After he’d crossed the goal line, after Eddie Jackson’s hit had sent him sprawling to the turf, after he’d pantomimed an on-bended-knee version of his old championship belt move, Aaron Rodgers looked up into the Soldier Field crowd and spied an angry Chicago Bears fan in the front row.
She was none too pleased about seeing the Green Bay Packers quarterback deliver yet another victory-clinching dagger into her blue-and-orange football heart, this time in the form of a scrambling, sprinting, beeline-for-the-pylon touchdown run with 4½ minutes left in the game. And she sent her message of frustration to him with a two-fingered salute.
“Sometimes you black out on the field — in a good way,” a smirking Rodgers recounted following the Packers’ 24-14 victory over the Bears on Sunday afternoon. “All I saw was a woman giving me the ‘double bird.’ I’m not sure exactly what came out of my mouth next.”
Fortunately — or unfortunately, if you were Fox Sports and an FCC censor happened to be monitoring the broadcast for fineable potty language — the cameras and microphones nearby caught most of what Rodgers said, and claimed to forget, as he shouted into the stands as his teammates mobbed him in celebration:
“I’ve owned you all my (expletive) life! I own you! I still own you! I still own you!”
Asked afterward what he thought of Rodgers’ taunt of Bears fans, running back Aaron Jones replied, “I love it. That’s A-Rod. I love it.
“What can you say? He’s right.”
Yes, Sunday’s victory didn’t just mark the Packers’ fifth straight and give them an early two-game NFC North lead over the Bears (3-3) and Minnesota Vikings (3-3). It didn’t just demonstrate how effectively this team is overcoming a spate of injuries that saw them start the game without their top two cornerbacks (Jaire Alexander, Kevin King) and most decorated pass rusher (Za’Darius Smith) and saw them lose their starting center (Josh Myers, to a knee injury), their other top edge rusher (Preston Smith, to an oblique injury) and one of their two starting safeties (Darnell Savage, to a concussion).
It also reaffirmed Rodgers’ absolute dominance of the Bears, a tradition that began with his Pro Football Hall of Fame predecessor, Brett Favre, and that Rodgers has taken to even greater heights.
The Packers now own a 22-5 record against the Bears with Rodgers as the starting quarterback — including their victory in the 2010 NFC Championship Game — and Rodgers and the Packers have now won 10 of their last 11 games against the Bears at Soldier Field. In those 27 games, Rodgers has completed 66.5% of his passes for 6,352 yards with 57 touchdowns and 12 interceptions (105.4 quarterback rating).
It’s no wonder some enterprising Wikipedia user altered the Chicago Bears entry on the site to replace the McCaskey family with Rodgers in the “owner” section before the Rodgers had even knelt out the final 2 minutes of the victory.
“We have won a few in a row now,” deadpanned Rodgers, who finished the day having completed 17 of 23 passes for 195 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions (128.0 passer rating) while adding a 16-yard run, a 1-yard fourth-down quarterback sneak and his victory-clinching 6-yard touchdown run on the ground. “I love this rivalry. It’s been a lot of fun over the years.
“I love playing at Soldier Field. I said this week, I have a lot of respect for the fans. I’m sure there’s a little bit of respect coming back my way — not a lot of love, I’m sure. Had a lot of great moments on this field, a lot of great battles and today was much like those other ones — starts off slow sometimes, they get rolling, defense had some timely stops, we put a drive together.”
The game followed a familiar Soldier Field script, as the Packers’ opening drive stalled and ended in a punt, and the Bears offense marched 80 yards in eight plays to a 1-yard Khalil Herbert touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
But Chicago’s next five possessions ended in a Justin Fields-to-Savage end zone interception and four consecutive punts, during which the Packers built a 17-7 lead on the strength of a clever 1-yard Rodgers-to-Allen Lazard shovel pass early in the second quarter, a 39-yard Mason Crosby field goal on the Packers’ next possession and a 12-yard Rodgers-to-Jones third-quarter touchdown on which Rodgers had no one open and Jones did all the work after the dump-off.
The Bears, despite the limitations of their rookie quarterback and a running game that was missing its top two backs, didn’t go away, however. Fields again led an 80-yard touchdown drive, this one ending in his 5-yard pass to a wide-open Darnell Mooney to cut the Packers’ lead to 17-14 with 8:44 left.
“It wasn’t pretty early, and that’s a credit to the Bears. That is a good football team,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “It’s the best defense we’ve seen, and we had to grind it out. Luckily, our defense kept us in it early on.”
And when the Packers defense faltered, the offense delivered. Perhaps, against a different team and a different quarterback, the Bears vaunted defense forces a three-and-out punt and has the opportunity to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
But against Rodgers, the outcome was almost inevitable. After a 13-yard strike to Lazard, Rodgers changed a second-and-10 play at the line of scrimmage, converting it from a get-the-ball-out-quickly call to a deep shot to Davante Adams, whom the Bears had limited (three receptions for 48 yards to that point) throughout the game. On this play, though, Adams got behind the defense and Rodgers rainbowed a perfect strike for a 41-yard gain to the Chicago 21-yard line.
“That was a great call by (Rodgers),” LaFleur said. “I actually called the quick-game version of that, and he checked it to the double-move. Just a great job by those guys. He recognized the look and thought we could get it, so that’s what he did. It’s nice to have big-time players that can make you look pretty good.”
Three plays later, Rodgers scanned the field for an open receiver on first-and-goal from the Chicago 6 before taking off on his touchdown run and the ensuing obscene finger-gesture he received for his efforts.
While LaFleur deftly sidestepped a question about Rodgers’ gloating at the crowd — “A lot of stuff gets said on the field that nobody ever hears,” he said, adding that the moment was an instance “where you see the competitor in Aaron come out” — he made it clear Rodgers didn’t do it alone.
“Certainly, he’s the driving force on offense, he’s the guy that leads us,” LaFleur said. “He’s a great leader of this football team, and it’s a credit to every man in that locker room. But I don’t think it’s just (him). We always say football’s the ultimate team sport, (how) it takes all 11. And that’s true each and every Sunday.”
Added Jones, who teamed with No. 2 running back AJ Dillon to amass 169 total yards from scrimmage on 28 combined touches: “I think it shows we’re going to be OK. We can win games in multiple ways. We have the leaders that we need. We have everybody in the locker room that we need to get the job done. Just continue to put in that work and stack success.”
As for Rodgers, whose future in Green Bay beyond this season is murky, he admitted that, before the game began, he thought about the possibility that this might be his last visit to Soldier Field. But in the aftermath of the win, he seemed to have a slightly different perspective.
“I thought about that a lot pregame, for sure,” Rodgers said. “Played a lot of games over here … 18 times I’ve been in this league locker room — 17 regular seasons and obviously the NFC Championship Game. It’s been a lot of fun. I love playing on this field, even though it’s always the longest grass in the NFL. But I enjoy this rivalry so much and I’ve been so thankful to be a part of it.
“I don’t think this is my last one, but I have enjoyed every single of them.”