ATL: What We Learned  

 

Seneca Wallace can't replace Aaron Rodgers

Does Chicago Bears backup quarterback Josh McCown have a third brother? That's what the Green Bay Packers had to be wondering after McCown thoroughly outplayed Seneca Wallace in Monday night's battle of the backup quarterbacks.

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday morning that Rodgers is believed to have a small break in his collarbone. The injury will necessitate missing some games, but there's no definitive timetable for Rodgers' return.

Bolstered by a couple of fortuitous bounces and what is quickly becoming the NFL's most dominant ground attack, Wallace held the offense hostage after replacing Rodgers. By the middle of the third quarter, the Bears' defense was stacking the box to stop Eddie Lacy and daring Wallace to beat them through the air.

Wallace couldn't do it.

Now in a three-way tie with the Bears and the Detroit Lions in the NFC North, the Packers' playoff hopes rest on the health of Rodgers' shoulder. As long as his season isn't over, an easy schedule should allow McCarthy's team to stay in the hunt until the cavalry arrives in the form of Rodgers, Randall Cobb and Clay Matthews down the stretch.

Here's what else we learned in Monday's game:

1. Bears coach Marc Trestman arrived in Chicago with a reputation as a quarterback whisperer. Through half a season we've seen nothing to dispel that notion. Banished from the NFL as an assistant high school coach for the majority of 2011 and 2012, McCown has been every bit as impressive as Jay Cutler as an injury fill-in the past two games. McCown checked into the correct run calls, made plays out of the pocket, pushed the ball accurately down the field and found a way to get the ball into his best players' hands in the red zone Monday night. With Trestman pushing all the right buttons, the Bears have no reason to rush Cutler back before he's ready.

2. Between Trestman's Midas touch and the Bears' physical receivers, McCown was in a better position to succeed than any backup quarterback this season. McCown and Brandon Marshall connected on a spectacular 23-yard touchdown, and Alshon Jeffery continues to play like one of the best young skill-position players in the NFL.

3. Bears safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright were exploited by the Packers' ground attack. Conte, in particular, has had a rough season in coverage and run support. This is a position general manager Phil Emery will have to address in the offseason.

4. Matt Forte and Chris Johnson entered the league together in 2008. Over the past three and a half seasons, Forte has averaged 108 yards from scrimmage to Johnson's 94. Forte, of course, receives a fraction of Johnson's attention even though he's been the better player over the past 50-plus games. His value was highlighted by 53 yards on eight touches during a nearly nine-minute field-goal drive that salted the game away in the fourth quarter.

5. It was interesting to note that ESPN analyst Jon Gruden suggested the Bears will have a "tough call" on committing to Cutler with a long-term contract after the season. Trestman was Gruden's quarterbacks coach with the Raiders in 2001, so it's no stretch to believe the subject has been broached between the two. Gruden's comments mesh with the reporting of NFL Media columnist Michael Silver, who recently wrote that there's a "very real possibility" the Bears will move on from Cutler in 2014. If Cutler does indeed return in Week 10 -- as hoped -- he will have an eight-game audition to stick with Trestman.

6. The Bears finally got a return on their 2012 first-round investment in Shea McClellin, who recorded as many sacks Monday night (3.0) as he accrued in his previous 20 games combined. The No. 19 overall pick had been among the most disappointing picks from last season's draft.

7. Lacy entered the game as the NFL's leading rusher since Week 5 and added to that total with the best game of his young career. Backup James Starks has looked quicker the past two weeks than at any point in his career, leaving the Packers with a lethal one-two backfield punch.

8. Packers inside linebacker Jamari Lattimore has shown a nose for the ball while filling in for Brad Jones (hamstring) the past few weeks. He blocked a punt and recovered an onside kick Monday night. It will be interesting to see if Lattimore keeps the starting job on early downs, with Jones playing in nickel packages.

The "Around The League Podcast" recapped every Week 9 game. Click here to listen and subscribe.

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