Let’s be realistic. The better team did not win on Monday Night Football.
Forget that the Green Bay Packers have no running game. Forget that the defense played their usual bend-but-don’t-break brand of football.
The Green Bay Packers lost to the Chicago Bears 20-17 on Monday night because they exhibited the same stupid, aggravating play they have throughout coach Mike McCarthy’s tenure with the team. It’s something that seemed to be over with, judging by the first two games of the season and the Packers 2-0 start, but came back on the national stage.
The Packers lost to the Bears because they committed a team record 18 penalties, which is both inexcusable and a trademark of the Packers under McCarthy.
Another trademark, at least in the past two seasons, is poor special teams play and the Packers again lived up to their billing as one of the worst special teams units in the NFL, giving up an average of 30 yards on three kickoff returns and 31 yards on three punt returns.
The game turned, and the Bears took their first lead on Devin Hester’s 62-yard punt return in the fourth quarter — Hester’s first such return in two years. The Packers special teams play was solid in their first two games, but in prime time, they were atrocious.
Simply, the Packers loss looked like a bad flashback of everything that was wrong with last year’s team, minus the terrible pass defense.
It’s not time to panic, but on Monday night the Packers were simply undisciplined and out-coached. Not only that, but they were out-coached by Lovie Smith, who, next to Brad Childress is possibly the dumbest son of a bitch in the NFL coaching ranks.
If you don’t believe it, consider McCarthy’s decision to challenge James Jones’ fumble late in the fourth quarter. The replay showed Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher clearly knocked the ball out of Jones’ hands and defensive back Tim Jennings clearly recovered it in bounds, but McCarthy inexplicably challenged the call, lost and cost the Packers a time out.
Had McCarthy saved the time out, he would have been able to take it inside the two-minute warning and given the Packers a shot at a tying field goal or better. The time out would have meant the Packers would have gotten the ball back with around one minute left on the clock, rather than the five seconds they eventually did get it back with, when they were down a field goal.
Certainly, McCarthy is not entirely to blame for the Packers debacle, but his team was completely unprepared for what was obviously a lesser opponent on Monday night. It’s the reason many people, myself included, feel like the Packers would be better off with another coach.
That’s not the only story, though.
Most of the reason the Packers running game looks like a joke is because of the offensive line. Brandon Jackson gained only 12 yards on seven carries (1.7 yard average).
A big part of the problem was left tackle Chad Clifton, who has been battling an injured knee all season. Clifton hasn’t played well at all this year and while he held up in pass protection, he was terrible in the run game. McCarthy had an opportunity to replace him with Bryan Bulaga this week, but decided not to do so. You have to wonder why.
Another problem was right tackle Mark Tauscher, who didn’t play well in either phase of the game. Both of the Packers tackles look old and guess what? They are.
The highlight of the running game was fullback John Kuhn, who somehow ground out 31 yards on six carries (5.1 yard average). The Packers short passing game is essentially their running game, but you would think Kuhn is going to get more carries or the team is going to trade for someone who can serve as a lead back.
On the positive side, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was on all night long, hitting 34-of-45 for 316 yards and a touchdown. The Packers defense held the Bears rushing attack in check, as well. Lead back Matt Forte ran for only 29 yards on 11 carries (2.6 yard average).
In the end, that wasn’t enough to overcome boneheaded play after boneheaded play.
It’s unfortunate, but for at least one game this season, the Packers have again become a reflection of Mike McCarthy and given the Bears the pole position in the NFC North at 3-0.