Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense unleashed hell in Chicago this past weekend. When the smoke cleared, the Green Bay Packers had a 38-17 win and finished the first quarter of their season at 2-2.
6:30, 1st Quarter – The Chicago Bears finished off a 15-play, 80-yard, 8:30 long drive with a touchdown to go ahead 7-0.
The Packers have trailed early in every game this season. The Packers started in their nickel defense, which they would play for most the game. The Bears like to play from the shotgun or single back set with three receivers, which means basically, they are trying their best to copy the Packers. On 2nd and 7, the Bears run what would essentially be their bread-and-butter this game. With Matt Forte in the single set, they fake the end around to Alshon Jeffery and give it to Forte on the draw. Clay Matthews had to hold the edge against the end around and can’t react fast enough to impede Forte. Mike Daniels was double-teamed and pushed out of the way. Micah Hyde made a nice tackle to hold it to just an 8-yard gain and a first down.
Mixed in with quick hitting draws up the middle, Cutler threw beneath the Packers’ coverage to move the ball in basically the same fashion as Detroit did in the second half the week before. On 2nd and 7 near midfield, Cutler threw a dangerous out to Martellus Bennett with Sam Shields closing fast. Shields batted at the ball and missed and Bennett went up the sideline for 15 yards.
The Bears faced their first third down on a 3rd and 4 at the Green Bay 31. Julius Peppers beat the right tackle Jordan Mills with an inside move and would have gotten himself a sack that I’m sure he would have relished, except Mills first held and then grabbed Peppers’ facemask in an attempt to keep him from Cutler. It worked enough for Cutler to elude Peppers and scramble for 12 yards. The referees appeared unsure of what team was what and called an illegal hands to the face on Peppers. Huh?
The Bears would convert a 3rd and 5 from the Packers’ 9 with a quick screen to Forte. Hyde actually made a great play to split the blockers and tackle Forte, but Forte dragged him for the first down before help arrived. On 3rd and goal from the 6, the Packers blitzed six, and everyone was covered except for Brandon Marshall. Davon House lined up 6 yards off Marshall, which is a tough place to cover from, and then jumped the fade before Marshall even ran it. Marshall simply turned around and was wide open for the easy score when House fell down.
4:10, 1st Quarter – The Packers offense then went one yard further in just 2:20 to tie the game at 7-7.
A smart game plan by the Bears, using deception at the edges to open up quick hitters up the middle, was answered with an equally intelligent game plan by the Packers. They lined up with the two-tight end set. The Bears predictably responded with their base 4-3 defense. By then hurrying up, the Packers kept the Bears’ base on the field and gave themselves some favorable match-ups.
On first down, Aaron Rodgers faced some quick pressure up the middle for one of the few times in the game, but Rodgers showed his quick release by firing accurately to Richard Rodgers on the stop. On second down, Rodgers rolled to his right until a defender got in his face and then he flung it 40 yards to Rodgers on the deep corner. This was a great play by A-Rodge and a good play by Richard Rodgers, who was running the seam but then angled towards the sideline, away from the safety when he saw A-Rodge escape the pocket. The result was a 43-yard play.
Hurrying to the line, the Packers lined up with Andrew Quarless and Rodgers on the right side and Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson on the left. With their base on the field and used to playing Tim Jennings on the right and Kyle Fuller always on the left, the Bears were caught with linebacker Jonathan Bostic covering Nelson in the slot. Nelson simply ran an out, and it was wide open. Nelson took it for 17 yards, down to the Chicago 12.
After another pass to Nelson got down to the 2-yard line, Eddie Lacy bulled straight ahead for an easy touchdown. What’s wrong with that play when backed up to your own 1?
14:00, 2nd Quarter – The Bears went the distance of the field once again, but this time they could only get a field goal to make the score 10-7.
On first down of the following drive, the Packers seem wiser to the Bears’ game plan and had their 4-3 on the field. Probably because of Clay Matthews’ injury, the Packers actually have three inside linebackers — A.J. Hawk, Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington — on the field at the same time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help. Matt Forte took a simple sprint over the right tackle for 17 yards to start the drive. The hole opened between Letroy Guion and Peppers when Bennett blocked down on Guion and knocked him back. Peppers held the edge, but couldn’t help out to his inside. Barrington met the lead blocker in the hole and probably holds it to a smaller gain if he takes the outside shoulder and forces Forte towards pursuit. Instead, he took the inside and helped wall off the pursuit.
The Bears continued to run the ball down to the Packers’ 35. They lined up Ka’Deem Carey and Forte to the inside, another different look as both these teams pulled out the offensive stops, and repeatedly have one back fake the quick pitch before giving the ball to the other on the draw. The pitch fakes froze the outside while the Bears quickly seized a numbers advantage on the inside.
