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What we learned: Packers' offense shows life vs. Bears

Davante Adams corralled a career-high 13 passes for 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns, leading the Green Bay Packers to a 26-10 victory over the Chicago Bears in Week 7. Here's what we learned:

  1. As it turns out, we haven't seen the last of Jay Cutler under center in Chicago. Riding a four-game streak of 300-yard performances, Brian Hoyer was in the driver's seat to keep the Bears quarterback job when he suffered a broken arm on a Julius Peppers hit in the second quarter of Thursday night's game. The nature of the injury suggests Hoyer's season is likely over, leaving Cutler as the obvious choice to start once his sprained thumb heals.

Hoyer's absence is interesting timing, as Bears CEO Ted Phillips had just warned NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport that it's premature to rule out Cutler's return this season. With the guaranteed portion of Cutler's seven-year, $126.7 million contract running dry, the organization is expected to consider cutting ties next offseason. The final two months of the season will provide Cutler with an opportunity to salvage his future in the Windy City. If the 11-year veteran isn't ready to return next week, Matt Barkley will be thrown to the wolves against the Vikings' top-ranked defense.

  1. The lone Green Bay receiver capable of getting open with consistency, Adams mixed double moves with comeback and curl routes to fall one catch shy of Hall of Famer Don Hutson's long-standing (1942) single-game franchise record for receptions. It was a surprisingly strong performance for a receiver who had spent the early portion of the week in the NFL's concussion protocol.

Adams, Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery combined for 34 receptions as the Packers joined the 1994 Patriots as the only team since the 1970 merger with three different players notching at least 10 catches in a game. "Anytime you can talk about records for the Green Bay Packers all-time," coach Mike McCarthy said after the game, "that's unique and special."

  1. Jordy Nelson, meanwhile, was limited to just one reception for nine yards. Nelson did manage to sneak open twice, but Aaron Rodgers failed to spot him. The chemistry between the two remains elusive, in large part because Nelson has yet to recapture his 2014 pre-injury form.
  1. Minus top two tailbacks Eddie Lacy and James Starks, the Packers didn't even feign an attempt to sustain a ground attack. Wide receiver Montgomery started in the backfield, with Cobb sprinkled in throughout the evening. Freshly promoted Don Jackson fell out of the rotation after exiting with a first-quarter hand injury. Veteran Knile Davis, acquired in an early-week desperation trade, didn't make his Green Bay debut until garbage time late in the fourth quarter. It's fair to expect more of the same next week in a potential shootout at Atlanta versus Matt Ryan and the NFL's highest-scoring offense.
  1. Forced to turn to the short, quick-hitting passing game as a surrogate for the rushing attack, Rodgers completed a career-high and franchise-record 39 passes but managed a meager 5.8 yards per attempt. Optimists will note that Rodgers was 20 of 26 (76.9 percent) for 176 yards (6.88 YPA), three touchdowns and a tidy 132.9 passer rating in the final two quarters after an inauspicious start to the second half when rookie pass rusher Leonard Floyd recovered his own strip-sack fumble for a Bears defensive touchdown.

Realists understand, however, that it shouldn't take nearly three quarters for the two-time MVP to find his rhythm against an undermanned defense.

Thursday's performance was a microcosm of the Packers' offensive woes going back to last October. Rodgers has led scoring drives on five of six game-opening possessions this season, taking advantage of Mike McCarthy's scripted plays in a decisive aerial show. Once the scripted plays are exhausted, though, Rodgers lapses into sandlot ball, failing to set his feet as the passing game loses its timing element. Because Green Bay's slow-footed receiversstruggle to separate on isolation routes, Rodgers feels more comfortable when the play breaks down, providing a sliver of space to exploit. Did the 20-point second-half explosion end finally put a stop to that vicious circle, allowing Rodgers to regain trust in his receivers? We'll find out next week in Atlanta.

  1. Jordan Howard has lost his stranglehold as the Bears' featured back. A glacial Howard was outplayed by Ka'Deem Carey for the second straight game, managing just 22 yards on seven carries. With early-season starter Jeremy Langford due back soon from an ankle injury, fantasy footballers will lament the days of backfield clarity in Chicago.
  1. Hoyer and Barkley combined to complete just 10 of 26 passes (38.5 percent) for 120 yards (4.6 YPA), two interceptions and a miserable 22.9 passer rating against an injury-ravaged Packers secondary. Barkley was responsible for both turnovers in a dismal performance that bodes poorly for Chicago's prospects in the near future.
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