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(Sunday, September 13th)
Final Score: Green Bay 21, Chicago 15
Green Bay, WI (Sports Network) - After seven of the Packers' 10 losses in 2008 came by four points or less, Aaron Rodgers made sure history wouldn't repeat itself, throwing a 50-yard go-ahead touchdown strike to Greg Jennings with 1:11 remaining to propel Green Bay to a 21-15 victory over the rival Chicago Bears and spoil Jay Cutler's debut with his new team.
On a 3rd-and-1 play from midfield, Rodgers used a perfect play-action to draw the defense away and found a streaking Jennings behind the defense for an easy throw-and-catch touchdown. Jennings then made an excellent catch on the two- point conversion attempt to account for the final margin.
"(Jennings) ran a great route. He's tough to guard," Rodgers said. "I was off all game; I didn't play very well until the last throw, I guess, but it was important for us to get a win like this tonight."
Cutler, who orchestrated seven game-winning fourth-quarter drives in three seasons with the Broncos before being traded to Chicago in the offseason, couldn't add an eighth. His next play from scrimmage turned out to be his fourth interception of the contest -- a new career-high. Rodgers took a knee twice to seal the victory.
Rodgers finished with 184 yards and the lone score on 17-of-28 passing without throwing an interception for the Packers (1-0), whose aforementioned bad luck contributed to a 6-10 finish last season. Jennings caught six passes for 106 yards and the go-ahead tally, while Ryan Grant added 61 yards and a touchdown on the ground in 16 carries.
"Winning boosts confidence for every member of our football team," said Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. "No difference for a quarterback. To have a two-minute win under his belt definitely just gives you gratification for the extra time that we put in."
The big story for the Packers was their new-look 3-4 defense under new coordinator Dom Capers. Capers' group kept Cutler to under 50 percent on his pass attempts -- 17-for-36 -- and held Matt Forte to 55 yards on 25 carries. Last season, Forte became the second player in league history to post 1,000 rushing yards and 60 receptions in his rookie year, but the Tulane product didn't register a catch in the contest.
Cutler, who finished with 277 yards through the air, did throw one touchdown pass -- a 36-yard strike to Devin Hester, who finished with four catches for 90 yards. But the Bears (0-1), who nearly made the playoffs last season with a 9-7 record, couldn't hold Green Bay in the end.
Holding a 12-10 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Bears attempted a fake punt on 4th-and-11 at their own 26. The move backfired, as Garrett Wolfe was tackled after a four-yard gain.
Green Bay took over on Chicago's 30 but couldn't move the ball effectively, and Mason Crosby drilled a 39-yard field goal with just over 10 minutes left in the game for a narrow 13-12 advantage.
Facing a deficit on the road in the first game with his new team, Cutler was up to the task, guiding the Bears down the field in a 14-play drive to retake the lead.
Starting from the Chicago 28, Cutler found Earl Bennett for 11 yards on the first play, then a defensive illegal contact gave the Bears a first down on their own 45 three plays later.
Cutler found Hester on a short pass on the next play, and the speedy receiver raced for 24 yards down to the Green Bay 31 before being pushed out of bounds. Consecutive eight-yard completions to Greg Olsen and Jason McKie set up a first down at the 15, and the drive made it all the way down to the three-yard line before stalling. Robbie Gould put the Bears back on top, 15-13, with a 21-yard field goal with 2:35 to play.
Facing a two-point deficit, Rodgers was given the task to complete his first fourth-quarter winning drive, something his predecessor, Brett Favre, was able to do many times in his illustrious tenure with the team.
Starting from the Packers' 28-yard line, Rodgers handed off to Grant for a six-yard gain and then completed a seven-yard pass to Jennings, leading to the two-minute warning. Two plays later, Rodgers scrambled for nine yards to set up 3rd-and-1 from midfield.
After taking a timeout, Rodgers faked a handoff to Grant and saw Jennings streaking behind the defense. He hit Jennings perfectly in stride for the touchdown to take a four-point lead, and the two-point conversion pass to Jennings was successful for a six-point edge with 1:11 left.
The Bears set up their offense at their own 38-yard line, but the comeback effort was short-lived, as Al Harris picked off Cutler's first pass attempt to seal the win.
A good kickoff return to open the game gave the Packers the ball around midfield, but Crosby couldn't turn the drive into points after missing a 49- yard field goal attempt.
Cutler's initial drive was just as unsuccessful, as he threw two incompletions in a three-and-out.
After another Green Bay failed drive, Cutler had Chicago in opposing territory on the 36. Two straight incompletions were nearly intercepted, and then Nick Collins finally picked off a Cutler pass at the 12-yard line to keep the game scoreless.
The game remained without points until the second quarter, when Crosby atoned for his earlier miss by drilling a 52-yard field goal to cap a nine-play drive with about eight minutes until halftime.
On the next Chicago offensive play, Cutler found Johnny Knox streaking down the middle for 68 yards down to the Green Bay eight-yard line. The play went for naught, however, as defensive lineman Johnny Jolly dove to make a spectacular diving interception at the 12 to keep the Bears off the board.
The shutout wouldn't last long, as Danieal Manning sacked Rodgers in the end zone three plays later for a safety that made it 3-2 with six minutes left in the half.
The Bears looked to go in front on their next drive, but Cutler was intercepted for the third time -- this time by Tramon Williams, who took the ball down to Chicago's one-yard line. Grant punched it in from there to give the Packers a 10-2 lead that would hold until halftime.
"It was a rough first half. The three turnovers put the defense in a hole," Cutler said. "They gave us a chance, and we kind of bounced back, but ultimately the turnovers got us in the end. It is tough -- I'm sure the city of Chicago is disappointed."
Cutler and the offense finally got on the board in the third. Starting from his own 21, Cutler orchestrated a 79-yard drive in 10 plays, and he used his strong arm to find Hester in the end zone from 36 yards away to make it a one- point game, 10-9, five minutes into the quarter.
Gould gave Chicago its first lead on the Bears' next drive, drilling a 47-yard field goal to finish an eight-play drive with four minutes left in the third for a slim 12-10 advantage heading to the fourth.
These two teams have played more games against each other than any other, and the Bears now hold a 91-81-6 edge over the Packers. They split two meetings last season...Chicago had only one passing play over 30 yards in all of 2008; they had two in this game...The Bears registered four sacks in the game, while the Packers recorded two...Chicago suffered several injuries in the game: linebacker Brian Urlacher left with a wrist injury; tight end Desmond Clark left with a back injury; and left guard Frank Omiyale left with an ankle injury.
09/14 01:43:42 ET
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