Without Hicks, Bears defense falls down against Green Bay
The most attention-grabbing change in the Bears' starting lineup Sunday was the return of quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who was starting for the first time since Week 3 in Atlanta.
But the more ominous shuffle was the absence of defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. He was listed questionable with a hamstring injury, then was on the inactive list 90 minutes before kickoff.
Without Hicks, the Bears' defense provided very little resistance. Heading into the game, the Bears still had faint hopes of winning the NFC North if they could sweep Green Bay.
Instead, they suffered an embarrassing 41-25 loss, their fifth in a row, and it was never competitive. Once again, the talent gap between the Bears and Packers remains alarming.
Trubisky tossed 3 touchdown passes, but the first one didn't happen until the Bears trailed 27-3. He also had 2 interceptions and a fumble returned for a touchdown.
"There was a lot of excitement being back, just being back in the huddle, being back with the offense throughout this week," Trubisky said after the game. "I think myself and the offense, we had this expectation or picture of what we thought could happen going into this game and it just didn't go that way from the get-go. Things like that happen sometimes. I just try to put my best foot forward every single day."
Green Bay has obvious advantages with future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers and receiver Davante Adams, arguably the league's best wideout this season. But the Packers also produced a clinic on how to exploit the Bears defense.
The absence of Hicks was noticeable right away when the Packers took the opening kickoff and averaged 5.3 yards on seven carries during a touchdown drive.
Rodgers finished the game with a completely clean uniform. Other than one roughing the passer penalty, the Bears barely got within reach of the Packers QB.
"Very frustrating from my standpoint," Khalil Mack said. "That's something that I take personally. Just going to look at the film and get ready for the next one. Ain't nothing I can do about it now."
Green Bay scored on its first two possessions, so the Bears needed a touchdown to keep pace. Instead, Trubisky threw an interception on the second drive while trailing 13-3. He threw deep into double-coverage looking for Darnell Mooney, but was easily picked off in the end zone by safety Darnell Savage.
"Definitely looking back on it, forced it a little too much," Trubisky said. "Probably would have liked to check it down or scrambled. But I was trying to be aggressive early on. It's what we were preaching this week as a team."
It looked like the Bears defense finally got a stop on Green Bay's next drive, but Rodgers converted a fourth-and-2 on the way to a third touchdown.
Trubisky made a nice third-down conversion to Mooney, but it was wiped out by a holding penalty. The fumble return for a touchdown happened on the very next snap and the Packers led 27-3.
"I just felt like they got after us for the entire game from the first quarter to the very end," head coach Matt Nagy said. "That's basically where we're at right now. Talked to the guys in the locker room afterward and there's guys that care. I think that's what important to us. They care and they know we've got to do it on the field. It's not about what we say."
The Bears finally found the end zone with 19 seconds left in first half on 1-yard pass to Allen Robinson. Their first three drives of the second half featured a sack, interception, then three-and-out.
One bright spot, David Montgomery broke loose for a 57-yard run on the Bears' second offensive play. He finished with 103 rushing yards, his first 100-yard game of the season and third of his career.
After some missed tackles on Green Bay's final touchdown run, NBC analyst Tony Dungy suggested Bears defenders had given up. After the game, Nagy strongly disagreed.
"That's something that our players have to dig down deep and say, 'Enough's enough,' and obviously we, players and coaches, didn't do that tonight," Nagy said.