The Green Bay Packers thrived on big plays from their defense last year, but didn’t produce nearly enough of them the first half of this season.
That’s starting to change now as the Packers move closer to a second straight NFC North title.
Meanwhile, Bears coach Matt Nagy on Monday challenged his defense to regain its old form to try and snap a five-game losing streak after a 41-25 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Green Bay (8-3) scored three touchdowns off turnovers Sunday night in a 41-25 victory over the Chicago Bears (5-6). The Packers have eight takeaways in their last four games after forcing just four turnovers in their first seven games.
The Packers’ 12 overall takeaways still put them in the bottom half of the NFL rankings and well off their pace from last year, when they forced 25 turnovers.
But they’ve picked up the pace and gotten more aggressive lately.
Aaron Rodgers threw for four touchdowns and led three long scoring drives on the Packers’ first three possessions in Sunday’s victory. It seemed to leave Nagy at a loss to explain as the Bears turned their attention to facing Detroit on Sunday at Soldier Field.
The Bears had been ranked in the top 10 defensively most of the season, but playing without end Akiem Hicks and lineman Roy Robertson-Harris made it difficult to stop simple Packers runs up the middle. The Packers’ 182 rushing yards were the most allowed by the Bears since Dec. 24, 2016, when Washington ran for 208.
Kahlil Mack went without a sack for the third straight game. He has made nine total tackles for the three games without making a hit on a quarterback.
Green Bay’s defense scored one touchdown on its own. After Za’Darius Smith sacked Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to force a fumble, Preston Smith picked the ball up and ran 14 yards into the end zone to give the Packers a 27-3 lead.
Darnell Savage Jr. picked off two of Trubisky's passes, his first two interceptions of the season.
Green Bay’s defense remains a work in progress. The Packers rank just 19th in the NFL in scoring defense and allowed David Montgomery to rush for 103 yards on just 11 carries Sunday. The Packers added some depth Monday by claiming defensive lineman Anthony Rush off waivers from the Bears.
But the Packers might be good enough on offense to make a deep playoff run by outscoring teams, as long as their defense can make a few big plays to help the cause. Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes Sunday to continue his push toward a potential third MVP honor.
The Packers’ defense let up a bit late in the game by allowing two fourth-quarter touchdown drives with the game out of reach. Over its last five games, the Packers have allowed Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook, Jacksonville’s James Robinson and now Montgomery to all exceed 100 yards rushing.
Indianapolis rookie Jonathan Taylor rushed for 90 yards against the Packers last week.
The running game made a revival with David Montgomery returning to the lineup. He ran for a season-high 103 yards, based largely on a career-long 57-yard run. The Bears rushed for 122 yards as a team, their most since Week 3.
The Bears trail Arizona for the last playoff spot by one game and will know more about a quarterback starter for Detroit later in the week. If they don’t snap out of this tailspin, it might go beyond missing the playoffs: It’s always possible it could mean coaches’ jobs.
The Bears host Detroit (4-7) on Sunday with Darrell Bevell making his debut as Detroit’s interim coach.
Green Bay players are off until Wednesday as the Packers wait to find out whether injuries will require them to shake up their offensive line once more as they prepare to host the Philadelphia Eagles.