The Green Bay Packers are your 2010 NFC Champions. Here’s an in-depth look at how they won their grudge match with the Chicago Bears.
10:50, 1st quarter — The Bears won the coin toss and used the Packers’ strategy against them by deferring until the second half. It looks especially rosy for the home team after James Starks does a bobble, bobble, and slip on the kickoff, and the Packers start at their own 16-yard line. No matter. In a drive reminiscent of the Atlanta game, the Packers quickly overcome their field position and drive for a touchdown without facing a third down. The 84-yard drive is mostly made up of three passes over 20 yards, including two to start the game to Greg Jennings and another to Jordy Nelson that got the Packers to the 2. The first play of the game is a 22-yard deep out to Jennings in front of hobbled Bears safety Chris Harris, who the Packers targeted on the drive. The other two long pass plays were both off play-action fakes and took advantage of the same defensive scheme. Though setting up in the cover 2, the Bears defense collapses safety Danieal Manning against the run, rotating Harris to the middle of the field. The Packers play fake and run the slant to the area vacated by Harris. Both slants are against soft coverage by corner Tim Jennings.
The touchdown itself comes on one of Mike McCarthy’s better play calls of the year. On second-and-goal from the 1, the Packers line up with B.J. Raji and Quinn Johnson leading John Kuhn on the right, but for the first time this year, Rodgers does the naked bootleg to the left. Perhaps showing his inexperience at running the play, Rodgers takes the fake all the way back to the 9 before heading for the pylon. Fortunately, his speed still allows him to get in just before taking a shot from Manning.
7:53, 1st quarter — The Bears have to punt after reaching the Green Bay 34. Their mini-drive was basically made up of one play — a 24-yard gain on a dump pass to Matt Forte. On the dump, which would prove to be the Bears’ best offensive weapon, A.J. Hawk lost track of Forte, who slipped out of the backfield rather than blocking. Perhaps most importantly, the Packers aggressively set the edge on two run plays to the outside, only giving up three combined yards. Desmond Bishop had three tackles in the five plays on this drive, and Cullen Jenkins was already getting in Jay Cutler’s face. On third down from the 34, Cutler either overthrew an open Devin Hester on the deep out or Hester was supposed to run the corner.
5:00, 1st quarter — The Packers move the ball from their own 10 to midfield before punting after three straight incompletions. James Starks ran 16 yards out of the shotgun on the first play of the drive. On that play, Daryn Colledge came off a perfect double team block of defensive tackle Anthony Adams to block Brian Urlacher, and Tom Crabtree made a great block on Lance Briggs to lead the way. After a 10-yard slant to James Jones, Brandon Jackson broke off a 10-yard run against a Bears defense expecting a pass. The Packers do all this with Chad Clifton, who suffered a stinger, on the bench and T.J. Lang at left tackle. Once at midfield, Rodgers takes two shots down the sideline. On the first, Jennings appears to have inside position against Charles Tillman, but Rodgers was slightly hurried by Julius Peppers, who beat Lang on the play, and threw the ball to the outside. On second-and-10, Rodgers might have thrown a perfect ball to Jordy Nelson, but Tim Jennings grabbed the back of Nelson’s jersey and slowed him down just enough for it to be overthrown. Nelson complained to no avail — the grab was even hard to see on replay. On third-and-10, Peppers pushed Lang into Rodgers, who tried to dump it to Kuhn, but the ball went through Kuhn’s hands, forcing the punt. Though the Packers had to punt, they were able to win the field position battle for the remainder of the half thanks to this drive.
3:23, 1st quarter — On third-and-6 from their 19, Cutler gets sacked by Jenkins and Clay Matthews and the Bears have to punt from their 15. Dom Capers showed an inventive way to attack the passer with just the front four, here. The Packers have Jenkins and Raji in wide splits, with Eric Walden standing in the hole between them, right over the quarterback, and Matthews in his normal position over the right tackle. At the snap, Walden doesn’t rush at all, appearing to shadow Cutler while keeping the left guard uninvolved in front of him. Raji bursts up field against a double team, while Matthews does an inside stunt. The Bears handle this adequately, but leave Jenkins one-on-one with the right tackle, who Jenkins pushes into Cutler. Cutler tries to step through and gets swarmed by Jenkins and Matthews.
