On Sunday Night Football a national audience was witness as the Chicago Bears discovered a new level of suck against the Green Bay Packers.
The Bears won the toss and elected to receive. Things begin poorly for them when Chris Williams can only return the kickoff to the 11-yard line and an illegal block pushed the ball back to the 6. That is a rough place to start the game.
At first, I thought the Packers had finally returned to the 4-3 defense when I saw Clay Matthews lined up next to A.J. Hawk, but then I quickly realized that the Packers were in their standard nickel defense. The only difference was that Nick Perry was starting where Matthews normally did and Matthews was starting where either Sam Barrington or Jamari Lattimore were expected to.
Also of note, with the Packers in their nickel defense, Micah Hyde was the slot corner and not Casey Hayward. Hayward would play in the dime and take Hyde’s spot in the nickel once Hyde rested Morgan Burnett in the second half.
The Bears moved away from their goal line and picked up two quick first downs by throwing underneath the coverage of Sam Shields. However, on 1st and 10 from their 30, Jay Cutler held the ball and then dumped incomplete to Alshon Jeffery, with Hawk all over it. On second down, the Bears tried to run Matt Forte off right tackle, but Julius Peppers won at the point of attack and grabbed Forte in the backfield, where Josh Boyd helped finish him off for a 1-yard loss. After a false start penalty turned 3rd and 11 to 3rd and 16, Cutler went with a quick screen to Jeffery. Shields missed the tackle, but held up Jeffery long enough for Matthews to shove him out of bounds well short of the first down and the Packers finally get to see a punt.
6:12, 1st Quarter – Imagine what the score could have been if the Packers didn’t take over eight minutes to get their first score on the board?
First of all, props to Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang for starting and playing in this game. I expected Sitton to play all along, but not Lang. On top of that, we’ve seen other guys play with injury and struggle, and neither of these guys did that.
It’s not as creative as starting on defense with Clay Matthews playing inside linebacker, but the Packers mixed it up a little on offense too by lining up with the double tight end set with only Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson split out wide. They would play a lot of this formation throughout the first half.
After Eddie Lacy took advantage of a good block by Richard Rodgers on end Willie Young to pick up a 3rd and 1, Aaron Rodgers found Cobb on a square in between the linebackers for 21 yards. Two plays later, Rodgers found Nelson on the slant against Tim Jennings for 14 more yards, down to the Bears’ 20-yard line. A quick out to Andrew Quarless picked up another first down and moved the ball inside the 10. It would take four downs from there.
On 3rd and goal, Rodgers wanted Davante Adams on the slant but didn’t take it. He dumped to Lacy in the flat and Lacy probably scores, except he slipped down on his cut toward the end zone. That put the ball at the 1-yard line on fourth down. Personally, I’d take the points, but Mike McCarthy and Rodgers do not agree. The Packers lined up with three tight ends at the line and John Kuhn with Eddie Lacy in the backfield. After the play fake to Lacy, Rodgers found Brandon Bostick, of all people, on the cross from the right slot. Kyle Fuller was a hair late in coverage and Bostick held on for the touchdown to make it 7-0 Packers.
3:55, 1st Quarter – That is more like it as the Packers score again just over two minutes later.
The Bears got two plays on offense. The first was a deep ball for Josh Morgan that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix nearly picked off. On the second, Cutty! wanted Martellus Bennett on the out from the slot. Micah Hyde had decent coverage and when a Peppers’ tip at the line of scrimmage caused the ball to flutter, Hyde picked it off. The Packers have two interceptions from the safety position this season and unsurprisingly, they come from two guys who were not safeties on the team last season.
By the way, Bennett could barely run this game and appeared to have a hard time lifting his arms above his shoulders. No way he should have played.
The Packers took over at the Bears’ 23 and scored four plays later. After a curl route to Davante Adams gained 10 yards, the Packers faced 3rd and 1 from the 4-yard line. The Packers ran the play where you throw it to the running back on the sprint out after faking it to him. However, Tim Jennings didn’t care about the fake and covered Lacy. Rodgers sprinted out to his right, just getting by Young. Richard Rodgers was running an out at the back of the end zone, but he was well-covered as well. The last option for Rodgers was Andrew Quarless, who was running a crossing route from the left slot. Quarless was wide open as he crossed the middle of the field, but Chris Conte saw him and closed quickly. Rodgers saw him at the same time and fired it on the back shoulder, where it had to be. Quarless took the contact and held on for the touchdown to make it 14-0.
