By Eric Goska
One way to beat the Packers has always been to keep the ball out of the hands of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
In the opening two quarters of its home opener, Green Bay took the same approach with Chicago quarterback Justin Fields.
The Green and Gold shuttered the Bears’ offense for much of the first half Sunday night at Lambeau Field. In keeping Fields and Co. under wraps, the Packers parlayed a 17-point lead into a 27-10 win over their long-time nemesis.
Two factors conspired to make life difficult for Chicago in the first half. First, Rodgers and his mates possessed the ball as seldom before in this rivalry. Second, after giving up a touchdown early, Green Bay’s defense clamped down.
The Packers scored on four of their first five drives. The team reeled off 40 plays (25 on Chicago’s side of the field), posted 24 points and held the ball for 20 minutes, 22 seconds.
The Bears scored on their opening drive, then went nowhere on their next four possessions. The club mustered 17 offensive plays (3 in Packers’ territory) and the time it held the ball (3:56, 2:05, 1:39, 1:26 and 0:32) dwindled each time out.
By running 40 plays to Chicago’s 17, Green Bay recorded its greatest first-half differential (plus-23) in the series that dates to 1921 (numbers from 1941 are not available). Its previous best had been plus-20 on three occasions.
Such lopsidedness allowed the Packers to control the ball for better than 20 minutes in the first half against the Bears for only the fifth time in the last 50 years.
|Jac Collinsworth and Rodney Harrison talk football|
ahead of the Packers-Bears game at Lambeau Field.
Imposing limits like these has paid off for Green Bay in the past. Since 1954, the team is 17-3-1 (.833) when it holds the competition to fewer than 20 offensive plays in the first half. Further, it is 27-6-2 (.800) when it runs 20 or more first-half plays than its opponent.
Fewer plays yield fewer opportunities to rip off big yardage. Chicago had only three chunk plays in the first half: Fields passed to former Packer Equanimeous St. Brown for 30 yards and David Montgomery had carries of 13 and 12.
The Bears managed just 29 yards on their other 14 plays before the half.
The Packers got the better of Chicago after the break as well, but not by much. They ran 26 plays to the Bears’ 24 and out possessed them 16:53 to 13:07.
Add it up and Chicago ran just 41 plays from scrimmage. That’s the second-fewest by the Bears in 203 regular-season games against Green Bay, ahead of only the 39 they slogged through in a driving rainstorm in a 2-0 victory on Sept. 18, 1938, at City Stadium.
The four regular-season games in which the Packers reeled off 20 or more first-half offensive plays than the Bears. Numbers for the two games from 1941 are not available.
+ GB-Bears Date Result
23 40-17 Sept. 18, 2022 GB won, 27-10
20 42-22 Dec. 25, 2005 GB lost, 17-24
20 38-18 Dec. 22, 2008 GB lost, 17-20
20 41-21 Dec. 29, 2013 GB won, 33-28