00:52, 1st quarter — The Packers lose a chance to stretch the lead when Rodgers takes a sack on third-and-6 from the Bears’ 27. The Packers quickly went from midfield to the 30 on a 20-yard pass to Jennings. After two runs advanced the ball to the 27, the Bears unleashed a rare six-man blitz on Rodgers, sending both Urlacher and Briggs. It left Kuhn alone when he released, but Rodgers tried to escape to his right, instead of getting him the ball, and got sacked by Urlacher. Some Packers fans may feel this knocked them out of field goal range, as Joe Buck suggested during the broadcast, but did anyone really want to see Mason Crosby try a 45-yard field goal? I didn’t think so. Instead, Tim Masthay kicks the ball to the goal line, where Jarrett Bush, who has gone from ugly duckling to the swan of special teams, saved it at the 2-yard line.
14:30, 2nd quarter — The pregame talk focused a lot on Matthews and Peppers. Well, everyone let me introduce Cullen Jenkins. After a Raji rampage forces a desperate and errant dump off on second down, the Bears go to the draw play on third, only to have Jenkins toss a blocker aside and tackle Forte at the 1. Jenkins is the ambassador of whoop ass right now.
11:13, 2nd quarter — The Packers go up 14-0 and the Bears have been completely dominated so far, with only one first down. The key to the 44-yard drive was the punt out of the Bears’ end zone, which gave the Packers the ball with a short field. Then, on second-and-13 Jackson juked Urlacher on a dump-off and went 16 yards. The very next play, Starks broke off left tackle for another 14 yards. On the play, Starks demonstrates the advantage in vision he has over every other Packers running back, breaking it immediately to the open edge, even though the play was designed to go up the middle. Rodgers then faked the run to Starks and found Nelson over the middle, down to the 4. Starks took it in on the next play. Once again, the Packers scored without facing a third down. Also, after a rough start, Lang has done fine at left tackle; on the pass to Nelson, he had Peppers one-on-one and stoned him.
7:40, 2nd quarter — The Bears decide to punt from the Green Bay 31 on fourth-and-10. Finally able to put a drive together, the Bears were forced into long yardage after a soft holding call erased a pass inside the Packers’ 20. Cutler ran for 10 yards on second down and then for no gain on third. It certainly would have been a long field goal for the conditions, but punting from your opponents’ 31 when down 14-0 is… curious.
5:00, 2nd quarter — The Packers offense moves the ball again. This time they take it from their 20 to the Bears’ 36 before getting stuffed on third-and-1. The drive featured a 10-yard run by Starks and a 25-yard scramble by Rodgers. The Packers were presented with only their third third down of the game when Jennings fell down a yard short of the first down after a nifty double move got him open in the middle on second down. After a timeout, the Packers came out in the inverted wishbone, arguably their best running formation, but they have no receivers in the game. With no one split wide to worry about, the Bears have 10 defenders at the line of scrimmage against nine blockers. In watching the replay, the play actually worked beautifully with 10 guys doing their job, and one not doing theirs. Bryan Bulaga has Israel Idonije completely crushed on the right side, and Crabtree has Tim Jennings nearly pushed to the sideline. Meanwhile, Josh Sitton and Scott Wells have the rest of the Bears defense walled off to the inside, opening a hole on the right side around three yards wide. Unfortunately, the man assigned to fill that hole, Lance Briggs, is unblocked. Quinn Johnson is assigned to him, but Johnson cut inside Sitton instead of to his outside, got tripped up in traffic, and never made it out to block Briggs. If Briggs stays where he is, Starks has a chance to elude him or run him over, as he did on his first carry of the game. Instead, Briggs charges up field and hits Starks just as he’s making his cut, knocking him down well short of the first down.
So much for the simple math at the line of scrimmage. This could have been a touchdown if Johnson would have gotten out on Briggs.
00:49, 2nd quarter — The Bears get one of those miraculous gifts they always seem to get at home when a low throw by Rodgers bounces off Donald Driver’s foot and straight into Briggs’ stomach. Driver had an easy 7-yard gain and gets out of bounds around the Bears’ 30 if Rodgers throws him a pass he can catch. The play wouldn’t mean anything because Sam Shields picks Cutler just 17 seconds later. However, it did take away another chance for the Packers to score, which would become a theme for the remainder of the game.
