TiVo Time: Chicago Bears
The Green Bay Packers got a big win on Sunday. It’s easy to spend some quality time with game film when that film happens to show the Packers getting another win over the Chicago Bears.
15:00, 1st quarter: On the first play of the game the Packers line up in the shotgun with two tight ends — Jermichael Finley and Tom Crabtree. Ryan Grant is in, which means as the starter of all three games, he’s the de facto starter regardless of what the coaches call him. The Bears are in their cover 2, but have their linebackers up tight to the line, giving them seven guys within five yards of the football. On the inside draw, Crabtree takes out the weak side linebacker and Josh Sitton takes out Brian Urlacher to give Grant an easy running lane. He picks up 13.
Two plays later we see a virtual replay from the first drive of the NFC Championship game, as Aaron Rodgers goes play-action pass. The linebackers bite on the fake, and Rodgers throws it over them to Jennings running a short post for 19 yards. On the very next play, the Bears get confused when Finley lines up to the outside of Jennings and don’t cover Jennings on the line. The safety is forced to run down to try to cover. Rodgers fakes a draw and throws it quickly to Jennings who easily jukes the safety and gets upfield for 12 yards.
The Packers have now run four plays and got more than 10 yards on all of them. It hasn’t even been 2nd down yet, and the Packers are already to the Bears 25.
After a couple penalties end up amounting to nothing, the Bears are in their nickel for the first time, perhaps because the Packers have no tight ends on the field. It’s 2nd and 10 when it should be 1st and 15. Lovie Smith decided to decline a penalty that would have pushed the ball back to the 30-yard line. Odd.
The old adage is that it’s difficult to repeat because every team comes gunning for you. I’d argue this isn’t much of a difference for the Packers because every team in the NFC North lives to beat them. I’d also argue playing the defending champions can make teams make decisions they wouldn’t otherwise make. Between a 4th down attempt by the Saints when they should have been kicking a field goal and the two decisions to decline penalties these last two weeks, we’ve seen this in every game.
On 2nd and 10 from the 25, Rodgers finds Jennings again for a 19-yard gain on the short post. It’s obvious the right side of the Bears defensive backfield has no chance against Jennings. The play never happens if James Starks doesn’t pick up the blitzing safety. Unfortunately, this might be Starks’ best play of the game.
11:30, 1st quarter: On a free play on 2nd and goal from the 7, Rodgers comically whistles the ball right past Cedric Tillman’s earhole and hits Finley in the chest for the first TD of the game. Curiously, the Bears have played good defense overall, but the Packers have scored on their first drive against Chicago three of the last four games, including all three played at Soldier Field.
7:40, 1st quarter: The Bears go six and punt. I don’t love Dom Capers’ call to send Charles Woodson and A.J. Hawk on a blitz on the first 3rd down of the game. I would have preferred to rush the straight four and cover. The blitz is picked up by the Bears, and Jay Cutler has plenty of time to throw a rare accurate pass to Johnny Knox in front of Tramon Williams.
After a false start, a pass off a helmet, and a Matt Forte run stuffed by Clay Matthews for a 1-yard loss, it’s 3rd and 16. Attacked all week for not protecting their quarterback, the Bears leave seven guys in to block. The Packers only send three and drop eight into coverage. With no place to go downfield, Cutler dumps it to Devin Hester, who is immediately surrounded by Packers.
Cutler walks off the field looking like a punk.
6:54, 1st quarter: The Packers were on the move again with two more quick passes to Jennings, when the camera pans back to show Bryan Bulaga writhing on the field holding his left knee. Fortunately, all of Bulaga’s pain wouldn’t be indicative of a serious injury.
The injury would stymie the Packers offense. They go 2-yard Starks’ run, false start, and 3-yard Starks’ run. On 3rd and 10, Rodgers dumps the ball to Starks for a short gain. Rodgers had plenty of time to find someone open downfield.
4:12, 1st quarter: The Bears only get one play. Cutler tries a pump and go to Roy Williams on 1st down. The move burns Tramon Williams, but Cutler never even looks for the safety. Morgan Burnett is there and makes a nice catch coming over.
