GREEN BAY, Wis. – All week, Matt LaFleur built up the power of the Chicago Bears defense.
“I think it’s the best defense we’ve played,” LaFleur said on Friday.
On Sunday night, the Green Bay Packers’ historic 100th victory in the ancient series, LaFleur’s club beat the Bears every way imaginable. Aaron Rodgers led a dominant offensive performance and the defense provided three takeaways and scored a touchdown to power a 41-25 rout.
Green Bay improved to 8-3 on the season, with Rodgers improving his regular-season record against the Chicago to an overpowering 19-5 on the strength of 51 touchdowns vs. 10 interceptions. Chicago lost its fifth straight to tumble to 5-6 as the Packers extended their NFC North lead to three games with five games to go.
“I like where we’re at,” Rodgers said. “Last week was a tough one to lose in overtime to a good football team, but to bounce back against a division rival in a game that could really put us in the driver’s seat, we played the way we need to play. I said before the game, and I believe it, if you want to be a great team, these are the games you’ve got to win. I thought we went out there and set the tone on offense and handled the line of scrimmage and were efficient throwing the ball and stayed steady the entire game. Obviously, our defense coming up with some big plays. To go three up with five games left puts us in really good position for our first goal, which is winning the North.”
Green Bay led 27-3 at one point in the first half. The first-half offensive performance seemed flawless. Its three possessions all ended in Rodgers touchdown passes. Its one third-down failure was corrected by a fourth-down conversion. There were no penalties, dropped passes or tackles for losses.
“I thought it was a really good game plan executed to near perfection in the first half, which is what we needed to get off to a fast start,” Rodgers said.
The Packers got the ball first and marched 75 yards for a touchdown. After Davante Adams slipped and fell on second down from the 12, he worked himself open for a touchdown. The Bears rushed three and Rodgers ate a turkey sandwich before finding Adams for the 500th catch of Adams’ career. Mason Crosby missed the extra point, not that it mattered.
After Chicago drove to a field goal – Green Bay’s defense rose up after allowing a 57-yard run to the 8 by David Montgomery – the Packers again zoomed 75 yards for a touchdown. On the first play of the second quarter, Rodgers faked the handoff, booted to his left and found tight end Marcedes Lewis alone for the touchdown. It was the 400th catch of Lewis’ career.
Chicago drove into scoring position but safety Darnell Savage made a splendid interception in the end zone. Eighty yards later, it was 20-3. On the touchdown, Rodgers went through all of his reads before Allen Lazard worked himself free for a 2-yard touchdown.
Moments later, it was 27-3. If the Packers are going to make a run to the Super Bowl, the Smith Bros. are going to have to raise their game. On third-and-17, Za’Darius Smith forced a fumble that Preston Smith recovered and returned 14 yards for a touchdown.
“Any time you can do that and you can find ways to put it in the end zone, I thought it was big time,” said LaFleur, who improved to 6-0 following a defeat. “But I also thought our defense did an outstanding job in that first half getting the two turnovers, getting a score.”
Then, LaFleur went into coaching mode.
“What you’d like to do is, I know offensively, our defense came up with a big time stop to start the second half and then you’d like to be able to take the ball down the field and score and, I don’t want to say put an end to the game, but get yourself a bigger cushion. But, unfortunately, we had that penalty that knocked us back and we didn’t recover after that. So, I thought all in all it was a pretty good day, pretty good night, but there’s still areas we can improve upon.”
In the third quarter, Rodgers became the 11th player to throw for 50,000 yards in his career. He did it in style with a 39-yard touchdown pass to tight end Robert Tonyan.
After the defense let down its guard and gave up two garbage-time touchdowns, a fourth-and-2 completion to Tonyan with about 3 minutes left put the game on ice.
Trubisky actually threw for more yards than Rodgers. Rodgers, however, was sensational and Trubisky was, well, Trubisky. Rodgers finished 21-of-29 passing for 211 yards with four touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 132.3. For Rodgers, who is having an MVP type of season, it was his 10th game out of 11 with two-plus touchdown passes and a 105-plus passer rating.
"He's an MVP player," LaFleur said.
The Bears led the series 81-58-6 after beating the Packers on Oct. 25, 1992. Since then, Green Bay is an overwhelming 42-14.