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TNF Takeaways: Aaron Rodgers Shows Up In The Knick of Time; Bears Lose Hoyer

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For a full half, Thursday night’s game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears was shaping up to be one of the worst football games of the season. But after a turnover that put his team behind, Aaron Rodgers finally showed up to save us and the Green Bay Packers at the same time.

Continuing an ugly trend from last week’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Rodgers looked lost in the first half on Thursday. The Packers’ game plan was to throw the ball a lot, with running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks out, newcomer Knile Davis not yet acclimated to the playbook, Don Jackson being Don Jackson and Ty Montgomery, not actually a running back, being the team’s best running back. Rodgers threw the ball plenty in the first half, 30 times, in fact, completing 19 of those passes. But they went for just 150 yards with no touchdowns, and nearly 50 of those yards came in a two-minute drill right before halftime that led to Green Bay’s second field goal of the game, putting them in front 6-3 at the break.

You could be excused if you changed the channel on your television at that point, the early returns from Thursday’s game were in line to set the game back a decade. And it appeared as though things might only get worse on the first drive of the second half when, just three plays in, Rodgers was sacked, fumbled, and that fumble was recovered in the end zone to give Chicago a 10-6 lead.

But that play seemed to wake Rodgers up from the two-week long nap he’d been taking and the Green Bay quarterback was his All-Pro self the rest of the way. After that awful opening drive, he completed 20 of his final 24 passes for 176 yards and three touchdowns. All that despite Jordy Nelson being essentially a non-factor. And that might be the answer to what’s been eating Rodgers over the past few weeks. As Nelson tries to make his way back from a devastating knee injury that cost him last season, it seems Rodgers shouldered some of the responsibility of getting him going. There were times in previous games, he’d stare down Nelson and force the ball to his star wideout, with varying returns.

And that might be the answer to what’s been eating Rodgers over the past few weeks. As Nelson tries to make his way back from a devastating knee injury that cost him all of last season, it seems Rodgers shouldered some of the responsibility of getting him going. There were times in previous games, he’d stare down Nelson and force the ball to his star wideout, with varying returns. Not typical Aaron Rodgers behavior. On Thursday, particularly in the second half, he artfully spread the ball around.

Nelson was targeted just twice in the second half and held without a reception, but Davante Adams went off, with seven receptions on eight second-half targets after hauling in six of eight in the first half. Randall Cobb wasn’t far behind with five catches on seven targets in the second half after also catching six of eight balls thrown his way in the first half. Adams finished with 13 catches for 132 yards and a pair of scores while Cobb hauled in 11 balls total for 95 yards and the team’s other touchdown.

Rodgers also utilized Montgomery, who has emerged as a versatile running back/wide receiver combo the Pack will desperately need with Lacy being shifted to IR on Thursday and perhaps done for the season. Montgomery caught 10-of-13 targets for 66 yards through the air and added 60 more yards on nine carries, giving the Packers a little balance to their offense. Coach Mike McCarthy was impressed with the way his team, particularly Rodgers, hung in through various bouts of adversity.

“I thought he was very patient and that was needed,” the coach said of his quarterback. “This was going to be a different ride tonight.”

Patience is a characteristic Rodgers has become known for over the years. It was he who notably told reporters, and Packers fans, to “relax” when the team went through a tough stretch two years ago. In the second half on Thursday, he took his own advice and got back to being Aaron Rodgers, and that’s huge news and a big relief for Green Bay going forward.

HOYER GOES DOWN AND IT’S CUTLER TIME AGAIN

When Bears quarterback Jay Cutler went down with a thumb injury in Week 2, no one expected him to miss five games recovering from said injury, but Brian Hoyer played so well that Chicago felt no need to rush Cutler back, and frankly it was beginning to look like he’d return as a backup when he was ready.

But that all changed on Thursday night when Hoyer suffered a broken arm early in the second quarter that is likely to keep him out for several weeks. It’s a tough break for Hoyer, who had been playing some of the best football of his career and keeping an untalented, undermanned and frequently overmatched Bears team in games despite their myriad misgivings.

With Cutler still inactive, Matt Barkley replaced Hoyer on Thursday night and played probably about as well as one can expect Matt Barkley, NFL quarterback, to play. That is to say, he was pretty bad and didn’t really give his team a chance to win a game they actually had a chance to win for a while there. Now the Bears, at 1-6, head into a Monday night meeting with the Vikings next week and it seems likely that unless his thumb condition is really worse than originally thought, the reins will return to the hands of Jay Cutler.

Now the Bears, at 1-6, head into a Monday night meeting with the Vikings next week and it seems likely that unless his thumb condition is really worse than originally thought, the reins will return to the hands of Cutler. The Bears have made repeated attempts to divorce themselves of the enigmatic quarterback, but they just  keep coming back to each other, and with the team’s record as bad as it is now, and coach John Fox’s seat getting hotter by the day, what exactly do they have to lose by giving it one more go?

“I think it would be a lift,” tight end Zach Miller said. “Obviously to get your starting quarterback back at any time is good. I’m not sure where exactly he’s at with his recovery, but I know we have some time now before we play Minnesota.”

Indeed, the Bears have 10 days to get ready for the buzzsaw that is the Vikings defense, which seems like a cruel welcome back present for Cutler, but isn’t that kind of fitting too. The two sides basically hate each other at this point, what better way to show it then throwing Cutler to the wolves. And hey, maybe it lights a fire under Cutler. Is that possible? We’ll have to see. But worst case they head into their bye at 1-7, as the leaders in the Deshone Kizer sweepstakes. That wouldn’t be so bad, would it?


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys