GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Bears have changed everything, but nothing has actually changed.
With a new defensive-minded head coach and a renewed emphasis on locking down every part of the field, they still can’t stop Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers — not for an entire game, at least, and that’s the only way to win.
Instead, it was another almost-success Sunday at Lambeau Field as they fell 27-10 to the Packers for the eighth consecutive time. It wasn’t all that different from their last trip here, when Matt Nagy said in his halftime interview he was “having so much fun” with a three-point lead only to be down 10 by the end of the third quarter and on his way to another humiliation.
Just another route to the same destination. For three decades.
This time it was Matt Eberflus enjoying some tenuous, yet ultimately meaningless early success. The Bears actually had Rodgers reasonably under control for the first quarter and a half — not nearly enough to constitute a step forward — but were getting battered in the ground game.
Rodgers began just 5 of 11 for 70 yards, but closed the half with eight consecutive completions to rack up 94 yards and two touchdowns, including a classic sidearm throw over the middle to Lazard, beating rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon again to go up 24-7 right before halftime.
And, as the Bears know better than any team in the NFL, once Rodgers gets going, he doesn’t stop. He was well on his way to one of his traditionaldismissalsof the Bears.
Keep in mind that this version of Rodgers is nearly 39 years old and playing with apatchwork crew of wide receivers that was so exasperating to him in training camp that he publicly ripped them for dropped passes and running the wrong routes. He’s also playing behind a makeshift offensive line that will improve when two-time all-pro David Bakhtiari returns.
Rodgers is the football equivalent of spell check. Every defensive error is identified instantly and embarrassingly, surely making Eberflus wonder how he could’ve possibly missed them. Eberflus said he was unafraid to play rookies like second-rounders Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker, and Rodgers was more than happy to test their readiness.
He went at Gordon on his first pass of the game, getting 14 yards on a throw to Sammy Watkins. He beat Gordon again on the same drive with an eight-yard pass to Allen Lazard on third-and-seven. Gordon answered by breaking up a would-be touchdown pass to Lazard down the right sideline.
Eberflus and coordinator Alan Williams spent months designing a defense they believed would be good enough to make the Bears competitive this season and worked all week scheming to stop Rodgers — with the help of Rodgers’ former position coach and current Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s insight.
Turns out, having the Packers’ playbook doesn’t matter against Rodgers if the Bears don’t have players who can keep up with him. And the Bears only made things harder on themselves with lapses in their run defense and penalties at backbreaking moments.
Running back Aaron Jones broke 100 yards rushing just four minutes into the second half, and at the end of the third quarter the Packers were around six yards per carry.
Everything is about progress this season. And nothing about this performance indicated that they’re any closer to containing Rodgers.
Their next shot is Week 13 at Soldier Field, and a lot could change by then. Perhaps the rookies are on top of it by then and Eberflus has the airtight defense he desires. But Rodgers’ early checkup on the rebuilding defense showed plenty of concerns.
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