GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The streak is over.
Jay Cutler finally notched career win No. 1 (1-4) at Lambeau Field, fighting though nasty conditions to spoil Thanksgiving for the 78,488 in attendance on the night the Green Bay Packers retired Brett Favre's jersey number. The Chicago Bears' 17-13 upset victory is also just the second time Cutler has defeated his team's arch-rivals since he entered the NFL in 2006.
Cutler completed 19 of 31 passes for 200 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions -- his biggest problem against the Packers -- but his contributions went beyond the box score. He consistently kept important drives alive because of his unique ability to sidestep Green Bay's pass-rush. On Chicago's first scoring drive, Cutler went 4-of-5 and delivered a touchdown strike to rapidly emerging tight end Zach Miller.
Cutler received plenty of help from the defense. Veteran Tracy Porter's fourth-quarter interception of Aaron Rodgers, followed by a nail-biting red zone stand with less than one minute left to play sealed the dramatic victory. But whenever the Bears needed to convert on a critical third down, Cutler usually delivered.
In a rebuilding year, Cutler's growth is obvious. Helping the Bears win at Lambeau Field is a personal milestone for the 32-year-old quarterback.
Better late than never.
What it means: This is a huge win for the Bears. Huge. Forget for a moment about the playoff chase. At 5-6, the Bears still have tons of work to do on that front. This season, however, is mainly about building a foundation for the future. Knocking off the Packers -- on Favre’s special night nonetheless -- is a signature victory for the new regime. The march to eight or nine wins is realistic with the 49ers, Redskins, Vikings, Bucs and Lions left on the schedule.
What were they thinking? Another lousy moment on special teams. Just as the Bears clawed their way back in the game, Green Bay’s Jeff Janis runs back a kickoff 64 yards that put the Packers in scoring position. We’ve reached the point that the Bears need to have a special teams intervention. It seems the third phase commits a costly mistake every week. And where are the impact plays? Bears head coach John Fox lauded special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers on Tuesday. Maybe Rodgers is working hard behind the scenes, but as Fox likes to say, the NFL is a performance-based business. Where are the results?
One reason to get excited: Did I mention the Bears beat Green Bay at Lambeau Field. It’s only the third time since 2006. The defense really tightened up after Eddie Lacy’s 25-yard touchdown reception. Pernell McPhee, Lamarr Houston, Adrian Amos, Willie Young and Chris Prosinski (forced fumble) all made impact plays. Vic Fangio is a quality defensive coordinator, capable of adjusting on the fly. This is not a perfect unit, mind you. The Bears give up too much on the ground. And they still get crossed up over the middle on occasion. But Chicago's defense is night and day better compared to a year ago. That final defensive stand was special. It's hard to turn Rodgers away on four downs that close to the end zone.
One reason to panic: Penalties. Way too many penalties. The Bears, remember, had zero infractions last week, which was first time since 1995. But on Thursday, the officials caught the Bears five times in the first quarter. Porter had a touchdown-saving interception erased due to illegal contact (the call looked pretty weak on the replay). Then after halftime, the Bears were flagged for three fouls on their opening drive of the third quarter. The Bears finished the game with 12 penalties.
Fantasy watch: The return of Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffery provided the Bears with a modest bump on offense. Forte ended the night with 53 all-purpose yards. Jeffery caught seven passes for 90 yards. Cutler had the 200 yards and one touchdown (90.8 quarterback rating).
Ouch: The Bears did not suffer any significant injuries on Thursday. With extra time to rest until next Sunday’s home game against San Francisco, the club is expected to reevaluate tight end Martellus Bennett (ribs) and Antrel Rolle (knee) when practice resumes on Monday.