Packers 55, Bears 14: Easy does it
GREEN BAY — Before the game, Julius Peppers – the well-known man of few words – had plenty to say. Afterward, Mike McCarthy was speechless.
Somewhere in between them on the conversational spectrum was Aaron Rodgers, who wanted to make something crystal clear about the Green Bay Packers’ 55-14 utter dismantling of the allegedly archrival Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on Sunday night:
“I can promise you, this is not easy,” Rodgers said after throwing six first-half touchdown passes as the Packers built a 42-0 halftime lead – tied for the second-biggest halftime lead in NFL history – almost a year to the day after fracturing his left collarbone in a prime-time game against the Bears, costing him essentially eight games last season. “We put a lot of time in – we all do. We prepare to be successful.
“We love these type of performances. But it’s not easy.”
Rodgers and the Packers just made it look that way, scoring touchdowns on their first five offensive possessions while the defense forced three punts, a Jay Cutler interception and a fourth-down stop on the Bears’ first five series.
“The game? Shoot, I don’t really have a whole lot to say. That was clearly our best football that we played this year,” said McCarthy, who is now 8-1 as Packers coach after bye weeks and 13-6 all-time against Chicago, including victories in 11 of the teams’ last 13 meetings. “I really liked the way the whole week went from start to finish. I thought the way the team came back off of the bye, they were ready to go. You could see it Monday in our work. Our week of preparation, it’s easy to say this after a win like this, but we talked about it this morning as a team, it was important to cash in on the way they prepared throughout the week, and we (had) our best football on display tonight.
“To beat the Chicago Bears the way we did, that’s something that we feel very good about. But it is one win.”
With the victory, the Packers improved to 6-3 on the season and kept pace with the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions, who beat Miami earlier Sunday and are 7-2, including a Sept. 21 victory over Green Bay at Ford Field. The teams meet again in the regular-season finale on Dec. 28 at Lambeau Field.
Of course first, the Packers have the Philadelphia Eagles coming in next week.
“We needed to have a game like this coming off the way we played in New Orleans,” inside linebacker A.J. Hawk said, referring to Green Bay’s 44-23 pre-bye loss to the Saints. “But I say it all the time: This is awesome. What happened tonight is great for us, great for our defense. But if we don’t come out and play well next week, it means nothing. It’s a good step, but everything is forgotten when you get to the next game.”
One thing that wasn’t forgotten post-game: Peppers’ pregame words of wisdom. Although getting players to divulge specifics proved difficult – “I can’t really discuss or disclose any of that,” the veteran outside linebacker and ex-Bear said with a wide smile – multiple players cited Peppers’ speech as hitting all the right notes.
“It was actually a pretty long speech. And it was good,” veteran cornerback Tramon Williams said. “We went out there and did everything that he said. It was a really good speech. I wish y’all could have heard it personally.”
Peppers was one of the Packers’ three game captains, and McCarthy then chooses one at random on game day to deliver the speech. Peppers said he had no advance warning he’d be chosen, and he didn’t prepare any comments in advance.
“Today it was just my turn. I just told the guys to play hard. That was pretty much it,” said Peppers, who delivered a sack/fumble on Culter that set up Rodgers’ sixth TD of the first half. “There’s a time and a place for everything, and I felt like, I guess he felt like tonight was that time. He called on me. You do it when you need to.”
The Bears, meanwhile, couldn’t do much of anything, which reflected poorly on second-year coach Marc Trestman and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.
“It’s like I told our football team at halftime and after the game – we’re not a very good football team right now. Obviously,” said Trestman, whose team was 2-1 going into its Sept. 28 game against the Packers at Soldier Field – and now stands at 3-6 after losing five of its last six, including a 38-17 loss to the Packers that day. “We’ve descended over the last three weeks and didn’t make any changes or any positives after the bye, and that starts with me.
“We’re not good enough right now. As I told our players, there’s a good team in there somewhere, because we’ve seen signs of it this year. But we’re not a good team right now.”
The Packers, meanwhile, may not be a great team, but they’re certainly headed in the right direction again. How much of that is simply having the Bears’ number – the Packers didn’t punt in the first meeting in Chicago, and punter Tim Masthay finally saw his first action against the Bears only when the Packers’ opening possession of the second half ended with a third-down drop by Randall Cobb – and had McCarthy not called off the dogs, the franchise record for points in a game (57) surely would have fallen.
As it was, the Packers’ 41-point margin was their second-largest in the longstanding rivalry (a 49-0 victory on Sept. 30, 1962 remains the biggest) and the 55 points were tied for the third-most in team history.
“That’s pretty exceptional. That doesn’t happen a whole lot, so we’re proud of that,” said Rodgers, who was lifted for backup Matt Flynn with 10: 52 left in the third quarter and the Packers leading, 45-0. “Our defense played so well tonight. They stopped the run. They created turnovers and then we cashed in on our opportunities.
“That’s the way you want to play moving into the second half of the season, a cold weather game. We’re going to have six of seven down the stretch now in cold weather, and we’ve got to be able to play like this every time.”
Not that it’s easy.
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.
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