh in yards (322.8 per game) and 10th in scoring defense (21 points per game). But they are also without cornerback Jaire Alexander, who was put on IR last week with a shoulder injury.
6. The biggest play for Fields — and the Bears’ offense — was Fields’ 13-yard bullet to Mooney to convert a third-and-12 situation with the Bears leading 14-9 with 7:26 left in the fourth quarter. How many times do the Bears throw a yard short of the first-down marker on a play like that?
7. With a pair of 46-yard field goals in the fourth quarter, Cairo Santos has made 34 consecutive field goals — 10th on the NFL’s all-time last and 10 away from Adam Vinatieri’s record of 44.
But after kickers missed 13 PATs in Week 5, Santos’ store of 25 consecutive PATs is not to be overlooked. Santos, in fact, has made 43 consecutive kicks (18 field goals, 25 PATs) and 75 of 76 (98.7%) since he missed a 46-yard field goal attempt against the Falcons in Week 3 last season.
8. Bits and pieces: NFL kickers were better from 50-59 yards in Week 5 (11-of-12, 91.7%) than on 33-yard PATs (63-of-76, 82.9%). … With Danny Trevathan active, Alec Ogletree still started vs. the Raiders. Trevathan played 10 snaps on defense. … Former Bear Nick Kwiatkoski, whom the Bears let go in free agency in 2020 to re-sign Trevathan, played 12 snaps off the bench for the Raiders. … Sunday’s game marked the first time in NFL history that two Gipsons had sacks in the same game — Bears linebacker Trevis Gipson and safety Tashaun Gipson. … Khalil Mack also had a sack as the Bears moved up to first in the NFL in sacks per pass play. … In his last 13 games against the Bears, Aaron Rodgers has thrown 34 touchdown passes and two interceptions — Tracy Porter (2015) and Eddie Jackson (2018) have the picks.
9. Josh McCown Ex-Bear of the Week: Falcons running back Mike Davis scored on a three-yard with 2:19 left in the fourth quarter to all but clinch a 27-20 victory over the Jets at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. Davis had 13 carries for 53 yards (4.1 avg.) including a 17-yard gain.
10. Bear-ometer: 8-9 —vs. Packers (L); at Buccaneers (L); vs. 49ers (W); at Steelers (W); vs. Ravens (L); at Lions (W); vs. Cardinals (L); at Packers (L); vs. Vikings (W); at Seahawks (L); vs. Giants (W); at Vikings (L).