13:22, 3rd quarter — The Bears’ decision to defer backfires a second time after they go three-and-out after starting at the 40. On third down, Jenkins gets to Cutler again, and Cutler throws the ball at Hester’s feet. Cutler would limp off the field and proceed with running up the white flag to universal dismay, disgust or glee.
8:50, 3rd quarter — The Packers start at their 15 and drive to the Bears’ 6. The drive included a 20-plus yard pickup to Nelson on third-and-8. On third-and-1 from the Bears’ 31, Rodgers throws his best pass of the game, a front-shoulder dart to Jones up the right sideline. Jones would make an easy catch if he keeps his hands in front of him. Instead, he tried to gain a little more space with a small push-off to the chest of Jennings. Jennings grabs Jones’ arm instead of allowing the catch. Jones can’t make the catch one-handed, but a penalty gives the Packers the gain anyway. After a run to the 6 by Starks and a throw over Driver at the back of the end zone, it was third-and-goal from the 6. Then, an amazing thing happens. Rodgers, who doesn’t throw interceptions in the red zone throws the ball right into Urlacher’s gut. After making his worst throw in the playoffs, Rodgers makes his best play by chasing down Urlacher and tackling him at the 45.
Backup Bears’ QB, Todd Collins, would trot onto the field, and Packers fans would let out a collective groan, knowing that a simple run up the gut and field goal would certainly have won the game.
Collins nearly throws picks on consecutive series, saved both times by his receivers getting a hand on the football. The Packers defensive line continues to squeeze the pocket, and Collins is limping by the end of his second series. In between the two series, the Packers pick up a first down after a holding call when Rodgers finds Jennings with another 20-yard dart. The drive stops after the Packers are hit with another holding penalty.
The Packers’ last drive of the third quarter is their first three-and-out of the game, and signals the beginning of a complete breakdown in execution by the offense for the remainder of the game. First of all, when a penalty for ineligible man downfield occurs on the Bears’ punt, McCarthy decides to take the ball and five yards rather than make the Bears punt again. This gave the Packers the ball at their own 32. The Bears would have had to punt from their 20-yard line if they had been forced to redo the play. Brad Maynard had been struggling to punt all game, which left very little chance he could have punted it to the Packers’ 30. It was far more likely the Packers start beyond their 40 if the Bears have to punt again. Plus, another punt runs more time off the clock, and that is always a good thing when you’re leading 14-0 near the end of the third quarter.
Moving beyond that, on first-and-10 from their 32, Rodgers checks into a draw to Kuhn from the shotgun. The Bears are in coverage with only six guys playing the run. Unfortunately, Crabtree lines up in the wrong spot, and Rodgers doesn’t have time to get him to the right spot before the clock runs out. Rodgers snaps the ball and the guy Crabtree should have blocked, Urlacher, has a clean shot at Kuhn and tackles him after a 2-yard gain. On second down, the Bears are completely blocked on the right side on an end run by Jackson, but Sitton doubles the guy over Wells rather than blocking Urlacher, who is standing right in front of him on the line of scrimmage. Urlacher practically strolls untouched into the Packers’ backfield and drops Jackson for a 5-yard loss. On third-and-13, Rodgers misses Andrew Quarless and is unhappy about it, but it was doubtful he would have gotten the first down anyway.
12:02, 4th quarter — Chester Taylor plunges in from less than one yard out, and it’s suddenly 14-7. This is a completely baffling fail by the defense. The Bears put their third-string QB into the game, Caleb Hanie, and the Packers completely wilted. Capers shares in the blame — with Hanie entering the game, it would seem to be a clear signal a heavy dose of Matt Forte is coming. However, the Packers stay in their Okie package with just two down lineman and allow Hanie to march the Bears down the field by giving the ball to Forte. The plays are as follows: 12-yard run by Forte, 4-yard run by Forte, swing pass to Forte for eight yards, 3-yard run by Hanie, 13-yard run by Forte, 3-yard loss by Taylor, 31-yard pass to Knox, 1-yard TD run by Taylor. The only time the Packers brought an eighth man into the box? On the 3-yard loss by Taylor. On the pass to Knox, Tramon Williams seems completely unaware he has help over the middle from Nick Collins. He jumps Knox’s route to the inside, which allows Knox to get past him and Collins to the outside. The Packers rush just three on the play, and Hanie has plenty of time to set his feet and throw a pass that any QB good enough to make the NFL should be able to complete.
