GREEN BAY – Back in late September in Chicago, Jay Cutler connected with Alshon Jeffery on an 8-yard pass for a score, giving the Bears a 17-14 lead over the Green Bay Packers with 6 minutes, 21 seconds left in the first half of that early season NFC North matchup.
The Packers, of course, would go on to score 24 unanswered points and win going away, 38-17 – a contest immortalized as the "relax" game.
The two teams met again Sunday night on national television, and in front of a record crowd of 78,292 at Lambeau Field, and Aaron Rodgers threw six first half touchdowns to head into the locker room leading 42-0.
"Well, I can promise you this is not that easy," Rodgers said, pointing to all the work during the week of practice and making the correct calls during the game. "It's not easy to do this every week."
It looked easy, however.
And once the Packers recovered a fumbled punt attempt early in the third quarter, which led to a Mason Crosby field goal and a 45-0 lead, the Packers had outscored the Bears 69-0 since that Cutler-to-Jeffrey touchdown in September.
"We hit some good ones tonight, missed a couple, but we went six quarters without punting (against Chicago)," Rodgers said. "That's pretty exceptional. It doesn't happen a whole lot so we're proud of that."
The Bears took the opening kickoff Sunday and proceeded to commit a penalty on the play, and their opening series resulted in a punt. The Packers then went on a 12-play, 71-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-goal from Rodgers to Brandon Bostick.
Chicago crumbled after that, with drives of 17, 1, 55, 34 and 18 yards. Each punt (or turnover) that ended that drive resulted in a Packers touchdown.
"We got up on 'em pretty fast," said Andrew Quarless, whose 4-yard touchdown put the Packers up 14-0 with 2:01 left in the first quarter.
"Our biggest thing was about finishing. I say put 'em in the dirt, finish 'em. Lay 'em down. So that's what I was saying."
Rodgers had two possessions coming out of the half to try and tie the NFL record for touchdown passes in a game before he pulled for Matt Flynn (who just happens to share the team record of six TD passes with Rodgers).
Rodgers finished with 315 yards on 18 of 27 passing for a quarterback rating of 145.8.
"This is definitely, I think, at the top of 'em, maybe top five," Quarless said of Rodgers' performance. "That's amazing numbers."
The Bears did eventually reach the end zone to snap that scoreless skid on a 45-yard pass from Cutler to Brandon Marshall after Crosby’s field goal to make it 45-7. But it was far too little, and far too late.
"I think after we jumped out to that lead, it kind of took a little bit out of them," Eddie Lacy said. "but coach talk about keeping your foot on the gas and in the first half we definitely did that.
"The faster we played, the more you could see them not really wanting to be out there any more.
The "Claymaker" returns
After eight games, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews wasn’t exactly having a Matthews-type season. He entered the contest against the Bears with just 2 ½ sacks and 15 tackles – far from his usual Pro Bowl/Defensive Player of the Year-type production.
Matthews was moving around in Dom Capers’ revamped defensive scheme, asked to drop into coverage, to remain disciplined on the edges. But on Sunday, after a week off, Matthews began the game lining up at inside linebacker. Then, he was moved outside. And suddenly, Matthews was everywhere.
In his best game of the season, the linebacker recorded a sack, nine tackles – including two for loss – and some huge hits on Cutler and on Bears wide receiver Chris Williams on a reverse. He was also chasing down wide receivers in pursuit. He looked fast, healthy, and proved to be a difference-maker in the first half in getting the Packers defense off the field.
"I was in a great position to make a lot of plays tonight," Matthews said. "I think that ultimately was reason why it led to making a few changes, to go bigger inside, as well as stopping the run obviously."
He admitted it was a five day "crash course" on the position and he's curious to see what it leads to going forward, but at least for one night, it was a success.
"Going out there, there obviously was some reservations about how I was going to play, but I think it really comes down to – in hindsight it's just about being an athlete, the will, the want to, and getting to the ball," he said.
A first half breakdown
The game was decided in the first half, when the Packers took a 42-0 lead into the break. This was perhaps the best way to break it down, especially since this first guy had an eerier premonition that leaving super early was the best idea one could have ...
If you blinked, the Packers were up 14-0, and the reactions were fast and furious …
At this rate I will be home to tuck lil leroy in for bed#bearsstillsuck — leroy butler (@leap36) November 10, 2014
And this ...
A former Bears defender even had to weigh in …
Which makes this perhaps the most unsurprising tweet after that …
After Bears immediately punted, a kicker even piped up …
After Rodgers hit Nelson from 40 yards out with 12:09 to go in first half to make it 28-0 …
And this …
After 56-yard Eddie Lacy TD catch and run that made it 35-0 …
With just over two minutes to go in the first half and the Packers up 42-0 …
Wow. Al with the "We aren't going to flex out of the second half, are we?" joke. — Gabe Neitzel (@gneitzel16) November 10, 2014
And this, with just under 2 minutes left …
That about sums it up, doesn’t it?
More records fall
When Bears safety Chris Conte blew his assignment and Jordy Nelson scooted behind him for a 73-yard touchdown in the second quarter, it became the 16th touchdown pass of 70 yards or more for Aaron Rodgers. It was a notable accomplishment, as it moved him out of a tie with his predecessor, Brett Favre, and Peyton Manning for most in NFL history.
Here were some other notable stats from the game:
- The last time a Packers quarterback tossed touchdowns of 40 yards or more was on Nov. 1, 1942 against the Chicago Cardinals by Cecil Isbell, who had four.
- Rodgers’ six TDs tied the team record he shared with Matt Flynn. The mark also tied an NFL record for most in a half, set in 1969.
- It was Cobb’s sixth game in a row with a TD catch, which is third in franchise history. The last to do that was Sterling Sharpe in 1994.
- Green Bay’s 42 first half points was third most in franchise history, but it was the first time that number was reached since 1983.
And, finally, an image that sums Sunday night up pretty well:
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.