15:oo, 2nd Quarter – The Packers scored on the first play of the second quarter and this is beginning to get hilarious.
The Bears managed to drive to their own 42-yard line before punting. On 3rd and 12, after an idiotic delay of game set the Bears back 5 yards, Clay Matthews ran right around left tackle Jermon Bushrod to sack Jay Cutler. Bushrod looked like he may have been getting used to Nick Perry’s bull rush and was caught flat-footed when Matthews used an outside move on him. Regardless, it is time for the Bears to punt again.
The Packers started the second quarter facing 3rd and 11 from their own 27-yard line. The Bears showed blitz with only a single safety back. When Rodgers signaled to his receivers, the Bears jumped out of the blitz and tried to fall back into a two-deep shell. Someone should tell the safeties. After Jennings released Jordy Nelson down the sideline, Rodgers found him wide open about 40 yards down the field. Nelson easily juked the lone safety — we’ve seen that before — and crossed the field for a 73-yard touchdown.
That made it 21-0 Packers.
12:10, 2nd Quarter – Less than three minutes later, another long pass to Nelson made it 28-0.
Down 21-0 on the road and their defense hemorrhaging points, the Bears’ offense needed points NOW. Instead, they displayed zero urgency in going three and out and giving it right back to the Packers. On first down, Cutty! tried deep for Jeffery and wasn’t even close. On second down, the Bears went with a quick screen to Jeffery, but Micah Hyde got off the block of Bennett and stopped it for a 1-yard gain. On 3rd and 9, with time to throw, Cutty! threw it harmlessly out of bounds, wide of the mark of Brandon Marshall. Huh. OK.
A decent Cobb return gave the Packers the ball near midfield. After a pass to Nelson over the middle moved the ball to the Bears’ 40, Rodgers bought some time in the pocket, rolled to his right and then heaved it up the right sideline for Nelson. Nelson caught the ball in the end zone and got his feet in while falling out of bounds. That is a 40-yard touchdown for Nelson, which is already Rodgers’ fourth touchdown pass of the game.
After at least offering up some resistance on defense the two drives before, the Bears imploded for two quick Packers’ scores and this is suddenly becoming a laugher.
5:00, 2nd Quarter – The comedy escalated as Eddie Lacy took a screen pass for a 56-yard touchdown to stretch the lead to 35-0.
With a 28-0 lead, it appeared that the Packers finally got a little soft on defense. The Bears moved the ball from their own 26 to the Packers’ 6 without facing a third down. The Bears moved the ball the old-fashioned way — mostly by handing it and throwing it to Matt Forte. It also helped their cause that an 8-yard run by Jeffery became a 23-yard gain when a late hit was called on Clinton-Dix. About the best thing the Bears had going for them this game was that Sam Shields cannot tackle. Forte twice got by Shields — once on a 13-yard run to start the drive and then again on a 15-yard dump to Forte that moved the ball to the Packers’ 6.
However, things went to pot for the Bears from there. On 3rd and goal from the 4, an out to Bennett probably should have scored, but Bennett had to extend his hands above his shoulders and dropped the ball. On fourth down, the Packers blitzed and Cutty! responded with a quick out towards Jeffery. Shields jumped in front of the route. However, Shields — about the only Packer to have a bad night — dropped the pick he usually collects every game from Cutler. Packers’ ball.
The Packers got away from their end zone when Rodgers took advantage of great pass protection and eventually found Cobb for 29 yards, working the middle of the field. Lacy then followed that with his best run of a game — a 16-yard scamper on a stretch right play — that moved the ball past midfield. After a holding call on Bryan Bulaga wiped out another good Lacy run, Rodgers found Lacy on the screen right. Lacy had Corey Linsley, Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang out front. Lang helped Linsley put Lance Briggs on the ground and then ran ahead to block safety Ryan Mundy. Lacy cut off that and a block by Sitton and rumbled all the way across the field, picking up blocks by all three Packers receivers on the way. The last one was thrown by Nelson and Lacy was in the end zone.
That was Big Man With Football and the Bears’ defensive backs were all too happy to get blocked.
The Bears followed with another drive that ended with a turnover on downs.
Facing 3rd and five from their 28, Cutler bought some time and then found Bennett, who lost the coverage of Morgan Burnett in the middle of the field. With most the defenders deep, Bennett limped his way upfield for 37 yards before being knocked out of bounds by Clinton-Dix.
