The Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears 33-28 to show everyone that the NFC North is still theirs, even if it is by default.
13:13 1st Quarter – The Bears get fantastic field position to start when they start the game with a big return plus a weak personal foul call on the Packers. Devin Hester got the edge around Jarett Bush and returned the ball to their 43, where the 15-yard penalty moved the ball past midfield.
However, the Bears go three and out from there. The Bears’ first play is a quick pass to Brandon Marshall. The Packers are in their nickel, which puts Micah Hyde on the field. Hyde is blocked by Martellus Bennett, but manages to push him into Marshall’s way, disrupting the play. The rest of the defense swarms, and it is a 3-yard gain. A plunge by Matt Forte got 4 yards, leaving the Bears with 3rd and 3.
On the first third down of the game, the Packers switch to their dime. Jay Cutler tries a 5-yard slant to Alshon Jeffery. Tramon Williams is on that side, as he would remain on the left side of the defense and Sam Shields on the right side all game. Williams jumped the slant, and Cutler was lucky that the ball wasn’t picked off. It is incomplete, and the Bears have to punt.
The punt comes very close to downing the Packers within the 2, but the ref standing two feet away says that Mike Ford had his foot on the goal line when he touched the ball. The replay appears inconclusive, though announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, who are otherwise outstanding in this game, insist the Bears stayed out of the end zone. The Bears challenge and fail. The Packers start at the 20.
5:45 1st Quarter – Aaron Rodgers already looks sharp as he leads the Packers all the way to the Chicago 5-yard line before disaster results.
Rodgers is establishing a quick tempo as he mixes quick passes to Jarrett Boykin and Andrew Quarless with runs by Eddie Lacy. On third and 3 from the Bears’ 45, he hits Jordy Nelson on a quick slant from the slot that gets 14 yards. On third and 4 from the Bears’ 25, Rodgers misses on a similar pass to Nelson, but the refs make one of their few calls of the game, saying Nelson was held by Isaiah Frye. It results in a first down via penalty.
Rodgers would convert one more third down with an out to Nelson from the slot, giving the Packers first and goal. However, on third and goal from the 5, Rodgers does a great job to escape the blitz, rolls to his right, and as Packers fans are expecting another big time play from outside the pocket, Rodgers does what he never does and throws an interception right into the numbers of Chris Conte.
Rodgers appears to be throwing for Boykin in the corner, and he possibly assumed Conte would stop coming when Quarless did. Instead, Quarless stopped, but Conte did not.
2:10 1st Q – The Bears go 80 yards in 8 plays to take a 7-0 lead.
On the third play of the drive, the Bears faked an end around, gave to Forte up the middle and the play goes for 20 yards. Mike Neal overplayed the end around and took himself out of the play even though he was unblocked. It is possible that Neal made sure to cover the edge believing that Jamari Lattimore would have the inside gap. Instead, Lattimore was overaggressive in the two gap and got caught inside.
Just two plays later, Cutler has plenty of time and takes a shot up the sideline for Marshall. Shields has good coverage, but gets beat by a little push from Marshall and a perfect pass to the outside. Marshall pulls it in for 37 yards.
Facing third and 4, three plays later, Cutler watches Forte all the way. Forte fakes a circle route, cuts outside, and takes in the pass for an easy touchdown. This is the perfect play for the zone defense the Packers are sitting in. While Bennett drives Shields off the goal line, Forte fakes towards Lattimore and then heads into Shields’ zone. Shields can not recover in time to stop this easy touchdown.
14:25 2nd Q – The Packers drive into Bears’ territory only to come to grief again.
On third and 1 from the Packers’ 28, the Bears have eight guys at the line of scrimmage, but the Packers still go with the quick pitch to Starks. He cuts between David Bakhtiari and Josh Sitton and gets an easy 9 yards.