On a 3rd and 1 play from the 35, A.J. Hawk made his best play of the year so far and flew up to bury Forte, with the help of Morgan Burnett, for no gain. On 4th and 1, the Bears had the infamous play pass to the tight end in the flat called, but Cutler fumbled the snap, recovered it and then ran straight up the middle for 16 yards. To add yardage to embarrassment, Shields was hit with a weak 15-yard penalty when his fingers might have gently caressed Cutler’s helmet while he slid.
On 3rd and goal from the 1, Cutler tried the one-on-one between Bennett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. It was incomplete, but a pass interference on Clinton-Dix gave the Bears 1st and goal from the 1. It wouldn’t matter. The Bears would go backwards, and on 3rd and goal from the 6, Cutler would throw too high for Jeffery. Robbie Gould would come on and kick a short field goal.
The Packers played awful defense in the first half, but that was six plays for Chicago from within the Packers’ 10-yard line without getting a touchdown.
10:15, 2nd Quarter – This time it took the Packers nearly four minutes to get into the end zone to make it 14-10.
Aaron Rodgers started the second drive with a Packers’ staple against the Bears. He play faked to Lacy and then fired in the gap between the linebackers and safeties to Jordy Nelson for 23 yards. Facing 3rd and 8 from midfield, Rodgers had plenty of time to find Nelson right over the middle for 15 yards. Mysteriously, the refs called a personal foul, blow to the head, penalty on Bears’ safety Ryan Mundy. However, no penalty was ever marked off. The announcers were too busy complaining about the call to notice the Packers continued with the ball exactly where Nelson caught it.
It appears that unbeknownst to the announcers, the penalty was waved off. It should have been. It was a terrible call. However, if so, it is the first penalty I’ve ever seen “picked up” AFTER being called by the referee.
Three plays later, the Packers faced 3rd and 2 from the Bears’ 30. The Packers tried a pitch going right to Lacy, but Lamarr Houston drove Bryan Bulaga four yards deep into the backfield, forcing Lacy wide outside. By time Lacy cut back upfield, backside pursuit by Lance Briggs put him down for no gain. However, the refs apparently wanted a do over from the earlier penalty they never marked off and called a personal foul on D.J. Williams, who needlessly put his helmet into Lacy on the ground. That gave the Packers a first down at Bears’ 15.
After a 12-yard square in to Cobb got down to the 3-yard line, Rodgers hit Nelson on a back corner fade against Kyle Fuller for the touchdown.
3:50, 2nd Quarter – The defenses continued to wait until halftime to do their best work as the Bears went down the field again to make the game 17-14.
For the second time in the half, Cutler fumbled the snap. If Clay Matthews takes an inside rush, he likely would have made a big play. Matthews went outside instead, got walled off by Mike Neal and Mike Pennel, and Cutler managed to pick the ball up and fire to Jeffery on a crossing route for 13 yards. A pass to Brandon Marshall running a square in against Shields then got 13 more.
On 3rd and 7 from midfield, Cutler had enough time to find Bennett on an out against Hyde. Bennett discarded Hyde and went up the sideline for 23 yards. After another pass to Bennett got down to the Packers’ 8-yard line, the Bears brought Jeffery in motion for an end around, had him reverse field, and then dumped it to him for a wide open touchdown. Shields was in man-to-man on the play and took his eyes off of Jeffery as he reversed field.
1:03, 2nd Quarter – Rodgers and the Packers offense could not be stopped nor contained as Rodgers hit Randall Cobb for another score that ran the tally to 21-17.
Perhaps sensing a shootout and aware the Packers would get the ball after half, Marc Trestman rolled the dice and called an onside kick. It caught the Packers by surprise and was anybody’s ball until Sean Richardson made a very good play by diving on it. The gamble gave the Packers the ball at their own 40.
The Packers go with the three receiver set this time and it immediately paid dividends, as Rodgers hit Davante Adams on a sideline curl for 15 yards. After an Eddie Lacy run for 11 yards, the Packers faced third down at the Bears’ 22. Rodgers saw Bears’ nickel corner Isaiah Frey covering Cobb in the slot. Cobb took off on a go route and Rodgers found him in the end zone for the score. Cobb did well to attack the ball in the air, which prevented Frey from having a shot at knocking it down. Great play.
Both teams seemed convinced that one minute was not enough time for the Bears to score before half. The Bears ran the ball twice, running the clock down to 35 seconds. However, Martellus Bennett changed everyone’s mind with a 26-yard catch over Shields and a 27-yard catch against Hyde to put the ball at the Packers’ 9 with 14 seconds left.
It was at this point that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix stepped forward to make the Packers first big play on defense in the game. With no timeouts left, Cutler fired to the goal line to Bennett. The big tight end was immediately corralled by Clinton-Dix and pulled down before he could get into the end zone. Because Clinton-Dix managed to hit Bennett while he was still turning towards the goal, he was able to use Bennett’s momentum against him and pull him away from the goal line. Replay not only showed Micah Hyde made his best play of the game by blocking the goal line camera, but that Bennett lost control of the ball as he spun around. No touchdown. That’s the half with the Packers still ahead 21-17.
