GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers keep losing players, and they keep winning.
Yet after Thursday’s 35-14 win over the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field, where the Packers lost one of their best receivers and almost ran out of running backs, who knows how much longer the winning will last?
At some point, coach Mike McCarthy might run out of players who can play Super Bowl-caliber football.
Yes, the Packers survived against a punchless team with an ineffective quarterback who lacks a legitimate No. 1 receiver. But the Dallas Cowboys are up next on the road in Week 5, so QB Aaron Rodgers and an apparently improved defense -- which caused four turnovers Thursday night -- might be in trouble.
Even the mini-bye that comes after a Thursday game might not be enough to cure all the Packers' ills.
They came into the game short-handed on the offensive line, and they left without two of their most important offensive players: running back Ty Montgomery and receiver Davante Adams. Montgomery’s backup, Jamaal Williams, also left with a knee injury, leaving the Packers with only one available halfback, Aaron Jones, who had never played from scrimmage before this game.
The scariest injury was to Adams, who took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan that sent Adams immediately to the hospital to be evaluated for head and neck injuries and a possible concussion.
But at least the Packers were still close to fully stocked at receiver. Jordy Nelson caught two touchdown passes -- including one on the play right after Adams was injured -- and Randall Cobb returned from a chest injury to catch one touchdown pass.
Rodgers threw four touchdown passes in all (the other one went to Adams on the game’s opening drive), marking the fourth time in Rodgers' career he has thrown for four TDs against the Bears.
Montgomery’s injury (broken ribs) might hurt the Packers more in the short term.
In the first three games, Montgomery had 39.6 percent of the Packers' touches, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The next-highest player was Cobb with 10.7 percent. Montgomery carried five times on the first six plays Thursday, gaining 28 yards, before he bowed out. His injury occurred on his first carry, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
As if the injuries on Thursday night weren’t bad enough, the Packers already were without starting offensive tackles David Bakhtiari (hamstring) and Bryan Bulaga (ankle), forcing the Packers to play with essentially four guards and a center. On the other side of the ball, they played without defensive tackle Mike Daniels (hip) and cornerback Davon House (quad).
"Just the injuries, the ability to overcome injuries during the course of the game and battling the injuries coming out of [Sunday's game against] Cincinnati, I can’t say enough about our offensive line and for Lane Taylor to jump out there and play left tackle and just all the way across the board," McCarthy said. "Those guys really set the tempo on the first drive for us and I can’t say enough about [offensive line coach] James Campen and the offensive staff to get those guys ready."
So here are the Packers at 3-1, a position that ordinarily would have a team feeling good about its start, yet McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson face one of the biggest challenges since they lost Rodgers to a collarbone injury four years ago.
"We’re 3-1," Rodgers said. "The downer part is when you see your teammates getting hurt. That’s tough. But there’s a lot to be proud of tonight with the way the offensive line battled, the defense dominated the line of scrimmage, four turnovers, and the way we executed in the red zone. We’ve been really good in situational football this season – top five in red zone percentage and third down percentage, which are things we talk about a lot. So yeah, we’ve got a lot of good film to look at, a lot of places to grow, but also a lot of stuff to be proud of – 3-1, first quarter of the season over, with now an impending tough trip down to Dallas in 10 days."