Two plays later, Rodgers rolls to his right and finds Nelson on a comeback route. Nelson shakes Tim Jennings and gets up the sideline. It is a 32-yard gain to the Bears’ 26. Unfortunately, on the next play, Rodgers tries Nelson again on the short cross. The pass is thrown a little hard, high and behind Nelson. He gets his hands up but can’t control it. It takes a classic Bears bounce right to Jennings for the second Rodgers’ interception of the game.
8:00 2nd Q – The Bears go three and out again. On third and 5, Cutler tries for Marshall on a simple square in from the slot. Marshall is being mauled by Hyde, the pass is behind him, and it is incomplete. Hyde muffs the following punt, but Jarett Bush makes another play for the Packers by jumping on the loose ball.
The Packers advance into Bears’ territory again. This time coming up with a short field goal to make the score 7-3.
On third and 5 from the Packers’ 41, Rodgers hits Nelson on a deep cross. Nelson gets 26 yards and is tormenting the Bears. Three plays later, the Packers get another 15 yards when Shea McClellin decides to jump on top of Rodgers after Lance Briggs already tackled him for a big sack. Again, Buck and Aikman claim it is a bad call, but considering McClellin is the one who knocked Rodgers out in the first place, this should be a surprise to no one. A mini-fight erupted after the play, and I think a big time fight would have occurred if a flag had NOT been thrown.
The Packers go nowhere from there, and Mason Crosby comes in to kick a 33-yard field goal.
3:30 2nd Q – After the Bears go three and out, the Packers drive into their territory for a third straight time and come away with a bizarre touchdown to take a 10-7 lead.
On third and 10 from their own 10-yard line, Cutler scrambles to his right and appears to have a shot to run for it. Instead, he fires for Jeffrey over the middle at the last moment, throws it behind him, and Jarett Bush knocks it away to force the punt.
The punt only goes 31 yards, and the Packers get the ball at the Bears’ 41.
Rodgers converts another third and short with a 6-yard comeback to James Jones. After a pair of hard runs by James Starks gives the Packers first and 10 from the 17, Rodgers takes too much time in the pocket and eventually gets hit from behind by Julius Peppers just as he’s about to throw the football. The ball flies forward and bounces up virtually right into the hands of middle linebacker James Anderson. Anderson and the rest of the Bears assume it is an incomplete pass and ignore it. Boykin is the lone Packer to bother going to recover the ball, first dropping it and then picking it back up. Rodgers comes over and after checking with the nearest referee and the Packers bench, instructs Boykin to take the ball into the end zone. He does. The refs commune for a moment and then signal a touchdown has occurred.
I have seen the Bears score more on bizarre defensive opportunities than any other team in football. It is mind boggling that a Bears defense would forget to play until the whistle and make this mistake. Lovie Smith is rolling in his grave. Oh, wait…
Regardless, it is now 10-7 Packers, and the Bears have no one to blame but themselves.
1:47 2nd Q – The Bears appear somewhat willing to just run the clock here, while the Packers appear willing to let them. The Bears get a first down with the running of Michael Bush. However, on the next play, Cutler throws a pass over the middle to Jeffery. This is one of the only times all season that the Packers’ “tackle high until the second guy arrives” philosophy actually pays off. Tramon holds Jeffrey up until A.J. Hawk comes over and pops him. The hit seems to help Tramon rip the football loose. Tramon then brilliantly scoops the ball behind both of them as Jeffery tries to jump on it. The ball rolls right to Morgan Burnett, who picks it up and takes off running to his right. He pulls a very Chicago Bears maneuver and laterals it to Shields, who gets the ball to the Bears’ 28.
The Packers would pick up one first down with a pass to Nelson, of course, for 16 yards. However, Rodgers can’t find anyone on consecutive plays, and Crosby ends up kicking another field goal to make the halftime score 13-7.
10:46 3rd Q – The second half starts about as poorly for the Packers as it could.
The Packers go three and out on offense. On 3rd and 1 from the 29, the Packers inexplicably decide to line up with Starks out wide. Rodgers tries the quick slant to Boykin, but Zac Bowman is all over Boykin. Incomplete.