11:00, 3rd Quarter – With the Bears defense unable to do it, the referees chipped in this time to hold the Packers to a field goal, 24-17.
The Bears had unwisely committed a personal foul on the final play of the half, thus forcing them to kick off from their 20. Hyde took the return to the Packers’ 30. Rodgers would push it to the 41 two plays later on a scramble to his left. Two plays later, Rodgers would take advantage of great pass protection to find Cobb for 22 yards against the zone.
However, the Bears’ 29 was as far as the Packers would get. Two nonexistent holding calls on Corey Linsley would force a long Mason Crosby field goal. The second call wiped out a highlight reel play by Rodgers where he evaded the blitz and then heaved the ball across his body while being hit, somehow managing to get it to Adams for a 33-yard touchdown. Those were the first two holding calls of the game, by the way.
7:30, 3rd Quarter – A track meet began to become one-sided when Jay Cutler tried to force it to his receiver with Tramon Williams jumping the route. Clay Matthews would catch the ricochet and return the ball to the Chicago 35.
The Bears were doing more of the same with runs by Forte and passes to Marshall and Bennett before the huge interception by Matthews. On the pick, Tramon had inside position on Josh Morgan. As soon as he saw Morgan turn for the slant, Tramon jumped it and drove on the route. Hilariously, Mike Pennel crushed Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod during the return. Matthews was clearly hampered by his injury or he had an easy touchdown there.
4:30, 3rd Quarter – It took exactly three minutes for the Packers to score again and begin to pull away at 31-17.
After two Lacy runs left the Packers with 3rd and 2, Rodgers once again faked to Lacy and threw a bullet to Nelson for 15 yards. Wow, that had a little mustard on it. Rodgers had a good laugh with Nelson after the catch. Three plays later it was 3rd and 9 from the 11. Rodgers again took advantage of great protection, kept his eyes downfield and then fired into Nelson again for the touchdown.
Running off the field, Rodgers displays one of the only things he got from Brett Favre and slaps a referee in the ass.
1:40, 3rd Quarter – Sam Shields makes the third play in the game for the Packers defense by intercepting Cutler and returning it to the Chicago 11.
The Bears drove the ball again, not facing a third down in moving the ball to the Packers’ side of the field. On 1st and 10 from the Packers’ 45, Marshall ran the stutter and go while Cutler threw the stop. Shields looked to Cutler during the stutter and therefore saw him delivering the ball. Shields easily picked the ball and then accelerated up the middle of the field, eventually crossing to the far sideline. Cutler made a good play to angle the speedster out of bounds at the Bears’ 11-yard line.
This was a miscommunication, obviously, but even if Marshall runs the stop, Shields was there and might have still picked it. During the return, Davon House trucked Josh Morgan and Morgan Burnett raised his hand to celebrate even as Shields accelerated across midfield.
14:50, 4th Quarter – The Packers scored four plays later to set what would be the final score at 38-17.
The Packers appeared fairly willing to take the field goal at this point, settling for a dump to Adams that only got 3 yards on 3rd and 7. Crosby kicked the field goal, but the referees decided to call Jonathan Bostic for defensive holding, giving the Packers a first down at the 3. Lining up with Cobb in the slot, Rodgers noticed Chris Conte covering Cobb. HAHAHAHA…. Cobb was open by about 6 yards on the out.
The Bears followed by running four minutes off the clock before turning it over on downs. They were moving down the field until a Datone Jones sack put them in 4th and 5. Cutler went to Bennett again on the out, but Hyde was all over it and actually intercepted the ball with his legs. The refs called it incomplete and that works even better for the Packers.
The Packers then moved towards the end zone again when Rodgers found Cobb on a simple square in against the zone. Cobb made a move that won’t be in Kyle Fuller’s highlight reel and took off downfield for a 46-yard gain, down to the Bears’ 2-yard line. On the play, Richard Rodgers made his best play of the season by running hard behind Cobb all the way down to the 5-yard line where he laid out linebacker D.J. Williams. Awesome. Way to be, rook!
Eddie Lacy finally went around the edge for a 2-yard touchdown two plays later. However, Andrew Quarless was called for holding on the play. There were four holding calls made in the game. All four were on the Packers and two wiped out touchdowns. By the way, the film showed the Bears held plenty, especially their substitute center Brian de la Puente, who had a field day holding Lattimore and Hawk on inside runs with nary a call being made.
Regardless, the Packers appear to have a silencing effect on the referees. This was the second time already this season where a referee crew leading the league in flags per game decided to significantly lower their average during the Packers’ game. The lack of holding and illegal hands to the face certainly helped the pass protection and offenses on both sides all game.
