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Report Card: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

The Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday due in part to an excellent running game.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers extended their winning streak to five games by beating the Chicago Bears 24-14 on Sunday. Here is our weekly report card.

Passing Offense

Aaron Rodgers’ 195-yard performance was one of the lowest outputs of his career against Chicago. Davante Adams didn’t have 10 catches or 150 yards or even reach the end zone. Nonetheless, it was another quality day at the office for Green Bay’s passing attack. Rodgers was 17-of-23 passing for 195 yards with two touchdowns and a 128.0 passer rating. In his last 15 games against the Bears, he’s thrown 30 touchdowns vs. two interceptions. However, he completed only two passes on throws 10-plus yards downfield and once again wasn’t great under pressure. Adams caught 4-of-5 targets for 89 yards. His 41-yarder on the clinching drive shows what happens when a great quarterback is in great harmony with a great receiver.

With critical matchups against Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn, the pressure was on Green Bay’s offensive tackles. They delivered. Elgton Jenkins returned from a three-game absence, gave up a sack to Quinn on the second possession but otherwise did solid work at left tackle. It was the same story for right tackle Billy Turner, who gave up a sack to Mack on the opening series. Mack and Quinn had three pressures apiece, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s a win for the Packers. Lucas Patrick was excellent after Josh Myers suffered a knee injury on the opening series. Right guard Royce Newman really needs to tighten up his game.

Grade: B-minus.

Rushing Offense

Green Bay’s running game is rounding into form. The Packers gained 154 yards on 31 carries, with Aaron Jones (13 for 76) and AJ Dillon (11 for 59) combining for 135 yards on 24 tries. The team couldn’t get an explosive run to save its life to start the season but Dillon (36 yards) and Jones (28) had tackle-breaking runs against a strong Bears defense. Patrick had a say in both of those big gains.

Maybe more importantly, the running game generally got something accomplished. Of the backs’ 24 attempts, there was only one negative run (compared to four each of the last two weeks) and just three were limited to 0 yards. That means the Packers gained yardage on their other 20 attempts, which kept the offense in mostly manageable down-and-distance situations. Jenkins, Patrick and Marcedes Lewis had strong performances as blockers.

Grade: A-minus

Passing Defense

Green Bay was without its starting cornerbacks (All-Pro Jaire Alexander and Kevin King) and starting outside linebackers (Pro Bowler Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith for most of the game) but still limited Chicago to 137 net passing yards.

To be sure, there’s a bit of an asterisk given the opponent. Chicago’s passing attack is pitiful. Maybe Justin Fields will turn into a franchise quarterback but, at this point, he’s nowhere near good enough to win games against good teams. He had a pair of 20-plus-yard gains on the opening possession and another pair during the fourth quarter. Otherwise, it was a nothingburger. He missed Allen Robinson for what should have been a long touchdown, and the interception by Darnell Savage looked like defensive offside to just about everyone at Soldier Field.

Isaac Yiadom got benched after giving up those big plays on the opening series – a 20-yard catch and a 26-yard interference penalty – and might never see the field on defense again. He gave up 46 yards on the opening series; Rasul Douglas gave up 32 yards the rest of the game, according to Pro Football Focus and its best guess at coverage responsibilities. Underrated Chandon Sullivan has had excellent performances in back-to-back games. Given the state of the secondary, his timing is impeccable.

The pass rush had long stretches of ineptitude, especially in the first half, but Kenny Clark (two), Dean Lowry (one) and Jonathan Garvin (one) had sacks. PFF credited Rashan Gary (seven), Clark (six) and Lowry (four) with more pressures than Chicago’s dynamic duo of outside linebackers.

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Grade: B-plus.

Rushing Defense

With Chicago down its top three on the depth chart, rookie running back Khalil Herbert carried the load with 19 carries for 97 yards and one touchdown. He’s got excellent vision, gouging the Packers with one cutback after another. He had three runs of 10-plus yards and zero for 0 yards or worse. Herbert should have had 110 yards and two touchdowns but his fourth-quarter scoring run was erased with a ticky-tack holding call drawn by Tyler Lancaster.

As has been the case all season, the best performances belonged to Clark, Gary and De’Vondre Campbell. It appeared Adrian Amos stopped Herbert short of the marker on fourth-and-1 in the first half but the on-the-field and replay officials disagreed.

Grade: D.

Special Teams

The Packers turned in a decent performance against one of the better special teams in the NFL. Mason Crosby made all his kicks, Amari Rodgers had a 16-yard punt return and Corey Bojorquez blasted an 82-yard punt that had the unfortunate result of trickling into the end zone for his first touchback of the season. It was the second-longest punt in franchise history.

The black marks were kickoff coverage (Chicago’s average starting point was the 28.5-yard line) and the opening punt, in which Shemar Jean-Charles was standing right next to returner Jakeem Grant when Grant caught the ball at the 9, then watched him return the kick 11 yards. Bojorquez is a really good punter but he’s not so good that he can kick the ball and then sprint 50 yards to make the tackle. That’s what the other 10 guys are for.

Grade: C-plus.

Coaching

Between old and new injuries, the Packers finished the game without eight starters. That includes center Josh Myers, outside linebacker Preston Smith and safety Darnell Savage, who exited after in-game injuries. What Green Bay is doing shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Offensively, Green Bay’s problems in the red zone were a testy subject all week but the group scored three touchdowns in four possessions against the NFL’s third-ranked red-zone defense. The touchdown pass to Allen Lazard was great play design. The touchdown pass to Jones was great individual skill. Schematic adjustments got the run game going after the first six tries gained just 14 yards.

Defensively, Green Bay’s red-zone issues remain a festering wound. The Packers have given up touchdowns on all 15 possessions. That’s absurd. Not even a holding penalty, which moved the ball back to the 26, could prevent the inevitable. Credit to coordinator Joe Barry for not wasting more time with Yiadom. In a bottom-line business, so long as Rodgers is the quarterback, a 14-point performance by the defense should be an automatic victory.

Two things worth noting. The good: Green Bay has won the turnover battle in each game of the five-game winning streak. The bad: Green Bay is minus-14 in first-quarter scoring. With better teams coming up on the schedule, the team needs to start faster.

Grade: B.

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