2:42, 1st quarter: The Packers go three and out after the interceptions. On 3rd down, the play looks set up for a quick cross to Randall Cobb with Jennings blocking. It’s there. Unfortunately, Rodgers appears to have gone into his Bears game shell. After a quick look towards Cobb, he refuses to deliver the ball. He looks to his right where Finley is popping wide open downfield. Rodgers doesn’t throw the ball and gets sacked by Julius Peppers when he tries to scramble up the middle.
12:00, 2nd quarter: Finley makes a nice grab on a 6-yard TD catch off an impromptu rollout by Rodgers. The drive started at the Packers’ 43 thanks to a nice return by Cobb. The Packers faced 3rd and 3 at midfield for the first play of the 2nd quarter when they got a gift. Having failed to convert a 3rd down since Bulaga went down, the Packers get a conversion on a penalty when Peppers jumps offside. This seems to revitalize the offense.
Ryan Grant had two runs of 9 yards. The Packers are running the ball well because their offensive line is getting to the second level and handling the Bears’ linebackers. Especially promising, on Grant’s run from the 15 to the 6, Marshall Newhouse came off a double team and blocked Urlacher, allowing Grant to cut back. Newhouse has also practically swallowed Chicago defense end Israel Idonije since coming into the game.
I’ve said this all three games, but this is a better run-blocking line than the one that won the Super Bowl last year. This really makes the Packers offense difficult to handle.
Speaking of which, the Bears have tried both back-up safeties and Lance Briggs, and no one can cover Finley.
8:12, 2nd quarter: On 3rd and goal, Cutler finds Dane Sanzenbacher for a 4-yard TD to make it 14-7. I’m not sure who’s more Jekyll and Hyde here, the Bears offense or the Packers defense. Either way, after having zero success all half, the Bears suddenly hit some big plays and went 80 yards for the score.
Twice, Cutler throwing the ball behind his receiver led to big plays when the defender overran the play. Cutler then hit a pass to Knox at the 5-yard line that Charlie Peprah could have broken up if he hadn’t slipped.
The Packers played good defense to get to 3rd down, but on that down, Jarius Wynn dropped back into a zone already covered by Desmond Bishop and left a gaping hole in the middle of the field for Sanzenbacher. If Wynn drops straight back, he might have a pick.
1:51, 2nd quarter: Mason Crosby kicks a 37-yard field goal to make it 17-7. The Packers drove down to the 15-yard line before a false start that was followed by a mysterious delay of game pushed the Packers back. The offense really showed versatility on the drive, hitting Jordy Nelson and then James Jones on consecutive plays.
The drive ended on a botched screen to Starks after T.J. Lang waited too long get off his block. Lang got in Starks’ way and Starks dropped the ball, but the screen wasn’t going anywhere anyway.
0:49, 2nd quarter: Really a game-turning hold, as the Packers stop the Bears at the 5 and force a short field goal to make it 17-10. Again, the Packers gave up a couple big plays to let the Bears get into scoring range. First, Woodson and Peprah lost track of Knox on a corner route, and then the Packers send Williams and Bishop on a blitz, only to leave Matt Forte wide open in the middle of the field. He gets it down to the 6.
The Packers went to straight man-to-man coverage from there with the nickel on the field. Cutler had Sanzenbacher on the mind and twice almost threw picks to Jarrett Bush and Williams while trying to force it. The Packers blitzed on 3rd down, and it worked for once. Cutler threw the ball away to force the field goal.
14:49, 3rd quarter: Hilarious. On the first play from scrimmage in the 2nd half, the Bears screw up at the line and leave Wynn unblocked. He sacks Cutler for an 8-yard loss. On 2nd down, Forte tries to get around Erik Walden and Walden, Peprah and Wynn stuff him for a 1-yard loss. The Packers have been flat dominant against the run. Walden is doing a much better job during the regular season of setting the edge than he did during the preseason.
The Bears have to punt after an incompletion on 3rd and forever.