The defense could not have been tired at this point. Prior to the drive, they had been on the field for all of nine plays in the second half. Meanwhile, the Packers’ offense still only had one three-and-out at this point in the game.
11:20, 4th quarter — The infamous 11:20 mark and Peppers and the Packers offensive line just colluded to try and knock Rodgers out of the game. When Briggs lined up at the line of scrimmage between Wells and Colledge, Colledge tries and fails to block Briggs instead of Tommie Harris, who is lined up right in front of him. Kuhn is in the I and is there to block Briggs if he comes through, but with Colledge taking Briggs, Kuhn is left with Harris, who he tries to cut. Clifton is momentarily confused with free rushers on both sides and looks to Harris only to see Kuhn cut him and ends up blocking no one. Peppers gets the green light and shows everyone how big of a man he is when no one blocks him and launches himself at Rodgers’ head. Not only do they go helmet-to-helmet, but Briggs even chops down on Rodgers’ head as he falls to the ground. Even though the Bears just committed two penalties as obvious as Barry Bonds’ steroid use, they, their sideline, and their fans proceed to go ape shit over the penalty. Frankly, I was outraged upon a second viewing of the play. It seems incredibly obvious to me Peppers purposefully went after Rodgers’ head in an attempt to knock him out, even turning his head at the last second in anticipation of the helmet-to-helmet contact. Considering everyone knows Rodgers’ history with concussions, it could be said Peppers was even trying a career shot at Rodgers just as blatant as a dive at his knees would have been. However, I notice now Peppers went into the backfield to talk to Rodgers on the very next play, when the Packers had a false start. I also noticed that the second person to hug and congratulate Rodgers after the game was Peppers. So, if Rodgers doesn’t have any problem with this hit, I suppose I shouldn’t either.
The Packers would punt after Quarless lets the third-down pass go right through his hands. This guy is no longer a rookie. We are 19 games into the season. Obviously, he isn’t turning into even a shadow of Jermichael Finley anytime soon. Too bad, because Jordy Nelson was easily open against Tim Jennings on an in route to the right of Quarless.
7:30, 4th quarter — After a three-and-out by the Bears offense, a terrible punt gives the Packers the ball at the Bears’ 44. A short drive and a field goal will likely seal the game. Unfortunately, it’s Rodgers’ turn to have a bad series. Regardless of what has been said about Rodgers’ underwhelming performance, other than not seeing Urlacher in the red zone and the underthrown ball to Driver, Rodgers has actually been pretty solid so far. On first down, McCarthy comes back with a roll-out toss to Quarless. It’s open initially, but Rodgers takes too long to throw the ball and then throws it low when he does. On second down Rodgers hits Jennings for nine yards. That play appears to have been there all day. It looks like Jennings could have gotten 10 if he kept going to the middle and took on the safety. Instead, he tried to spin to the outside. The Packers haven’t been strong on third-and-short all season, and it bites them here. They line up in the I with three tight ends. I don’t like the formation because the Bears have 10 guys at the line of scrimmage. Rodgers fakes the run to the left, which looks like it would have worked, and has Crabtree crossing the formation to the right. There is good coverage on the play, but an accurate pass picks up the yard. Unfortunately, Rodgers throws the ball into the ground, Kordell Stewart style, and the Packers have to punt again.
6:04, 4th quarter — After Masthay punts the ball to the 10, the Packers defense finally takes advantage of the field position and makes a big play. On third-and-5, the Bears fall victim to their reliance on Forte. Raji drops back into coverage on a rare zone blitz call, and Hanie throws it right to Raji while trying to hit Forte on a quick slant. I have no idea why, but Hester was crossing the field wide open on the play. Regardless, Raji rolls his way into the end zone, and Packers Nation breaks into a premature celebration.
4:43, 4th quarter — The Packers defense’s only concern now is not to allow a quick TD, but even though the Bears are down to their third quarterback, they still somehow manage to do exactly that. First off, it helped that the Bears got to start at their 40. The Packers may have won the punting battle by a landslide, but before touting the special teams, keep in mind the Bears got to start every possession after a kickoff at the 35 or better because McCarthy is so afraid of a special teams mistake that Crosby only kicked the ball deep once. Hanie quickly competed three passes over the middle to reach the Packers’ 35. That was somewhat acceptable, since the clock kept running and the Bears got just eight yards for each completion. Then disaster struck at the 35. The Packers rushed four with Robert Francois coming on a delayed stunt to the inside. The delay gave Hanie plenty of time to throw the football to the only place he was looking. I have no idea why Charles Woodson had such soft coverage on Earl Bennett or what Collins was doing, period. Unlike the play to Knox, where Collins appeared to be wearing cement shoes, he actually got a good jump on this play. The problem was, his good jump was on being first to the Gatorade on the Bears’ sideline, because that’s where he ended up as Bennett strolled up the sideline for a touchdown untouched.