Devin Hester takes the punt and rumbles up the nearest sideline for 48 yards. The Bears get to start at the Packers’ 30-yard line. They merely hand it to Forte five straight times.
On the fifth, Bennett blocks down on Andy Mulumba. Mulumba needs to take Bennett’s outside shoulder and hold the edge. Instead, he lets Bennett bury him inside. Forte jumps outside and is untouched for the score.
The Bears now lead 14-13.
7:27 3rd Q – The Packers answer by going 80 yards in seven plays to go back out front 20-14.
The drive starts with a 17-yard rush through the left side by Lacy. Andrew Quarless blocked Peppers out on the play, which allowed Bakhtiari to get to the linebackers. Three plays later it is third and 1, and the Packers don’t get cute this time. They run Starks straight ahead. He hesitates for a moment and then squeezes through a tight gap right up the middle. He alludes the safety and gets loose up the middle of the field. Eventually he is dragged down after a 41-yard run.
The Bears would force a third and 4 from there, but Rodgers would avoid pressure to his left and then spot Randall Cobb open in the end zone. He gets it to him to finish off the drive.
5:05 3rd Q – The Bears answer in just four plays.
On third and 4, Cutler has plenty of time to survey the field. He wants Marshall in the middle of the field, but Hyde has it well-covered. However, Cutler spots Jeffery pulling away from the defense up the left sideline. He fires it out there and nearly hits Jeffrey in stride. Shields catches Jeffrey at the 15, but he grabs the bigger receiver around the shoulders and can’t take him down until he’s inside the 1.
The Packers were in two-deep coverage on the play. Morgan Burnett was too concerned with Marshall in the middle of the field and forgot to help on Jeffery. As we have seen him do before, Sam Shields got a little lazy, knowing that he had help over the top. He allowed Jeffery to separate by 5 yards. Once Jeffery caught the ball, Shields showed his speed by quickly closing on him, but then he needs to just hit Jeffrey low and bring him down there. He should have tackled Jeffrey around the 10-yard line, instead of practically giving up the touchdown.
The Bears hand it to Forte up the middle on the next play, and he scores pretty easily. That puts the Bears back ahead 21-20.
14:55 4th Q – The Packers go four and out after an apparent circus catch by Quarless is called incomplete. The Packers challenge it, but the pansy replay official refuses to do the right thing and overturn the bad call on the field. It’s close, but the ball never hit the ground.
The Bears take advantage by adding on another touchdown to take a 28-20 lead.
On first and 10 from the Bears’ 43, Forte goes around the right end. Sean Richardson meets him at the line of scrimmage but goes high, like every other Packers defender not named Tramon Williams. Forte stiff arms him and gets around the corner for 16 yards. On the very next play, Nick Perry strangely lines up on a receiver in the bunch. He follows him across the field and vacates the short flat. Cutler finds Forte there on the dump. No one is within 15 yards of him. He motors his way up the left side for 33 yards.
Once again the Packers defense manages to get to a third down near the goal line, but once again the Bears manage to score on third down. The Packers blitz gets to Cutler, but he just throws it up for grabs in the direction of Marshall. Tramon has the back-shoulder covered, but the pass goes to the back corner. Marshall disengages from Williams, spins around and makes a nice grab at the back of the end zone. Sometimes the offense just makes a play regardless of what you do.
11:40 4th Q – Absolutely needing an answer, the season on the line, the Packers offense delivers by rather easily going 77 yards in six plays, never facing a third down.
On second and 8 from the Green Bay 28, Rodgers finds Nelson on a simple run-pass option. Tim Jennings grabs Nelson with three other Bears closing, and it should be a short gain. Wrong. Jordy the Effin Nelson spins off all three Bears and heads up the sideline. Even Chris Conte has a hard time getting him out of bounds. It is a 34-yard gain, into Bears’ territory.
A couple plays later, Rodgers tries a pass over the middle to Quarless that he has no business throwing. The ball miraculously pinballs off Conte’s arms, off the facemask of Quarless, and ultimately into his arms for a crazy catch at the Bears’ 6-yard line. That is actually the second crazy catch of the game by Quarless.