11:55, 3rd quarter: The Packers perform a matching three and out and punt. Starks loses a yard on 1st down when Scott Wells gets mauled at the line of scrimmage by Henry Shelton. Too bad, because Sitton, Lang and Andrew Quarless all had blocks on the second level if Wells does his job there. The Packers get another false start after an incompletion, and Rodgers dumps short to Starks on 3rd and long.
Hey, here’s an idea. Why not throw it deep on 3rd and long? Especially when you have the ball near midfield like the Packers did here. Let’s go over the possible results. A reception equals a big play for the Packers. A penalty equals a big play for the Packers. An incompletion equals a punt — same as a short pass. An interception equals probably the same as a punt, maybe even better. Sorry, the only downside I see is to Rodgers’ passer rating, which is the exact reason why the Packers won’t do it. Bank on it.
10:40, 3rd quarter: After another three and out by the Bears, a run by Grant gets the Packers offense in gear again. On 1st down from the Packers’ 37, Grant takes the stretch play to the left. Crabtree ties up Urlacher and Lang crushes Briggs to open a big lane. Grant gets 15.
6:36, 3rd quarter: Crosby kicks a chippy to put the Packers ahead 20-10. Grant pretty much ran the Packers into the red zone with the help of one nice rollout pass by Rodgers to Nelson.
Once in the red zone, Grant got hurt and had to leave the field. Starks took over and only managed two yards on two carries. Neither play was Starks’ fault. On 1st down, Sitton never came off the double team, which left Briggs free to tackle Starks for a 1-yard gain. On the next play, the Packers had their power package in with Finley and Nelson as the only receivers, which is strange for a 2nd and 9. The Bears answered with eight defenders in the box. That’s eight tacklers to seven blockers and some predictable results.
On 3rd down, Rodgers could have forced one to Finley or thrown to Nelson, who has the 1st down. Instead, he immediately dumps to Starks after only a brief glance in Jennings’ direction. Rodgers looked frustrated after the play, but I’m puzzled as to why considering he seemed completely content to get a field goal here. Mission accomplished.
2:41, 3rd quarter: Both offenses are in neutral. The Bears line up in the wildcat at their own 10. Hester false starts. The fans boo. I laugh.
One of the more mysterious plays I’ve ever seen follows. The entire Bears offense moves without the center snapping the ball and no penalty is called. Let me see. If one guy flinches and there’s no snap, it’s a penalty, but if the entire offense begins the play with no snap, it’s not a penalty? Makes sense to me. Although they were both calling for a penalty three plays earlier when Hester ran Woodson over, neither Troy Aikman or Joe Buck see a foul on this play.
Regardless, that leaves 2nd and 16 for the Bears, which at this point means they might as well punt and get it over with.
On the punt, Randall Cobb fields the ball at the Packers’ 45, and with nothing but traffic ahead of him, darts straight ahead for a 10-yard return. You have to love this guy.
12:49, 4th quarter: Finley catches his third TD of the game on a high 10-yard bullet from Rodgers. Short of Rodgers putting on Cutler’s jersey and playing for Chicago, this game is effectively over at 27-10, Packers. Maybe Rodgers was upset about the last red zone failure because he was super sharp on this short drive.
Finley continues to be a terror for the Bears cover 2. He caught three passes on the drive, and the TD catch was practically a gimme. The Bears apparently hoped that their lone safety could get all the way over to Finley. Coincidentally, they also hope Cutler becomes a good QB.
11:46, 4th quarter: Completely inept all half, the Bears get their best possible turn of events when Starks follows Burnett’s second INT of the game with a fumble Peppers recovers near the Packers’ 30. Peppers didn’t recover the ball before sliding out of bounds, but none of the officials on the field were in position to see it and the replay official resorted to the infamous “inconclusive evidence.”
The Bears would take one play to score. Cutler threw it behind tight end Wendell Davis, but Davis reaches back to grab the ball and Peprah bounces off him. Once he was loose in the open field, the Packers defensive backs made a business decision to not tackle the monstrous Davis.
