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Early shoulder injury to QB Rodgers puts Bears at competitive advantage

Updated: November 5, 2013 7:45AM



GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Bears had sympathy for Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But only so much.

‘‘Man, we don’t care who’s in the game,’’ said Bears defensive end Julius Peppers. ‘‘We wish him a speedy recovery and all that. But we didn’t have Jay [Cutler] in the game. Or Lance [Briggs]. We had guys out.’’

But there was no denying that Rodgers’ absence after suffering a shoulder injury in the first quarter made a difference. Rodgers came in 8-2 against the Bears with 19 touchdowns, six interceptions and a 102.6 passer rating. His replacement, journeyman Seneca Wallace, was 11-for-19 for 114 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and a 53.4 rating. That’s pretty significant.

‘‘Right,’’ Peppers said. ‘‘But who cares?’’

The Bears sure don’t after beating the Packers 27-20 on Monday night at Lambeau Field. Rodgers was 1-for-2 for 27 yards in seven snaps before he suffered the injury when Shea McClellin sacked him to force the Packers to settle for Mason Crosby’s 30-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead. He never returned.

‘‘That was huge,’’ Bears safety Chris Conte said. ‘‘I think we played him pretty well when he was in there. We held them to a field goal on that first drive. But when he got hurt, they committed to the run. It would have been a different game had he not gotten hurt.’’

Wallace, 33, is 6-15 as a starter in eight NFL seasons and had not thrown a pass in a regular-season NFL game since 2011. Suddenly, Josh McCown was the best quarterback on the field — certainly the most prepared quarterback on the field. It tilted the game in the Bears’ favor.

‘‘Of course,’’ Conte said. ‘‘He’s an awesome player. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league. If he’s not in there, it’s helping us and hurting them. You never want to see a guy like that get hurt. You want their best effort. But it definitely was something that helped us win the game.’’

The Packers relied on running back Eddie Lacy, who had six carries in the first seven plays with Wallace at quarterback. But Rodgers’ absence was soon felt. Wallace was 0-for-3 on third-down passes in the second quarter as the Packers fell behind 14-10. And the Packers were 1-for-9 on third-down conversions for the game. A week ago, Rodgers was 10-of-10 for 172 yards and two touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 rating on third down. And the Packers were 13-of-18 for the game.

On short notice, Wallace was far from perfect. And not even close to Aaron Rodgers.

‘‘That’s the nature of the game,’’ Bears cornerback Tim Jennings said. ‘‘I think it put more pressure on them, because they had practiced with Aaron Rodgers all week. We just had to adjust on the fly and we put eight in the box to stop the run. We made the proper adjustments to slow them down.’’

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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