On the very next play, Lacy found nowhere to go up the middle, but the line held their blocks. Lacy decides to go around the left end and makes it to the end zone.
I believe the majority of NFL coaches would have gone for two here and tried to tie the game. Mike McCarthy makes the correct call by kicking the PAT. If the Bears would have scored again, which had been the trend in this half, the Packers would have still been within one score. Plus, the Packers are terrible at two-point tries.
6:32 4th Q – Just like at Lambeau, the Bears look like they are going to drive for the dagger against the Packers defense.
Facing just one third down on their side of the field, a third and 2, Forte takes a pitch around the left end and easily gets 11.
The Bears move methodically to the Packers’ 40-yard line. However, once there, they first commit an illegal formation and knock themselves 5 yards back. On first and 15, Cutler dumps to Forte, but Hawk has him one-on-one and immediately buries him for a 3-yard gain. On second and 12, Forte gets cut off in the backfield, decides to turn around and try for the other edge, and Andy Mulumba makes a nice play to stick with it and tackle Forte for a 5-yard loss. On third and 17, Cutler tries for Jeffery in single coverage against Shields. With the help of a grab by Jeffery, Shields slightly overruns the play and can’t get his hands on the ball. However, Jeffrey has to reach back over Shields’ hand and can’t hang on. The Bears have to punt.
00:38 4th Q – And thus begins the Packers’ epic drive to the playoffs.
They start at their own 13. A run by and then a pass to Lacy gets 9 yards. On third and 1, the Packers run Lacy again. He appears to just bull his way for the first down, but the refs don’t give him a favorable mark. A measurement shows it is two inches short. McCarthy originally sends the punt team out but also has the challenge flag in his hand. The offense just stands on the field, not coming to the sideline. McCarthy decides to go for it from his own 22.
When Rodgers moves Ryan Taylor to the left side of the formation, Taylor originally lines up off the line. Rodgers motions for him to get on the line of scrimmage, making it a legal formation, then snapping the ball and giving to John Kuhn. Kuhn clearly gets the first down, but the refs give him an unfavorable spot. It is still enough for the first down, but the refs waste our time with another measurement. First down.
Give the Bears’ defense some credit, because with their season on the line, they give the Packers’ offense a much more difficult time than they did the drive before. The Packers end up with third and 3 after the fourth down conversion. Rodgers has time to throw, good protection, but can’t find anyone open. He decides to scramble up the middle, jukes Lance Briggs, and gets the first down. Briggs made an illegal attempt to trip Rodgers when he juked him, but there is no call. As we should already know, these refs don’t call ANYTHING.
Again the Packers can’t pick up a first down without going to fourth down. It is fourth and 1 when we come back from the two minute warning. The comeback to Nelson IS the option here, and that is exactly what Rodgers throws. Nelson makes the catch, and it is another first down.
On first and 10 from midfield, Rodgers again gets lots of time in the pocket. He finally spots Quarless loose up the left sideline and takes a shot for him. He underthrows the pass, and it never makes it to Quarless. On second and 10, Lacy gets a carry that would go big up the middle, but Lacy tries the right edge instead and only gets 2 yards. On third and 8, Rodgers has Nelson open on the slant beneath the safety, but he throws it behind Nelson and is lucky it isn’t picked.
This brings up fourth and 8 from the 48. Originally showing a five-man rush, Lance Briggs waves in Isaiah Frye and goes with the seven-man rush. The Packers only have six to block with Kuhn in the backfield. The Packers decide to slide their protection right. This leaves Julius Peppers, of all people, free to rush Rodgers.
After the snap, Rodgers looks for Nelson to the middle of the field from the near slot. Safety Major Wright meets Nelson at the marker and knocks him to the ground, illegally. Rodgers sees Peppers coming and tries to escape to his left. Kuhn comes across the formation and cuts Peppers, allowing Rodgers to escape the pocket. Rodgers only takes two steps before seeing Cobb wide open downfield. He does something that only he can do as fast and as well. He sets his feet and just uses his arm and wrist to flick a pass on a line for Cobb. Cobb catches it at the 10 and leaps in for the score.