9:27, 4th quarter: Urlacher makes his one big play of the game. Is there any way we can get this guy to retire? This is Rodgers’ first interception of the season, but sometimes you just have to give credit to the other guy. Urlacher baited the pass by faking a blitz and then dropped straight into Finley’s line. Great play.
7:05, 4th quarter: The Bears fans cheered wildly at the interception, of course, but if they knew what was to follow, they might have headed to the exits instead. The Bears offense would march backward on penalties, until punting after a 3rd and 33. The Bears were even gifted a questionable roughing-the-passer penalty on Walden that took away an interception by Williams. As he’s done all game, Cutler collapsed like he was struck by a bolt of lightning when Walden grazed him. I believe Michael Vick has a skirt Cutler can wear.
2:15, 4th quarter: How ironic. It’s 4th and 5 for the Bears and their last gasp. They choose to try to pick on the guy who ended their season last year. Sam Shields knocks the ball away from Knox, and we have another supposed ending to the madness.
0:51, 4th quarter: At this mark we get the craziest fake punt return I’ve ever seen. In all my life of watching high school, college, and pro football, I’ve never seen an entire punt coverage team fail to locate the football.
I’ve played on special teams, and I can tell you the direction of the punt is called before the play. That way, everyone knows what side of the field to run to, but still, you have to locate the ball just in case the punter kicked in the wrong direction. Not only did the punt team not run to the right side, but they also forgot to locate the ball.
I can see a majority of the coverage team doing this. They’re used to running behind other teammates and just following them to the ball. However, what were the gunners doing? What was Bush doing? He ran to the middle of the field, near neither the ball nor Hester. Crazy stuff.
Personally, I would have fired Shawn Slocum over this play. This is a Super Bowl champion, a possible dynasty. This is like the Navy Seals putting up with a fat slob in their unit.
Lastly, let me be perhaps the first to say there definitely WAS holding on the play. It’s tough to see because it happened near the beginning of the play. Bush was held as he ran down the middle of the field after beating his blocker off the line. The blocker clearly grabs Bush’s jersey and holds him, slowing him down and momentarily knocking him off balance. You can see the ref standing in the middle of the field immediately grab his flag as soon as Bush stumbled.
For everyone who said they searched the play and didn’t find a hold, apparently, you didn’t look very hard.
This was a big win for the Packers. They are now 3-0, which is a better record than they had last year at this time. They face the Broncos at home next, which means they are in great shape to go 4-0. The dominant 1996 Packers didn’t go 4-0; they started 3-1.
The Packers played better on defense, and they continue to be absolutely dominant in run defense. Cutler missed a lot of throws, which helped, but the Packers can also improve as they eliminate some of the mental errors they’ve been making. Really, when you are built like the Packers, you’d better be able to stop the run. Without being able to run, teams will have no other choice but to enter a scoring contest. The Packers can score with anyone in the league. That’s fine.
The most impressive thing about this game was the run blocking. The Packer offense truly has another weapon, besides Finley, that it didn’t have last year. Every team the Packers have faced wanted to play a shell against them. With the Packers’ ability to run the ball, it’s going to be very difficult for teams to stay in that shell.
Marshall Newhouse was surprisingly excellent in replacing Bulaga, and Morgan Burnett might end up being one of the best draft picks of all time. Peprah can play better, but I don’t agree that he had a terrible game. He was usually right where he needed to be. He just needs to play the ball a little better.
The Packers pass rush is a work in progress, but the Bears used a lot of max protect packages this game. Clay Matthews has been an absolute stud against the run, even while getting double and triple teamed on passing downs. I’m not sure why C.J. Wilson isn’t seeing more time, and B.J. Raji has been good, but not as good as he was in the preseason.
Ironically, the Packers could end up in a situation like last year where they’re healthier near the end of the season, once they have Mike Neal, Vic So’oto and Frank Zombo back. That would certainly help the pass rush.
The offense is just dominant when they don’t stop themselves. If I was the defensive coordinator for the Broncos right now, I would be getting drunk.
Shawn Neuser attended UWGB and lives and works in Green Bay. He enjoys long walks on the beach and being intimate with game film.