Now this is getting really serious.
On a day when Bryan Bulaga continues to convalesce at home, when Clay Matthews has pins removed from his broken thumb, Jermichael Finley starts shooting a rehab documentary at the Mayo Clinic and Randall Cobb scoots around on a Segway, the franchise goes down as do the Packers to the dreaded Chicago Bears 27-20 at Lambeau Field Monday night.
Aaron Rodgers suffered a left shoulder injury two and a half minutes into the game when he was run down and sacked by Chicago linebacker Shea McLellin. He didn't return. The 187th meeting between the rivals turned into a backup quarterback battle and the Bears clearly had the better number two. Starting for the injured Jay Cutler, veteran Josh McCown easily got the better of 11 year back up Seneca Wallace who was pressed into duty for Green Bay.
Even with a still humming running game (199 yards), Wallace wasn't able to consistently move the offense despite putting up 17 points. On his second pass attempt, Julius Peppers deflected the ball into the air and caught the interception himself. Wallace wound up completing 11 of 19 passes for 114 yards but was sacked 4 times and converted only 1 of 8 third down opportunities.
McCown meanwhile, passed for 272 yards and threw a pair of touchdowns to his big targets, Brandon Marshall for 23 yards as he wrestled the ball away from Tramon Williams in the first quarter, and six yards to Alshon Jeffrey who out-jumped Davon House in the third quarter that put the Bears on top for good.
The Packers were able to hang around thanks to big runs and even bigger plays on special teams. Down 7-3 and just after the Peppers pick, the defense held and Jamari Lattimore blocked a Adam Podlesh punt. Chris Banjo recovered at the Chicago 32. On the next snap, James Starks ripped off a 32 yard touchdown run right up the middle for a 10-7 lead. On the first series of the second half, Eddie Lacy spiced his new personal best of 150 yards rushing with a 56 yard dash and on the next play, scored from the one to tie the game at 17. Mike McCarthy gambled and won with a surprise onside kick recovered by Lattimore. The Packers drove to the six but stalled and Mason Crosby's second field goal gave Green Bay the 20-17 lead.
A couple of short possessions started taking a toll on the Pack's defense. Down 4 in the 4th, Wallace failed to convert a third and five when Peppers swatted away another pass, and then a third and three with the All-Pro defensive end beating rookie David Bakhtiari for a sack. A Tim Masthay punt pinned the Bears back at their 11 with 9:48 to play.
Chicago proceeded to drive the length of the field with Matt Forte getting a chunk of his 125 rushing yards. The Bears converted a 4th and 1 at their own 32 to keep the chains moving as Forte eluded A.J.Hawk and Morgan Burnett in the backfield to gain three. Marshall caught an 11 yard pass on third and six and Forte picked up 8 yards around left end on third and five. That forced the Packers to burn their timeouts inside the 2 minute warning and Robbie Gould capped the deflating 8:58, 18 play, 80 yard drive with a field goal for the final margin with only :50 left.
Wallace found Jordy Nelson for 15 but was sacked on consecutive plays to end the somber night.
Here's how Mike McCarthy summarized the end of a four game winning streak this year, a six game streak against the Bears and 10 straight at Lambeau Field.
The Packers were outgained 442 to 312. The Bears had 25 first downs and were 6 of 14 on third down. The Packers had 17 first downs and finished 1 for 9 on third. Once again, they lost the turnover battle with the Peppers interception and lost a game without getting penalized once. Chicago held a nearly seven minute advantage in time of possession including better than 10 minutes of the 4th quarter.
Individually, Lacy wound up with 150 yards on 22 carries and a score, Starks had 40 yards on six carries. Andrew Quarless was the leading receiver with five catches for 34 yards. Jordy Nelson caught four for 67. James Jones, active for the first time since the Baltimore game, had one, 17 yard grab. For the Bears, Marshall had 7 catches for 107 yards, Jeffrey had five for 60. Forte chipped in five catches for 54 yards giving him 179 total yards on the night. McCown finished 22 of 41 for 272 yards and two scores with only 1 sack and a passer rating of 90.7.
Throw the numbers aside, this game was all about not having the 2011 NFL MVP. Here's what was heard in the locker room afterwards:
Audio: Packers post game quotes.
Rodgers wasn't the only injury. Guard T.J. Lang suffered a concussion forcing Don Barclay to move from right tackle to right guard and Marshall Newhouse took over at tackle. The defense lost two linebackers on one series when Andy Mulumba suffered an ankle injury and rookie Sam Barrington pulled a hamstring. The never ending injuries are bringing new meaning to the word attrition.
The NFC North is now a three headed monster with the Midway Monsters, the Packers and Detroit Lions all at 5-3 at the halfway point of the season.
The Packers inactives were Chris Harper, James Nixon, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Jermichael Finley, Josh Boyd and C.J. Wilson.
78,122 were hushed into silence when Rodgers departed and the Bears depart Lambeau with their first victory here since 2007.
If Rodgers is forced to miss an extended amount of time, the Packers have only Wallace on the active roster. Former Wisconsin Badger Scott Tolzien signed a pretty nice contract to stay on the practice squad last week. Former backup Matt Flynn was cut by the Buffalo Bills on Monday and might be a possibility but McCarthy would have none of that after the game. His focus is on getting Wallace prepared for the possibility of starting in five days against the Philadelphia Eagles.