That put the ball at the Packers’ 35, but the Bears would get no closer. On the following play, they tried an end around to Chris Willams who went in motion after being lined up wide left. For the first time all year, a Packers’ defender, namely Clay Matthews, spotted Williams coming in motion and charged into the backfield. Matthews comically leveled Williams right after he got the football. That was a loss of 8, and unsurprisingly, the Bears would not be able to recover. They went for it on 4th and 10 and Dom Capers answered with a safety blitz. Burnett ran right by an unconcerned Matt Forte and sacked Cutler to end the drive. It might have been a fortunate result for Cutler because Matthews ran an inside stunt and was only steps behind Burnett.
The Packers responded with a deep ball to Nelson. Tim Jennings decided that Nelson was not going to score on this play. Jennings put Nelson in a full nelson to make sure. The inevitable flag put the ball at the Bears’ 7. The Packers, however, turned it over on the next play when Cobb fumbled while stretching for additional yardage. The days of Brian Urlacher and Charles Tillman forcing fumbles are gone, but an aging and unfortunate Lance Briggs remains. Hopefully, that is the last Packers’ fumble caused by Lance Briggs.
It would only lead to more hilarity by the Bears. On 1st and 10 from the Chicago 37, Cutler rolled to his left and had some options in front of him. However, for whatever reason, he held the ball. Maybe he wanted his warm spot on the bench back. Regardless, the Happiest Man on the Field was rolling Cutty’s way and when Cutty still had the ball upon arrival, Peppers judo-chopped the ball from his hands, knocked him to the ground like a bitch and then fell on the football.
How happy do you think Julius Peppers was to be a Packer on this night?
The Packers would pretty much run the rest of the half out and then on 3rd and 10 from the Bears’ 18, Rodgers responded to the blitz with a shot for Cobb on the go route out of the slot. Cobb redeemed his earlier fumble with a ridiculous one-handed catch. That is Rodgers’ sixth touchdown of the half, tying an NFL record, and making the score 42-0 at half.
The Packers started the second half with the football and of course, Aaron Rodgers led the drive. No starting quarterback in football wouldn’t have. Regardless, Rodgers would have converted on 3rd and 10 over the middle to Cobb against the two deep, except Cobb dropped the ball when he hit the ground. Tim Masthay got some work for the first time.
For the Bears it’s more of the same as they go three and out. A Cutler scramble on first down only got 1 yard when he found Matthews waiting for him. Morgan Burnett knocked a pass down on second, and 3rd and 9 became 3rd and 14 thanks to a false start. The Bears went with the draw to Forte and Burnett and Clinton-Dix both did well to close it down well short of the first down.
The Bears would then bring their comedy act to the punting game. There is a Jarrett Boykin sighting. He ran right by the Bear that was supposed to block him and got to the punter just as he was dropping the ball. Hilariously, Boykin ended up kicking the ball himself, which Pat O’Donnell, the punter, then fell on. Ah, those funny Bears! Just wait though, that would only be the second funniest play of the game.
Starting at the 8-yard line, Rodgers would get one last chance for a seventh touchdown. A good run by Lacy moved the ball to the 2, setting up 3rd and goal from there. The Packers wanted Cobb on the quick out, but Tim Jennings covered it. Rodgers then looked to Nelson in the corner. Either Nelson didn’t do what Rodgers was expecting or he was just throwing it away. It wasn’t even close. Rodgers was clearly ticked leaving the field, knowing that his chance for a record-tying seventh touchdown had passed.
Mason Crosby kicked a short field goal to run the score to 45-0.
7:45, 3rd Quarter – The Bears finally got on the board with a touchdown catch by Brandon Marshall that makes the score 45-7.
The Bears were helped by a sack by Matthews that became a 15-yard penalty instead. Facing 3rd and 7 three plays later, Cutler saw the blitz coming and chucked and ducked. It worked wonderfully when Sam Shields first overran the play and then failed to tackle Marshall. Marshall went up the sideline for a 45-yard touchdown. The only people who would care would be stat geeks and fantasy football owners. Most Bears fans were busy beating the traffic south for the winter.
The Packers responded with Matt Flynn. On 3rd and 2, instead of just doing his thing with the short pass, Flynn threw a dying duck out towards Boykin on the go route. Fortunately, it was Kyle Fuller’s turn to mug a Packers’ receiver, and the resulting penalty moved the ball to the Bears’ 38. The Packers would only get 4 more yards, but that would be enough for Crosby to come in and make a 52-yard field goal to the windy side of the field. Nice work. The kick made it 48-7, by the way.
