The No. 1 takeaway (not involving an actual football) from the Bears’ 27-20 win over the Green Bay Packers is that the inescapable conclusion is that the Bears are gaining on the Packers. Fast.
And the Bears in fact arguably have moved ahead of the Packers, something that has not happened since ... well, a long, long time in NFL years.
No fan or rooting interest here. Having covered Bears-Packers for 20 years, including Brett Favre’s first start vs. Chicago, I know faux. This isn’t.
The Packers with Aaron Rodgers are better than the Bears with Jay Cutler, until the Bears prove otherwise. But take away the two most pivotal figures for both teams and you have Monday night – a game in Lambeau Field with both teams heavily reliant on backups, and the Bears won. They outscored the Packers and decisively out-gained them 442-312.
The Bears couldn’t stop Green Bay running; 190 yards by their running backs. But reality is that the supposedly run-stopping Packers did not do a lot better stopping the Bears, with Matt Forte (125) and Michael Bush (25). Throw in the 69 receiving yards by the Bears’ backs and do the math.
The Bears are far, far ahead of the Packers in No. 2 quarterbacking, the significance of which was amply in evidence Monday night.
The Packers were without injured wide receiver tight end Jermichael Finley. Jordy Nelson and James Jones were playing, but the casual math here is that unless the Packers are at full strength, the Bears’ offense right now is arguably better than Green Bay’s, the obvious crucial component being Rodgers. Brandon Marshall is every bit the equal or the better of Nelson.
Jones or Alshon Jeffery? Six-one vs. 6-3? Jones has one season with more than 50 catches and Jeffery already has 38 through eight games.
The Packers were without Clay Matthews. The Bears were without Lance Briggs and started two rookies in their base package. The Bears also have played without both of their best inside pass rushers due to the torn ACL’s of Nate Collins and Henry Melton. For what little it’s worth, the Bears with Melton were significantly better that the Packers last season against the run and were better in pass defense in just about every area except sack percentage.
Repeating: This is not a fan vote. And the Packers with Aaron Rodgers are better than the Bears until something happens that says they’re not.
But the Bears scored 27 points with Josh McCown, and Jay Cutler 2013 model is not the same as previous iterations.
All of which makes the next several years a great deal more interesting than the past several.