A horrible Halloween nightmare occurred a week late in Green Bay as the underdog Chicago Bears upset the Packers by a score of 27 – 20 on Monday Night Football. It was worse than just a loss at Lambeau to the Bears; Aaron Rodgers injured his left shoulder on the Packers’ first drive of the game and he was done for the night. His departure affected the outcome of this game and maybe more.
Just last week in this column I opined how difficult it would be on the opposite side of the battlefield when dealing with Aaron Rodgers. I had no idea that one week later the Packers would be without their All-Pro leader and what a difference his absence makes. Cheeseheads have often wondered how good the Packers would be without Rodgers, and the answer we got Sunday is — not very good.
With Rodgers out of the game with a left shoulder/collarbone injury, the Packers were relegated on offense to their revitalized running game and veteran backup quarterback Seneca Wallace. The running game continued to flourish as Eddie Lacy and James Starks ran wild for almost 200 yards in spite of the Bears “loading the box” to control it. Wallace, on the other hand, could not generate much of any aerial attack and the result was painful. One of nine third down conversions was pathetic, and in complete contrast to the 15 of 18 conversions Rodgers engineered last week.
The shortcomings of Wallace were pretty obvious, but the Packer defense didn’t perform up to their abilities either. The Bears’ backup quarterback, Josh McCown, performed much better than Wallace in his role, but the Packers’ defensive backfield didn’t do their part against the Bears’ two very large wide receivers, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Too many times the Packers allowed these receivers to get open. It seems this year that Tramon Williams has become the weak link in the Packer backfield as he and Casey Hayward really struggled in this game. The lack of big plays from the defense also really stung the Packers in this game.
So where do the Packers go from here? Obviously, much depends on the severity of the injury to Rodgers. As I write this column, everyone in Titletown is tight-lipped about the extent of his injury. Assuming the Packers will not have Rodgers’ services next week, that means Mike McCarthy has to prepare Seneca Wallace much better and get him up to speed in a short week of practice. Wallace is a seasoned veteran, so that should not be an insurmountable project. In his defense, his lousy performance Monday night was somewhat due to getting only minimal repetitions with the starting group in practice in weeks prior. He won’t have that excuse next week.
The loss drops the Packers into a three-way tie for first place in the NFC North with the Bears and the Detroit Lions at five wins and three losses. The Packers host the Philadelphia Eagles in the early game next Sunday. The Eagles have been on a wild roller coaster of a season thus far and are probably as unpredictable as the Packers sans Rodgers are at this point. What a difference a week makes in the NFL. The good news is that the Packers have lots of experience in overcoming serious injury adversity to lots of their key players. Whether or not that applies to their quarterback remains to be seen.