This is a huge clutch play by the Packers offense coupled with an overaggressive defensive scheme. I like the blitz. Rodgers threw two inaccurate passes right before this. You hope to force another, or get a drop. If the Packers do execute, you sit at 10 yards and make the tackle. The clock is running under 40 seconds, the Packers aren’t in field goal range yet, and Packers fan aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to see Mason Crosby stroll out there with our collective balls in the crosshairs.
In other words, you play it safe and still have plenty of chances to win the game. What you don’t do is overplay the marker and take the chance of having Rodgers and one of his very capable receivers put a dagger in you on this very play. We may hate the patience of the bend but don’t break defense, but the Bears lost this game because they lost patience. And THAT should be a lesson for us.
The Bears needed to score from the 40-yard line in 31 seconds to win the game. After a pass to the middle of the field to Bennett gets 15 and burns the clock to 24 seconds, Cutler takes a shot to the end zone for Alshon Jeffery. Morgan Burnett finally looks like a safety in doing exactly what he should do. He flies over and knocks the ball down.
Cutler then wastes some more time running around until he takes a shot for Marshall right in the middle of the field. Fortunately, the pass is a little behind Marshall, and he drops it. Packers fans are very relieved to not have to see if the Packers secondary can tackle Marshall or not. This leaves only 10 seconds left. Cutler uses it up by scrambling to his left before stopping and throwing for the opposite side of the field. His pass just barely makes the goal line, making it easy for Sam Shields to jump in front of Marshall and pick it off.
Once again a huge Packers-Bears game ends with a Sam Shields interception. Shields runs right out of bounds this time around. Game over.
The Packers’ insane season ended with a NFC North Division title for the third straight season. This makes the Packers the only team other than the Patriots to make the playoffs the last five years running.
Yes, the Packers were lucky to have the Lions and Bears fall back to them, but with Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb, this is a 12-4 or 11-5 football team. They remain the best team in the NFC North, still.
The differences in the offense with Rodgers at the helm are manifold and multiform — too abundant to go over. He showed immediate control over the line of scrimmage, like he was never gone. His interception in the end zone was a bizarre mistake for him, but otherwise, he played an impressive game where the wind was clearly a factor in the accuracy of both quarterbacks.
Jordy Nelson remains a beast, and Rodgers was at times too fixated upon him. With Cobb back in the pass offense, Andrew Quarless playing well, and then the Lacy-Starks tandem, the Packers have an offense that is capable of beating anyone in football. The question is — can the defense play well enough to give the Packers a chance?
There were signs in this game that they can. Ever since the Packers settled on Shields playing the right side, Williams playing the left, and Hyde in the slot, they’ve played better pass defense. With Jarett Bush even making plays in the other slot, the Packers have no hesitancy to use their dime defense, which has suddenly become a strength rather than a weakness.
However, the Packers continue to be soft against the run, and they now have to be concerned where their pass rush is going to come from. Clay Matthews is out, and Mike Neal and Nick Perry are battling injuries, which has forced Andy Mulumba into an important role. Mulumba hasn’t been a disaster on the other end, but he isn’t as good at either defending the run or rushing the passer as Neal and Perry.
The Packers are fine at inside linebacker. Lattimore got caught inside on Forte’s 2o-yard run, but he was fine otherwise. The Packers’ middle linebackers don’t cost them games nor do they win games. They just do their jobs.
If the Packers offense can keep rolling, then they can pressure offenses to move away from the run and attempt to pass the ball to beat them. That would help the defense immensely.
I am not going to talk about the match up with San Francisco. I am just going to say that behind 16 points in the second half to the Vikings, down to their fourth quarterback, down 11 points in the second half to the Falcons, and down 23 points to the Cowboys at half, the Packers couldn’t ask for anything more than having a shot at redemption against the 49ers.