To close out Week 9 of the NFL 2013 season, we follow the Chicago Bears to Lambeau Field to renew their long-standing rivalry with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football. This rivalry saw its 187th meeting Monday, and was as exciting as it always has been. With the loss of Packers star quarterback Rodgers, backup Seneca Wallace had to step in, and the Bears took advantage of the Packers to the tune of 27-20. The 6-game drought against Green Bay is officially over, and the Bears are tied with the Packers and Detroit for first place atop the NFC North with this win.
The Bears took the field at Lambeau without quarterback Jay Cutler in the lineup, as he tore a groin muscle before the bye. Instead, backup Jay McCown led the Bears into battle, getting his second start since the Bears played the Packers at the end of the 2011 season. In that game, McCown threw 19 of 28 for 242 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. When he finished up the Redskins game two weeks ago, he performed just as well, completing 14 of 20 passes for 204 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
What neither team planned for was the sack on Rodgers that took him out of the game. Rodgers was pursued and sacked by Chicago’s Shea McClellin. McClellin wrapped Rodgers up and took him to the ground, and Rodgers was in obvious pain as he slowly climbed to his feet and made for the sidelines.
While Chicago’s offense took the field, Green Bay fans were horrified to see Rodgers jogging toward the locker room with training staff. Shortly, we learned he had a “left shoulder injury” and would be out for the remainder of the game. The Packers had to turn to Wallace and the play options shrank considerably.
|1st Downs||YardsRush/Pass/Ttl||TDs||Sacks||Turnover Ration||Time/Poss|
Unfortunately, Green Bay’s faith in Rodgers’ durability must be supreme because Wallace had no reps at all in practice. He had never played a single snap with the Packers and was not even part of the team during training camp or the preseason. His last on-field action was in 2011 with the Cleveland Browns. Packers coaching staff had no idea who Wallace was as a Packer, let alone how he would do against their arch rivals.
As it turns out, Wallace’s 10 years in the league served him well. He did not let Green Bay down in his debut. Wallace threw 11 of 19 complete for 114 yards. He scored no touchdowns but did have one interception and was sacked four times for 25 total yards lost. The play calling for Wallace relied heavily on the running game, with short passes and simple routes. Jordy Nelson and Eddie Lacy turned in expected performances but it was not enough to overcome the smoother transition from first to second string that the Bears managed.
It was obvious that Chicago was much more at ease with their backup quarterback than Green Bay. Not to say Wallace is an outsider. Simply that this is Aaron Rodgers’ offense and the plays and strategies are designed around his abilities and his connections with that team. Wallace is only just stepping in, and no one is sure for how long. No matter the time frame, however, Wallace must be brought quickly up to speed. Green Bay cannot continue to play less than half their playbook if they want to break the tie and retain first place of the NFC North.
|Completions/Attempts||Yards||Yards per Att||TD||Int||Sacks/Yards Lost||QBR|
Early reports are that Rodgers has a slight fracture of the collarbone, and should only miss about three weeks, according to ESPN. The diagnosis was made on Tuesday, but more tests are scheduled to confirm the extent of the injury and what can be done to correct it. The fracture is to this left clavicle, which is his non-throwing shoulder, but an injury like this cannot be underestimated when it comes to performance impact. Pain is one of the greatest deterrents and Rodgers –should he chose to play with the fracture- would see his range of motion significantly reduced.
There was much more to the game than Rodgers going out, of course. Special teams pulled some spectacular plays. Adam Podlesh had a blocked punt which the Packers turned into a 32-yard touchdown. Green Bay also attempted a surprise on-side kick –which they recovered- and converted into a field 32-yard field goal off Mason Crosby’s excellent kick.
On another note, Cutler expects to return to field next week to help the Bears deal with the third leg of their first place tie, the Detroit Lions. If Cutler gets back that soon –Nov. 10–it will be only three weeks since the groin tear that saw McCown step in. Teammates believed Cutler would be back for that game, and their confidence may be well-placed. An emotional McCown was thankful to have had a chance to play, but is just as eager to have Cutler back where he belongs.
Green Bay will be playing the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 10, with Nick Foles fully recovered from his concussion. He appeared to be channeling Peyton Manning, throwing seven touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders. If he can continue that kind of productivity, Wallace may have a hard time keeping up with him if he does not get up to speed on the Packers’ playbook.
The lead changed hands six times throughout the game. The ball was in the air, on the ground and all over. Julius Peppers deflected then intercepted a pass (the same pass, in fact), giving him 90 for his career. It was the game we expected it to be with all the unexpectedness we appreciate between Green Bay and Chicago.
The rivalry is alive and well and may even have a new generation in McCown and Wallace to carry it on. Rodgers’ return is still in question but Wallace will get the attention he needs now to fit more seamlessly into the Packer’s offensive scheme. For McCown, there really is not much more he could do to make himself a Cutler-clone. Preparation for next opponents has already begun for both the Bears and the Packers. Green Bay’s loss to the Chicago last night will go down in the history between these teams as one more grudge to be dealt with when next they meet.
By Brandi Tasby