Anyway, the Packers would eventually settle for a 38-yard field goal that got blocked because this is Soldier Field and it isn’t a Packers-Bears game until a field goal gets blocked.
The Bears would proceed to run the clock out with the Packers completely content to let them.
Obviously, this was a huge bounce back game for the Packers and for the offense under Aaron Rodgers. I can’t imagine how frustrated Bears fan must be, as the Packers continue to crush their hearts in their own stadium, year after year. Unfortunately for the Bears, while Packers tormentors Brian Urlacher and Charles Tillman are gone, the Packers have four stars in their prime who LOVE to play against the Bears — Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Sam Shields. All four seem to have a knack for coming up big at Soldier Field.
Besides those four, the Packers have another offensive star in the making in their second-year left tackle David Bakhtiari. Michael Bennett, Calvin Pace, Ziggy Ansah, and Willie Young — what do all those guys have in common? Goose eggs against Bakhtiari, that’s what. We might have to start calling Bakhtiari the Eraser because pass rushers have a habit of disappearing against him. Bakhtiari dominated Young so thoroughly on passing plays that at times they appeared to be doing a waltz together.
Oh, and Lamarr Houston was the Bears other free agent pass rusher. You might not have noticed him, which means Bryan Bulaga had a good game as well. Bulaga and Bakhtiari have not been as good blocking the edge on running plays and their difficulties and the deficiencies at tight end have made it difficult so far for the Packers to run outside.
I am very impressed with Corey Linsley, whose mauling style actually gets him into trouble. That is one strong son of a bitch. Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang have merely been decent. Sitton remains the Packers best run blocker and it is somewhat odd that the Packers don’t run behind him more often.
The Bears could not generate a pass rush and without it, they couldn’t even force a punt from the Packers. Aaron Rodgers was on his game from the opening snap. I don’t know what was different about this week from last week, but Rodgers was accurate and poised from his very first drop back on. Unlike in the Detroit game, Rodgers moved within the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. He took full advantage of the pass protection this time, staying in the pocket until his receivers got open. Once he spotted them, he delivered hard thrown and accurate passes, leading to four touchdown passes against just six incompletions.
It certainly helped that the Packers’ receivers rebounded in a big way as well. Randall Cobb was finally the guy that the Packers need him to be. If the Bears were trying to take away Jordy Nelson, they failed miserably and even Richard Rodgers made a couple catches.
The failure of the running game remains a joint effort between the offensive line and Eddie Lacy. Lacy has been running into his own blockers too often and that is his and the blocker’s fault. Though I think the Packers should roll with Lacy and hope things shake loose, I still don’t understand why James Starks and DuJuan Harris can’t get opportunities. Those are two viable playmakers that they are leaving on the bench. Starks has a more explosive first step than Lacy and may succeed where Lacy has failed.
The Bears had a very intelligent running attack planned for the Packers. They repeatedly threatened the edges while then running draws straight up the middle. Considering the Packers vulnerability at the edge so far this season, it worked perfectly. The outside defenders stayed home to protect the edge, leaving only the two down linemen in the nickel to try to stop the run. In the nickel, the Packers’ middle linebackers typically line up at least five yards off the line of scrimmage, making it pretty easy for offensive linemen to get out on them and wall them off.
Believe it or not, on film I would say that both Lattimore and Hawk had their best games of the season. Both made plays at and behind the line of scrimmage and the Bears dumped it to Forte twice against Hawk. Both were just 2-yard gains. Playing their nickel for much of the game, the Packers were pretty much allowing the Bears to run the ball and throw it short over the middle of the field. The infamous bend, but don’t break defense forces the offense to execute 10-plus plays per drive rather than giving up big strikes. The thinking largely goes that Jay Cutler will likely make a mistake somewhere if you force him to make so many plays to score.
In the first half, the philosophy didn’t work. In the second half, it did and the Packers pulled away.
I am becoming more and more impressed with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and he has to stay on the field for the defense. There is definitely a HUGE upgrade in safety there versus what the Packers had last season. Hyde also looked better on tape than he did live. That Martellus Bennett is just a monster to deal with.
The Bears’ offensive line played well and for the most part, only Julius Peppers and Datone Jones were able to generate any pressure on Cutler. Mike Neal and Mike Daniels were both pretty much neutralized and Clay Matthews was clearly still injured. Nick Perry remains a decent run defender who has not done much in the pass rush department.
Obviously, lots to improve upon for the Packers and one can expect the Minnesota Vikings to pound it and stick with the run beyond what the Bears did. The Packers must improve their last-ranked run defense if they are to have any chance of accomplishing something this season. That being said, 2-2 is an adequate start considering the first quarter was likely the toughest part of the schedule for the Packers.
Time to go on a run now.