Slow start for Bears' Jeffery in return against Packers
It's not that the Bears forgot Pro Bowl wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was back on the field after serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs.
The Packers knew it as well, and they adjusted their coverage accordingly. That's why Jeffery had no catches through three quarters and was targeted just twice.
"Once we got back to the bench and looked at the (pictures), you could tell," wide receiver Cam Meredith said. "So we just knew other people were going to have to make plays."
Meredith took advantage of the Packers' preoccupation with Jeffery with a game-best 9 catches for 104 yards, his third 100-yard day of the season. Deonte Thompson added 8 catches for 110 yards, by far his biggest day in five NFL seasons. Bellamy only caught 1 pass, but it was for a 10-yard touchdown, his first of the season, which started the Bears' scoring.
On his TD, Bellamy caught the ball near the line of scrimmage and ran over Packers cornerback Damarious Randall at the four-yard line to reach the end zone.
"I couldn't let that one guy get me down," Bellamy said.
Early in the fourth quarter, Jeffery finally made his presence felt. He caught back-to-back passes of 23 and 27 yards and one play later an 8-yard TD, just his second of the season. He finished with 6 catches for 89 yards and, despite missing four games, leads the Bears with 719 receiving yards, 27 more than Meredith's 692.
"They were rotating (a safety) to his side," quarterback Matt Barkley said of the Packers' frequent double-teaming of Jeffery. "They were playing some different looks. But he was making plays when the ball came to him."
Missed tackles were a noticeable problem for a Bears defense that was gashed for a season-worst 226 rushing yards on just 23 attempts, a brutal 9.8-yard average.
The Packers came in ranked 22nd in rushing yards.
"Obviously when you've got that many rush yards, there's an issue," coach John Fox said. "It was one of the things we talked about that was going to have to happen to win the game, (but) we came up short."
Packers hybrid running back/wide receiver Ty Montgomery frequently made Bears tacklers look bad.
On his 4-yard run to open the scoring, Montgomery easily ran through cornerback Tracy Porter's arm tackle. On Montgomery's 61-yard run on the first play of the second quarter, inside linebacker John Timu missed him near the line of scrimmage and inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd had opportunities just a few yards downfield. Later in the same quarter, Montgomery brought multiple tacklers along for the ride on his 32-yard pickup.
Even the Packers' recently acquired, free-agent backup running back Christine Michael got in on the action, shedding Cre'Von LeBlanc just beyond the line of scrimmage en route to a 42-yard touchdown run.
Rookie Jordan Howard easily zipped past the 1,000-yard mark, picking up 90 yards on 17 carries (5.3-yard average) and scoring on a 9-yard run.
He leads the team with 6 rushing touchdowns and 7 total TDs and has 1,059 rushing yards on 211 carries for a 5.0-yard average.
"He's a tough kid," center Cody Whitehair said. "He runs the ball hard, just a great character guy, never lets up and just keeps his feet moving."
By the numbers:
There were 16,536 no-shows at Soldier Field, where the game-time temperature was 11 degrees with a wind-chill of minus-4. … The Bears-Packers series is now even at 94-94-6 for the first time since 1933. In 1992, the Bears held a 25-game lead. Since then, with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers quarterbacking the Packers, they have gone 38-13 vs. the Bears.
Sitting it out:
Sunday's inactives included nose tackle Eddie Goldman (ankle), who didn't practice all week and was listed as "questionable;" wide receiver Eddie Royal (toe), cornerbacks Bryce Callahan (knee) and Johnthan Banks (ankle), safety DeAndre Houston-Carson, offensive lineman Matt McCants and tight end MyCole Pruitt.
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