This quick TD, in essence, erased the Raji touchdown and we were back to where we were before. The offense may not have scored in the second half, but they moved the ball well enough to give the defense great field position for every possession, except for the two following kickoffs. There was also little pressure on the offense to score. After all, surely the Bears couldn’t score two touchdowns with their third-string QB. Against a top defense? Somehow they did. I don’t see great plays being made by the Bears offense when I watch the tape either. Instead, I just see a defense that went very soft. The Bears should have been shutout. It was just as much the defense’s fault the game was close. The Packers offense played all game against a top-notch defense with all of its players. The Packers defense was up against a third-string QB. These two touchdown drives should not have happened.
2:53, 4th quarter — The offense went three-and-out and handed it back to the defense with 2:53 left. On first down, the Packers lined up in the inverted wishbone with no receivers on the field. This time, the Bears have all 11 guys at the line of scrimmage. Rodgers isn’t going to block anyone and neither is Starks. So, you have nine guys blocking 11. To make matters worse, Starks swings to the outside and loses a yard. The blocking was fine here; there were just too many guys to block. On second down, the Packers switch it up to the I formation with receivers split wide. The Bears rotated a safety into the box, which left the middle of the field open like it was at the start of the game. The Packers stick to the run, which actually would have worked except for one guy. Everyone blocks well on the right side, with Bulaga sealing the edge. Donald Lee swings around to block Briggs, which leaves Kuhn to block the safety. There is no one else around to tackle Starks, except Briggs blows right through Lee into Kuhn, leaving the safety free to knock Starks down. To make matters almost comically bad, Starks goes out of bounds, stopping the clock and erasing the benefit of running the ball in the first place. On third down, Rodgers looks like the same guy who played Week 17 against the Bears. The Bears only rush four and the line does a fantastic job, but instead of waiting in the pocket to take advantage of it, Rodgers tries to take off running. Briggs gave up coverage of Kuhn and tackled him for a minimal gain. Of course, this leaves Kuhn so wide open no one is within 10 yards of him, but Rodgers had already decided to run and was protecting the ball.
00:37, 4th quarter — Count it. Super Bowl. Sam Shields finally ends the madness with a pick on fourth down. Though they finally had a reason to be tired, the defense gave much stiffer resistance this time around. The Bears struggled to move down the field, being forced to convert a third-and-9 and a fourth-and-1 that ran the clock. Time was finally starting to be a factor when the Packers forced a fourth down that required Hanie to throw the football. With the clock running under 50 seconds and needing five yards to extend the game, Hanie forced the ball into double coverage and had it picked by Shields, who took the ball up the right sideline much to the chagrin of the entire Packers sideline. Shields finally went down around the 45. Replay shows every Bears receiver was well-covered, and that Hanie’s best bet would have been to try and scramble against an exhausted pass rush or go to the old reliable dump to Forte, who released late.
This is an epic win for the Packers, regardless of how it went down. It’s conceivable the Packers were fatigued after playing four must-win games in four weeks. Commentators during the AFC Championship game suggested the Jets looked tired in the first half against the Steelers, which cost them the game. Of course, the fatigue here must not have hit until the second half. It’s probably more likely, once Jay Cutler didn’t come back onto the field, there was a natural let down that comes with the belief you have the game in the bag.
I wouldn’t take too much from this game one way or the other. This was a Packers-Bears game in cold weather. Strange things can and usually do happen. In the end, the Packers became the first team in NFC history to win the conference as a sixth seed, and just the second team to win three straight road games to do it. I believed the Packers were the best team in the NFC all year, and of course, they had to take the difficult route to prove it. They will have their chance to stake their claim as the best team in the NFL on February 6th.
There is only one game left to play in the NFL this season, and the Packers are playing in it. You can’t ask for anymore than that.
No looking back.