It’s still November.
For all practical purposes, though, the race for the NFC North title is over.
Green Bay routed visiting Chicago, 41-25, Sunday night which largely delivered a knockout blow to the rest of the division. The Packers improved to 8-3, good for a three-game lead over both Chicago and Minnesota (5-6). Perennial cellar dweller Detroit is last again at 4-7.
If Green Bay holds on and wins the NFC North, it will mark the Packers’ second straight divisional crown and seventh in the last 10 years. It would also be Green Bay’s 14th NFC North title since 1995.
For now, Green Bay is the No. 2 seed in the NFC. New Orleans holds the No. 1 spot in the conference with a 9-2 record, followed by Green Bay (8-3) and Seattle (7-3). The Seahawks could jump past the Packers with a win over Philadelphia Monday.
Here’s the good, bad and ugly from Green Bay’s victory over Chicago.
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AARON RODGERS: Green Bay’s veteran quarterback has owned the Bears since taking over as the Packers’ starter in 2008.
After leading another Green Bay win Sunday, Rodgers is now 20-5 all-time against Chicago. With Rodgers and the Packers dominating Chicago in recent years, Green Bay now leads the all-time series, 100-95-6.
Rodgers had one of his best performances ever against Chicago, completing 21-of-29 passes for 211 yards and four touchdowns. Rodgers finished with a quarterback rating of 132.3
Rodgers also became the 11th player in NFL history to reach 50,000 career passing yards. He eclipsed that mark on a 39-yard touchdown pass to tight end Robert Tonyan in the third quarter.
DAVANTE ADAMS: Green Bay’s Pro Bowl wide receiver caught his 500th career pass, a 12-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Adams had six receptions on the night, now has 505 catches in his career and ranks fifth in team history.
The only players in Packers history with more catches than Adams are Donald Driver (743), Sterling Sharpe (595), Jordy Nelson (550) and James Lofton (530).
“The dude’s a special player,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said recently of Adams. “He’s one-of-a-kind and he never ceases to grow my respect.”
PRESTON SMITH: Smith, an outside linebacker who signed a four-year, $52 million deal with Green Bay in March, 2019, has been missing in action much of this season. In fact, second-year man Rashan Gary started over Smith Sunday night.
But Smith made his biggest play of the year when he recovered a fumble and raced 14 yards for a touchdown shortly before halftime. Za’Darius Smith forced the fumble and Preston Smith was in the right place at the right time.
In the second half, Preston Smith beat left tackle Charles Leno for a sack. It took Preston’s season sack total to 2.5.
“I think the thing with Preston is just staying positive, staying focused,” Packers outside linebackers coach Mike Smith said last week. “He knows the rush plan. He’s not rushing the way I want him to rush right now.
“He’s got to get better rushing and he knows that. Talked to him today about it and he’s got to stick with the plan and not get frustrated with everything that’s going on around him.”
Many of Smith’s frustrations ended when he waltzed into the endzone Sunday.
OPENING DRIVES: The Packers scored on their opening drive in each of the first eight games. Green Bay was blanked on its first drive the last two weeks, but got back on track Sunday.
The Packers drove 75 yards in 14 plays and capped the march when Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams hooked up on a 12-yard touchdown. Rodgers had 6.04 seconds to throw and Adams broke free on the left side of the endzone and scored for the sixth consecutive game.
“You go through and you’re planning through the course of the week and then you get to the end of the week and then you kind of get a feel for what plays you might like more than others and how they package together and just maybe what your initial gut is on how a defense might attack you,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said of Green Bay’s success on opening drives. “So … yeah, it’s part of the process that by the time the end of the week we have a better idea of what direction we want to go.”
DARNELL SAVAGE: Green Bay’s second year free safety entered the night with just two career interceptions. Savage doubled that with a pair of interceptions against Bears overmatched quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Trubisky threw into double coverage in the endzone on his first interception and Savage read it perfectly. On the second, Trubisky underthrew a pass into triple coverage and Savage intercepted.
Savage became the first Packer with two interceptions in the same game since Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had two interceptions against Chicago on Dec. 18, 2018.
GROUND AND POUND: Green Bay’s rushing attack had been stuck in the mud in recent weeks. But the Packers ran for 182 yards on 39 carries — an average of 4.67 yards per carry.
Aaron Jones, who’s averaged just 48.3 yards per game since returning from a calf injury three games ago, was terrific with 90 yards on 17 carries (5.3). Jamaal Williams also had 73 yards and a touchdown.
After averaging 208.5 rushing yards in their first two games, the Packers eclipsed 100 yards just twice in their next eight contests. Green Bay’s ground game got healthy against the Bears, though.
“You know, we’re going to stick with it,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said last week. “We’re going to keep fighting, scratching, clawing to figure out how to get this thing going because we have a lot of faith in our runners.”
On Sunday, that faith was rewarded.
THIS AND THAT: Green Bay went 5-of-6 on third downs and 1-for-1 on fourth downs in the first half. The Bears, meanwhile, were just 1-of-3. … The Packers had the ball 21 minutes, 6 seconds in the first half to just 8:54 for Chicago. … Green Bay’s 41-point output was the second-most its scored against Chicago in the Super Bowl era. The Packers hit the Bears with 55 points in 2014.
RUN DEFENSE: Stop us if you’ve heard this before.
Green Bay can’t stop the run, and that was the case again Sunday.
Chicago’s David Montgomery ripped off a 57-yard run — the longest of his career — on the Bears’ first drive of the game. That set up a field goal and set the tone for a solid ground game from Chicago.
The Bears ran the ball nine times for 86 yards in the first half (9.6 average). Montgomery led the way with six carries for 73 yards (12.2).
Chicago finished with 122 yards on 16 carries, an average of 7.63 yards per carry. The only reason those numbers weren’t more gaudy is the Bears were playing from behind most of the night.
FINISHING STRONG: OK, this is nit-picking. But Chicago outscored Green Bay, 15-0 in the fourth quarter.
Foes have now outscored the Packers, 95-63, in the fourth quarter and overtime. Green Bay has outscored its opponents, 286-188, in the first three quarters,
Source: Forbes – Business