CHICAGO – It’s early, but it looks like it’s going to be a two-horse race in the NFC North.
After Detroit stunned Minnesota by rallying from a 20-0 deficit in the early games, the Green Bay Packers held off the rival Chicago Bears on Sunday afternoon, winning 27-17 at Soldier Field. That puts the Packers and Lions at 3-0, with Chicago 1-2 after hosting the NFC Championship Game last season.
Aaron Rodgers had another Aaron Rodgers type of game, with three touchdown passes. All of them were to Jermichael Finley, the last of which was a 10-yarder on third-and-9 that gave Green Bay a 27-10 lead with 12:49 remaining in regulation.
Morgan Burnett’s second interception of the game on the ensuing drive appeared to the clincher, but James Starks’ first career fumble on the next play gave the Bears the ball at the Packers’ 32, and Jay Cutler hit Kellen Davis for a touchdown to make it a game with 11:46 to go. The next Packers drive ended with a superior interception by Brian Urlacher as Rodgers tried to throw a quick pass to Finley. However, the Bears went nowhere and forced a punt. They had one more legit shot with 3:55 remaining but Sam Shields’ breakup of a fourth-and-5 pass to Johnny Knox essentially ended the game.
The Packers’ maligned defense sacked Cutler three times, forced two turnovers and held the Bears to 4 rushing yards and 3-of-11 on third down.
The first half looked a lot like last year’s NFC Championship Game, with the Packers winning the toss and moving through the vaunted Bears defense like a seven-on-seven drill. With Rodgers hitting Greg Jennings four times, the Packers marched 80 yards in eight plays to grab a 7-0 lead. The score, a 6-yard laser to Finley, came on first-and-goal, with Finley burning safety Brandon Meriweather and Rodgers’ rocket of a pass whizzing past cornerback Charles Tillman.
The Packers made it 14-0 3 minutes into the second quarter, with Finley again doing the honors after a big third-down conversion. On third-and-2, Rodgers threw a back-shoulder pass to Finley against Craig Steltz for a 24-yard completion. One play later, Rodgers rolled to his right. Finley was covered by Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs but broke back inside, with Rodgers’ low throw resulting in a 7-yard touchdown.
In between those touchdown drives, the Packers lost right tackle Bryan Bulaga to an injured left knee. Coach Mike McCarthy went conservative with Marshall Newhouse in the game, with a reliance on short passes and draw plays.
The Bears stayed in the game with some big plays, with Cutler throwing for 180 yards and a touchdown in the first half against the league’s worst pass defense to keep it a 17-10 game at the break.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.