By Carmen Vitali
FOX Sports NFC North reporter
Well, running back Aaron Jones got 18 total touches to the tune of 170 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns, while running back A.J. Dillon carried the ball 18 times for 61 yards. That’s 36 of a possible 66 offensive plays going to the guys you wanted to get the ball to.
By all accounts, the night was a success for the home team — even by quarterback Aaron Rodgers‘ definition, right?
“Let me just say this about success,” said Rodgers, prompted by the performance of right tackle Elgton Jenkins in Jenkins’ first game back from an ACL injury. “The definition of success isn’t always measured in stats. A lot of times we get caught up in a definition of success that’s actually never really attainable. So we live in this feedback loop of negative self-talk and self-criticism that I don’t think is good for a healthy ego or good for our own confidence.”
Who could blame Rodgers for waxing poetic about success when negativity surrounded the Packers a week after a dismal loss to their other division foes, the Minnesota Vikings, in which neither Jones nor Dillon rushed for more than 50 yards apiece?
The Packers made sure that changed in a big way on Sunday night, especially for Jones, who accounted for 132 of Green Bay’s 204 total rushing yards on his own.
“He can do a lot of things,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers of Jones, who had both a rushing and receiving touchdown on Sunday night. “We’re just kind of scratching the surface, I think, with him, which is fun. But obviously there was an emphasis on getting those guys the ball early and often tonight.”
Green Bay boasts a tandem that few teams in the league can, so both backs went into this week of practice knowing the plan was to feed them as much as possible.
“I was really looking forward to it,” Jones said after the game. “Coach came out and said it: ‘we’re going to get you and A.J. the ball more — get you guys more involved. That just naturally put a smile on my face and I know I had to show up when my number was called. That just pushes me that much harder.”
More involved ended up being an understatement, as the Packers ran the ball 38 times while attempting 25 passes. They went to Jones immediately, with Rodgers handing the ball off on the first play. It ended up being a penalty on Chicago for an illegal low block, but the Packers went right back to Jones on the next play, which resulted in a gain of four. A few plays later in the drive and Green Bay tried Dillon, sending him on back-to-back carries. He netted zero yards after a tackle for loss by Bears defensive lineman Angelo Blackson. So back to Jones it was. He promptly broke off a 15-yard run on third down and 10 — and didn’t let up from there.
“I never know how the split is going to work,” Jones said. “I just know they said they were going to get me and A.J. both the ball more so however it works out, it works out. I know me and him are going to make the most of every carry and do what we can to help our team win.”
And even if the Bears didn’t know which back was going to get the ball, they knew it was going to be a back — and they were powerless to stop it.
“It says a lot about our offense,” Jones said. “Even if you know it’s coming you have to stop it and that’s not easy to do.”
Despite the win, Rodgers was subdued in the postgame podium session, opting to reflect on his poor performance — especially in the second half, which he seemed almost mad at himself for. It was a bit of a contradiction to his earlier comments about negative self-talk — though maybe it was more about knowing Green Bay hasn’t hit their ceiling than anything else.
“Tonight was really about 28 and 33 — getting them the football,” Rodgers said. “I didn’t play great. I feel like the stats look a little better than the game. The standard I set for myself is pretty high. I feel like it is attainable — my definition of success, I feel like, rests gently on my shoulders and my ego but I missed some throws that I should never miss.”
But if a performance in which Rodgers ended up with a 131.1 passer rating, throwing for two scores and decidedly not helping his teammates choreograph a psychedelic-inspired touchdown celebration in his honor leaves something for him to be desired, teams should be worried about what an inspired performance will look like from Rodgers this season.
More takeaways from Bears vs. Packers:
— ‘So you’re saying there’s a chance?’ was likely under the breath of most Bears fans after the first drive of the night in which the Chicago offense marched down the field on seven plays, spanning 71 yards, and punched the ball into the end zone on a three-yard run from quarterback Justin Fields. It was after the Bears’ defense had held the Packers to just a field goal on their opening drive and things were looking up for Chicago in the north. But they needed a trick play in the form of a flea flicker on the drive to move the ball — and trick plays aren’t sustainable. After that pre-scripted drive, the Bears quickly ran out of gas. They had no offensive rhythm and wouldn’t score again until the third quarter, when they mustered a 43-yard drive that ended in a 44-yard field goal.
The bottom line: this offense is far from being comfortable.
— The Bears also seemed to have more of a chance as they took pages out of Minnesota’s playbook, considering how the Vikings played the Packers last week. They would have been wiser to take the whole book, though. There were spurts of success when the Bears went up-tempo like the Vikings did last week, namely on that first drive, that sent the Packers spiraling into confusion. LaFleur also revealed Green Bay was having headset issues at the onset of the game, though he swears that wasn’t an excuse for the touchdown. The Bears also brought pressure, sacking Rodgers three times, though it didn’t yield the same results.
— Chicago did seem like they learned not only from the Vikings but also from the Packers themselves. Rodgers said last week that Green Bay chased the score a little bit, abandoning the run earlier than he would have wanted to. The Bears stuck with the run the entire night, despite playing from behind for almost the entire game. They gave themselves a chance, too, in the second half. Going into halftime, they had just 44 yards on the ground. They ended the night with 180 yards rushing. David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert had back-to-back runs of 28 yards and 27 yards, respectively, in the fourth quarter and the Bears ultimately had a chance to pull within one score had it not been for a goal-line stand by the Green Bay defense that kept Fields out of the endzone on fourth down and one as he ran a quarterback sneak from the shotgun.
It was encouraging to see the team stick with the run, anyway and continue to play to their strengths. Against a lesser defense, they may have just had a shot.
Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.
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