Monday, November 13, 2017

Packers Get Their (Final) Act Together

By Eric Goska

The Packers and Bears combined for 275 fourth-quarter yards in Green Bay’s 23-16 win Sunday at Soldier Field. The only time the two rivals teamed up for more occurred on November 6, 1955 in a game (see above) won by the Bears 52-31 at Wrigley Field.

Better late than never!

The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears poured it on in the final 15 minutes Sunday in rainy Soldier Field. Yards, first downs and points arrived with greater frequency than during any of the other three quarters.

Amid the flurry of activity were two defenses searching for stops. That Green Bay found one in the last minute saved the day and allowed it to escape with a 23-16 win over its longtime rival.

Youth was at the helm for both Chicago and Green Bay. Brett Hundley, 24, made his third start at quarterback for the Packers. His counterpart, 23-year-old rookie Mitchell Trubisky, started for the fifth time.

Both lack game-day experience. Nevertheless, football pundits from both sides were calling for the youngsters to be turned loose.

Perhaps those experts were looking for something along the lines of Sunday’s fourth quarter.

Hundley and the Packers amassed 143 yards on 21 plays (6.8 average). The team earned seven first downs and ran 13 plays on Chicago’s side of the field.

The outpouring was somewhat unexpected considering the team had gained 199 yards on 44 plays (4.5) through three quarters.

Hundley completed five of six passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. His passer rating was a perfect 158.3.

His only incompletion was a drop by Davante Adams early in the quarter. Had Adams hung on, the Packers might have gotten more than a 50-yard Mason Crosby field goal that put them ahead 16-6.

Hundley made good on a couple of difficult throws. He lofted a 19-yarder to Adams to give Green Bay a 23-13 lead. He fired a 42-yard bomb to Adams that led to a failed 35-yard field goal attempt with one minute, three seconds left.

The athletic quarterback also made an important gain on the ground. His 17-yard dash on third down set the stage for his TD throw to Adams two plays later.

The Packers’ running game battered for key gains. Jamaal Williams, Aaron Ripkowski and Randall Cobb chipped in 37 yards with Williams knocking out 32 in 10 tries to go along with three first downs.

In all, Green Bay’s haul (143 yards) was its ninth most in a fourth quarter against the Bears dating to 1923. The team last had more (164) on Dec. 29, 2013 when Aaron Rodgers and Cobb collaborated on a 48-yard touchdown in a 33-28 win.

Trubisky, too, was given the green light. The decision to put the game in his hands was a no-brainer as the Bears had trailed most of the afternoon.

The rookie completed eight of 14 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown. His passer rating was 111.3.

Trubisky utilized four receivers – Dontrelle Inman, Joshua Bellamy, Daniel Brown and Kendall Wright – in registering six passing first downs. His 46-yard scoring strike to Bellamy cut the Packers’ lead to 16-13 with 10:39 to go.

Trubisky’s final pass was a dump off to Benny Cunningham on fourth-and-10. Cunningham got five then pitched to center Hroniss Grasu who gained another two before Mike Daniels brought him to earth with 28 seconds remaining.

In all, the Bears gained 132 yards in the final 15 minutes. It was far more than the goose egg it posted in the third quarter.

Taken together, the Packers and Bears piled up 275 yards. Only once before had the teams combined for more in a fourth quarter – an unofficial 306 – on Nov. 6, 1955.

That’s quite a show for two quarterbacks making their first starts in the series. Here’s hoping both go on to have more productive careers than the last two to open for the first time in the series on the same day: Rusty Lisch (Chicago) and Randy Wright (Green Bay) on December 9, 1984.

Final Acts
Since 1923, the seven regular-season games in which the Packers and Bears combined for more than 250 yards in the fourth quarter. Data from 1941 is not available.

Yards  Date                   Plys-Yds-GB      Plys-Yds-CB      Result
306*    Nov. 6, 1955          23-211                 13-95             GB lost 31-52
275      Nov. 12, 2017        21-143                16-132            GB won 23-16
275      Sept. 29, 2003       17-107                24-168            GB won 38-23
271      Dec. 18, 2016         10-64                 26-207            GB won 30-27
265*    Sept. 28, 1952       16-135                18-130            GB lost 14-24
263      Sept. 1, 1997         19-125                20-138            GB won 38-24
255      Oct. 1, 2000           23-190                 16-65             GB lost 24-27

*these totals are unofficial and were obtained by using the handwritten play-by-plays recorded by former Green Bay Press-Gazette sports editor Art Daley.

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