Both teams would end up adding one more touchdown in garbage time. The Bears would return a kick for a touchdown and I’m not sure why Crosby couldn’t kick it to the end zone when the Bears’ kicker had no such problem. The Packers wouldn’t pick up another first down until DuJuan Harris entered the game. The inability of Flynn to complete a pass would even get Mike McCarthy fuming on the sideline in a meaningless game.
The Packers’ last touchdown came on the most hilarious play of the game. Facing 3rd and 5 from the Packers’ 18 on the last decent drive of the game for the Bears, Cutty! threw the ball off the helmet of his own offensive lineman and right into the arms of Casey Hayward. Hayward would waltz up the sideline for the touchdown to make it 55-7 at the time. The Bears touchdown return would immediately follow, finalizing the score at 55-14.
Just when you thought you’d never see a game more stress-free and hilarious than the one against the Vikings, the Bears roll into town. I never imagined the Bears would be THAT bad. For Marc Trestman and company, NFL stands for Not For Long when you take a beating like that.
The Packers unveiled Clay Matthews at inside linebacker and he responded with his best game of the year. However, Clay has a habit of having big games against the Bears, so maybe we should reserve judgement for a week or two. Regardless, the difference in speed, toughness and instinct was striking. It is possible that it’s been so long since I’ve seen an inside backer making plays that I forgot what it looked like. I even think this could help Matthews’ pass rushing as the offensive line isn’t seeing his speed on every down.
There are only two obstacles to the move, as I see it. Matthews isn’t known as the most stout guy in the world and we’ll see if he can avoid injury when playing the middle and logging possibly 10 tackles per game. Secondly, the Packers’ pass rush will clearly suffer on non-passing downs and you could see that already in this game. The Packers will need to continue to get a lot from Julius Peppers and Nick Perry, and it wouldn’t hurt if Mike Neal picked his game back up either.
Regardless, the benefits clearly outweighed the drawbacks in this game. From the middle, Matthews can make plays on either side of the field. He can also cover backs out of the backfield. Imagine that! Plus, as Matthews said himself, one can’t rush the passer if you don’t stop the run first. Don’t think that one guy can totally solve a porous run defense, but there is no question that the Packers are better against the run with Perry holding the edge and Matthews inside. Expect teams to challenge the Peppers-Hawk side of the formation. Peppers played too well against the run in this game for the Bears to take advantage, but other teams will certainly try.
Oh, and by the way, the linebacker in the dime was A.J. Hawk. So thank you to the coaching staff for hearing my plea to never put Lattimore back there again. Barrington saw some time when Matthews spelled Perry on the line and ultimately, maybe Barrington can push Hawk out of his spot. Then the Packers would finally have two guys inside who can hit someone. Otherwise, we can perhaps hope that A.J. Hawk can resemble his 2010 self when he had a playmaking Desmond Bishop next to him.
Matthews seemed merely lukewarm to the change in interviews afterwards. Since Clay just got a sizable long-term contract from the Packers, he should have an easier time stomaching the change. It isn’t like he’s leaving money on the table. The Packers absolutely should do whatever they can to maximize the investment they have in Matthews.
The Packers’ offense has been humming mostly because Aaron Rodgers is playing near the level he did in 2011, and Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are terrorizing teams. Once again the Packers’ running game mostly failed to get on track and didn’t make much of an impact on the game. That is something that could haunt the Packers when better pass defenses and poor weather roll around. Everyone loves how hard Eddie Lacy runs when he gets rolling, but the video remains unkind to Lacy. He is leaving yards out there and I continue to wonder how long McCarthy rolls with it until either Starks or DuJuan Harris get a bonafide chance to do something.
I was very impressed with what I saw from Harris late in the game. Yes, the Bears had backups in, but so did the Packers. Harris saw no better blocking or bigger holes than Lacy or Starks saw. The difference was that he made things happen anyway. The Packers are not getting the same from Lacy. He is getting what the offensive line and his own bulk can give him. If he ran with his brain and his eyes a little more — abandoning holes that aren’t there and setting up blocks — he could be getting more.
The Bears never showed up in this game, and there is no doubt in my mind that the Bears would have been better with Josh McCown in this game than Jay Cutler. Cutler shows zero situational awareness. If you criticize him for not playing well against the Packers, he just cares less instead of more. Cutty! is FAR from the only problem in Chicago, but his huge contract will make fixing the other problems more difficult.
What probably has not been getting enough attention is that the Packers have crushed every team they’ve played at home this season. I have a feeling though that will change if the Packers can beat down the Eagles on Sunday. These next three weeks present the opportunity for the Packers to show everyone who they really are. We will see.