Aaron Rodgers or not, Bears will take the victory
BY RICK MORRISSEY Staff Columnist November 4, 2013 10:12PM
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Updated: November 5, 2013 1:24PM
GREEN BAY – If you were a Bears fan brave enough to sit inside Lambeau Field on Monday, I’m guessing you expected to spend most of the night in mid-flinch. I’d further speculate that your concerns had less to do with Packers fans in mid-noogie and more to do with the possibility of Bears defenders in mid-embarrassment.
Aaron Rodgers versus a leaky Bears’ defense was not going to end well for the visitors from Chicago. Everybody knew that. Even the truest true believers in this beat-up, patched-together defense must have known it.
The only question was how bad it would be. If that sounds cruel or ghoulish, sorry. The NFL is a world devoid of mercy. The Bears were starting two rookie linebackers, Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene, and Greene was making his first NFL start. Did we mention they were playing against Rodgers, a former NFL and Super Bowl most valuable player? Chum meet shark.
Yeah, well, about that.
Rodgers left the game with a left shoulder injury in the first quarter, thanks to a sack by defensive end Shea McClellin. He did not come back. It was shocking for no other reason than it didn’t seem possible the Bears’ defense could hurt anybody. This was opportunity knocking and a gift from above all wrapped into one cliche.
“You obviously understand the nature of the game and the impact that (Rodgers) has on the game,’’ Bears quarterback Josh McCown said. “When that player’s not on the field, your odds of winning probably increase.’’
Probably, as in absolutely.
Seneca Wallace, who hadn’t played since 2011, took Rodgers’ place. It should have meant that the Bears and the Packers were even, what with McCown filling in for the injured Jay Cutler.
But McCown was great Monday night. That’s an unqualified “great’’ too. He made every throw he needed to make. He avoided throws that put his team at risk. He was smart and good, all with a howling Lambeau Field wishing him ill will.
“He just stayed in the pocket, calm and cool as a summer’s day,’’ tackle Jordan Mills said.
So McCown and Wallace even? Not even close. The Bears beat the Packers 27-20 because one backup was a lot better than the other. That’s it. There is no bigger meaning to the game. The Bears’ run defense is no better than when it started the night, and the team still has a lot to overcome.
But a victory is a victory. There is no asterisk denoting Rodgers’ absence. And the Bears’ defense had enough to stop Wallace and the Packers on a final drive.
McCown completed 22 of 41 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns. Wallace, with 114 passing yards, was a footnote.
There will still be unsettling memories of Eddie Lacy and James Starks running through Bears’ defenders all night. Lacy had first-quarter runs of 18 and eight yards in which he carried tacklers with him like luggage. In the third quarter, the rookie had a 56-yard run with nothing to carry except the ball.
Starks took a 32-yard touchdown run in the first quarter that was notable for how discombobulated the Bears’ defense looked on that one play. He didn’t get touched until he got to the secondary. That’s not supposed to happen in the NFL.
The best thing the Bears had going for them was the Packers’ insistence on passing the ball in the second half, even though Lacy (150 yards) was having so much success running the ball. I thought they were supposed to be the smart team.
There were signs of life out of the Bears’ defensive line. Julius Peppers had an interception and a sack. McClellin had three sacks, none more important than his takedown and removal of Rodgers. It was huge for someone who has been almost invisible since the Bears drafted him in the first round last year. And it was huge for a defensive line that came into the game with four sacks all season. It left with five more.
“We definitely felt some pressure on us,’’ McClellin said. “We needed a game like this where we kind of stepped up.’’
I wouldn’t be surprised if several Bears shed a tear or two of joy at the sight of Rodgers leaving the field and their field of vision. It made all the difference Monday night. With him, the Packers win, no matter how well McCown plays. Without him, there was Seneca Wallace and a Bears’ victory.