GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP)—Brett Favre is back.
The Chicago Bears did their best to make sure nobody noticed.
The Bears delivered the first shutout of Favre’s 16-year career on Sunday, beating the Green Bay Packers 26-0 at Lambeau Field.
“I was optimistic going into this game, I really was,” Favre said. “Maybe I was the only one, but I really felt like we could surprise these guys. Obviously, that was not the case.”
For the Bears, shutting out Favre—who has a 21-8 career record against the Bears—took away some of the sting of their 29-21 playoff loss to Carolina in January.
“That guy is going to be a Hall of Famer, he’s going to have his bust in Canton, Ohio and I can say that I was a part of that,” defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said.
Bears coach Lovie Smith called Favre, a three-time MVP, one of the “all-time great quarterbacks.”
“It’s hard to get a shut out in the National Football League anytime,” Smith said. “To get it on the road with No. 4 as the quarterback is definitely special.”
Favre, who deliberated for several months before deciding to return to the Packers this season, spent much of the first half on the sideline as quarterback Rex Grossman led Chicago on several long drives.
Grossman found wide receiver Bernard Berrian for a 49-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive. It was the Bears’ only offensive touchdown of the day, but Chicago continued to move the ball well enough to keep the ball largely out of Favre’s hands.
And when Favre was in the game, he mostly handed off—until it was too late.
Favre threw only five passes in the first half, completing all five for only 70 yards.
“We had a plan we wanted to stick to,” Favre said. “When do you abandon that plan, I don’t know. The bottom line, we got outplayed in every facet of the game. We wanted to set the tempo early and establish the running game. Once we fell behind, we had to try to do something.”
“Yeah, give them credit,” Favre said. “(But) maybe we just ain’t very good.”
New Packers coach Mike McCarthy didn’t blame Favre. He was more concerned about his team’s inability to convert on third down—they were 1-for-11—or protect Favre.
McCarthy said the Packers’ two rookie guards, a major concern going into the season, performed acceptably in run blocking. But Favre was sacked three times— including once when rookie guard Jason Spitz stepped on his foot.
Favre, who threw a career-worst 29 interceptions last season, finished 15-of-29 for 170 yards.
McCarthy said he “thought about” but “didn’t consider” replacing Favre with backup Aaron Rodgers.
Grossman has been limited by injuries to only seven regular-season starts in his previous three NFL seasons, but seems to have no problem outdueling Favre at Lambeau Field when healthy.
Grossman was 18-of-26 for 262 yards as he ran his career record to 3-0 at Lambeau Field.
“We were able to move the ball up and down the field, but I’d still like to finish up some of those drives,” Grossman said. “That’s going to be key in the coming weeks, because eventually the other team will score.”
On the Bears’ sixth play from scrimmage, Grossman heaved a deep pass to Berrian, who caught it in stride and turned it into a 49-yard touchdown.
Green, who is returning from a torn quardriceps last season, carried 20 times for 110 yards.
Grossman and the Bears kept moving the ball with downfield passing plays, setting up kicker Robbie Gould for four field goals.
The Packers offense reached Bears territory only twice in the first half. They turned the ball over on a failed quarterback sneak by Favre early in the second quarter, and the half ended on a missed 53-yard field goal attempt by Dave Rayner.
The Bears scored their second touchdown on an 84-yard punt return by Devin Hester, giving the Bears a 26-0 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The loss ruined the debut of McCarthy, who said young players must learn from their mistakes.
“If they don’t learn from their mistakes, they won’t be in there any more,” McCarthy said.
NOTES: Packers fullback William Henderson was inactive on Sunday, only the third time he has missed a game in 11-plus seasons. … Bears safety Chris Harris left the game with an ankle injury in the third quarter. … It was the first time the Packers were shut out since a 10-0 victory by the Bears on Oct. 17, 1991—a streak of 233 games. It was the fourth-longest such streak in league history and second-longest active streak. The Minnesota Vikings have not been shut out in 236 games. … It was the Bears’ first shutout since a 24-0 victory at Detroit on Dec. 30, 2001.