Hoge: Division Disrupted
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By Adam Hoge-
GREEN BAY, Wis. (CBS) — A bizarre NFL weekend only got stranger Monday night.
As if the sad hazing story out of Miami and two NFL head coaches getting hospitalized wasn’t enough, the league may have lost its top quarterback for an extended period of time.
Not that the Chicago Bears are complaining.
Somehow, someway, the stars aligned Monday night at Lambeau Field to give the Bears — you know, that team playing without its starting quarterback and top linebacker — an improbable 27-20 win over the Packers, pulling them into a three-way tie atop of the NFC North standings.
The door opened wide for the Bears when the Packers’ first drive of the night ended with Aaron Rodgers leaving the game after he was sacked on third down.
And who was it that sent Rodgers to the locker room? “Mr. Disruptor” Shea McClellin, of course. Yes, the same guy who came into Monday’s game with 0.5 sacks on the entire year may have delivered the biggest disruption of the season Monday night. Not only did he disrupt the game, but he may have disrupted the Packers’ entire season and given the Bears a realistic chance to fight for the NFC North title.
“(Shea has) been hard on himself, but he’s just been working and it paid off,” defensive tackle Corey Wootton said. “He definitely graded out well.”
Yes, the disruptions will be plenty on Tuesday morning’s grading sheet, but none will shake things up more than the sack on Rodgers, who landed on his non-throwing shoulder on the play. The Packers are calling it a shoulder injury, but sources told 670 The Score’s Zach Zaidman that the quarterback fractured his collarbone, which has the potential to keep Rodgers out for 6-8 weeks.
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- With Rodgers Sidelined, Bears Beat Packers 27-20
- Sources: Aaron Rodgers Has Fractured Collarbone
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“Rodgers is a great player and I wish him a speedy recovery,” McClellin said after the game. “He’s great for the game of football.”
But normally bad for the Bears, who until Monday had never beaten the Packers at Lambeau Field since Rodgers became Green Bay’s starting quarterback in 2008.
And they did it without their own starting quarterback. With Jay Cutler on the sideline, Josh McCown easily won the nationally televised battle of the backups, posting a 90.7 passer rating to Seneca Wallace’s 53.4. McCown completed 22-of-44 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns, while Wallace completed 11-of-19 for 114 yards and an interception.
After the game, McCown couldn’t think of a better win in his entire career.
“It would be hard, I mean, knowing my career, it would be hard to find one better than this,” he said.
As the Bears promised all week, McCown ran the offense smoothly and without limitations, took care of the football and made big plays when they were necessary. And with some help from running back Matt Forte and the offensive line, he orchestrated a brilliant 18-play, 80-yard drive that took up 8:58 of the fourth quarter to help seal the victory.
“He’s so calm and collected in the huddle,” right guard Kyle Long said. “Obviously, you can look at the stat sheet at the end of the game, but it’s the things that you can’t see on paper that Josh does in preparation for a game like this.”
It helps to have a head coach with a plan that allows his backup to succeed too. Marc Trestman stuck to the same formula he has used with Jay Cutler this season, calling plays that spread the ball around to receiving targets with just the right amount runs mix in. And just like Cutler, McCown was equipped with packaged plays that allowed him to read the Packers’ defense and check to a better play if necessary.
“Josh did a nice job of managing and changing the protections when we had to,” Trestman said after the game.
Of course, that final 18-play drive would not have gone on as long as it did if the head coach didn’t elect to go for it on 4th-and-1 from his own 32-yard-line. At the time, the Bears held a 24-20 lead with 7:50 left in the game.
“It was a sense that we needed to stay on the field and I felt that we could and this is what we did,” Trestman said. “I knew that one way or the other I wouldn’t look back and regret the decision that was made.”
He didn’t need to worry about regretting it as Matt Forte gained three yards running to his left, giving the Bears a first down. Thirteen plays later, the Bears tacked on a Robbie Gould field goal with 50 seconds left to seal the win.
“I can’t say there was great analytical reasoning involved,” Trestman said.
He was talking about the fourth down decision, of course, not how the Bears left Lambeau Field with a win. There’s plenty of analytical reasoning for beating a team that didn’t have Aaron Rodgers playing, but how it all played out still left you shaking your head.
No one would have thought it would be the Bears — with only nine sacks coming into Monday night — that would knock Aaron Rodgers out of a game. And within the Bears’ roster, few would have thought McClellin would be the one to do it.
Now that’s a disruption.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.