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Defense Delivers Knockout to Punchless Bears

Running back David Montgomery gave the Packers all sorts of troubles but Justin Fields was overmatched against Jaire Alexander and Co.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – It wasn’t quite the shutout that Jaire Alexander was hoping for, but the Green Bay Packers’ defense played much closer to its lofty standard in a 27-10 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday night.

Twice, the defense rose to the occasion.

The first time came early. After the Bears raced down the field for an opening-drive touchdown, Green Bay’s defense stomped on the brakes and sent the Bears into reverse. Chicago’s next five possessions all failed to gain a first down. By net yardage, the Bears gained 10 yards in 13 plays.

“We got smacked in the mouth and then came back out and responded,” defensive tackle Kenny Clark said.

The second time came midway through the fourth quarter. With Green Bay leading 24-10, the Bears drove from their 10-yard line to within just inches of the end zone. On fourth down, Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy called for a shotgun keeper by quarterback Justin Fields. He was swarmed by Green Bay’s defense. Preston Smith and Jarran Reed were given credit for the tackle. De’Vondre Campbell was in the middle of the pile. Alexander helped push Fields away from the goal line before the whistle blew.

“I think they tried to run a quarterback power, leading with the running back, and guys were just playing sound football, playing violent up front, disengagement of blocks, get some knock-back and making the tackle to stop them from getting in,” Smith said.

The play survived a Bears challenge. Fields was incredibly close to scoring but the ball wasn’t visible in the replays.

“All I told (defensive coordinator) Joe Barry was get a two-point play ready to defend, because I couldn’t tell,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “I think whatever way the officials ruled it, it would’ve stood.”

The Bears could have given the ball to running back David Montgomery, who was just as dominant as Green Bay’s Aaron Jones throughout the game (122 rushing yards, 8.1 average) and on that drive (runs of 14 and 28 with a total of four broken tackles on those plays).

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“I like it, and the coaches like it, and we practiced it and repped it because you outnumber the box,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said. “You are using your quarterback as a runner and you have an additional blocker, and so you like your numbers in the box there. So, that is why we called it. It was the best play we had there at the time.”

The stop highlighted a night in which the Packers’ defense won 7-of-8 plays on third or fourth down.

“I knew he was a running quarterback, but we had never seen that play on tape,” Campbell said. “It was something different, and I think we did a good job of defending it.”

Green Bay’s run defense was terrible, with Montgomery, Khalil Herbert and Fields combining for 180 rushing yards and a 6.7 average. The pass defense, however, was tremendous. Now, to be sure, Fields isn’t Kirk Cousins. And Darnell Mooney isn’t Justin Jefferson. But Fields finished with merely 48 net passing yards and Mooney, who topped 1,000 yards last year, caught just one pass for minus-4 yards.

After a 30-yard flea-flicker pass to Equanimeous St. Brown on the opening drive, the Packers allowed just one completion of longer than 7 yards the rest of the game. During the second half, Chicago had only 5 net passing yards.

“I think that today our secondary came to play and we communicated,” Alexander said. “We’ve got to stop the run a little bit better, though. As far as passing, I think we were all on the same page and it was much better than last week.”

Alexander put the exclamation mark on the evening with an interception.

“I was like, ‘I’ve been waiting all game for this,” he said. “They had gotten me on the flea flicker. I was like, ‘I need something else.’ I was getting ready to let that route go and then something told me to just stay with it.”

The challenge will be heightened infinitely next week when the Packers play at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fields is 3-9 for his career as a starter with nine touchdowns. The legendary Tom Brady has thrown 85 touchdowns while losing nine games since the start of the 2020 season.

“We set high goals for ourselves in that room,” Alexander said. “We want to be the best secondary in the league. It’s a long season. So, at the end of the year, we want to be the best and we’re just taking the steps towards it.”