Now that the euphoria over the Packer's exciting win over the Bears has worn off, it's time to take a closer look at this game. Watching the game live is a great experience, but impressions we develop can be affected by many things. Your own emotions, announcer's comments, too much beer - all of these can taint what you think you're seeing.
As Mike McCarthy will tell you, he doesn't know what the real story is until he "looks at the film." So down to my mancave I went. I fired up the DVR and the HDTV and spent some quality hours pressing the play, rewind and slow-motion buttons on the remote. After re-emerging, I have a question for you all and some observations:
QUESTION: There was one huge play in this game that will be completely overlooked. Yet without this play, the Bears finish the game with 22 points. Can you think of what play I'm referring to? The answer is at the end of this article.
The offensive line seemed a bit disjointed, a bit slow and often indecisive.. While all of the attention was rightly on Alan Barbre, the rest of the offensive line had a disappointing night. Josh Sitton was probably the best of the bunch, but I spotted him making some bad choices on who to block. That's what happened on the play where Sitton was penalized for holding. He couldn't decide which of two players to block and by the time he did, the defender was rushing past him. So Sitton did the only thing he could do in order to protect Rodgers, he held. The Bears defense easily won the line of scrimmage battle, consistently getting a strong push and moving the Packers OL back.
Of course, this resulted in few clear-cut holes for Ryan Grant to run through. Grant had to make a lot of yards on his own, running through people, as he did on his touchdown run. On that play, there was nowhere to go, as Urlacher stuffed his inside running lane, so Grant bounced it out around Chad Clifton and inside Donald Lee. Two Bears defenders met him head on in the hole, but he refused to get pushed back and was able to fight through them for the TD. Do not make the mistake of looking at Grant's 68 yards rushing and saying he didn't do well. . Ryan Grant earned every yard he gained in that game.
I also don't want to hear anyone say that Rodgers was "off his game." Anytime a pass he threw was off the mark, it was due to heavy pressure. The long passes that came up short were due to Ogunleye being in his face and Rodgers not being able to step into the ball. So please, no Rodgers criticisms this week.On the safety, watching the game live I thought that he could have gotten rid of the ball and I was critical of Rodgers. Playing it back multiple times and in slow motion, I can say I was clearly wrong. Rodgers doesn't even see the blitzer until he's a few short steps away. He best option but to try to get away. As he was doing that, the receivers were just starting to break off their routes and look back at Rodgers. There was a split second where Rodgers might have been able to throw the ball safely in front of Jermichael Finley, but Daniel Manning hooked Rodgers' right arm. Rodgers actually did a very smart thing, transferring the ball to his left hand to avoid Manning stripping the ball from him in the end zone.
As well as the Packers' defense played, continuing their preseason turnover spree and playing with aggression, they did relinquish 352 yards of offense. The problem of course, was the big play. The Packers gave up six plays of 20 yards or more, all in the air. On the plus side, the run defense was outstanding, holding the Bears to a 2.8 yard per carry average. Equally good was the third down defense, stopping the Bears on 11 of 15 third down attempts. These were both big problems last year, so the marked improvement is more than welcome. But there's still plenty to work on with the secondary and the big plays.
Defensive Line: Exactly when did Johnny Jolly become a defensive back? They dropped him in coverage a few times and then he sniffs out the screen and makes a diving one-handed interception (Tramon, were you paying attention?). This is a different Johnny Jolly than the one we have known in the past. He was in for over 50 plays, along with Cullen Jenkins and still going strong at the end of the game. The Packers played most of the first half in the nickel, with Jenkins and Jolly as the only two defensive linemen. The second half saw much more 3-man front, with Pickett at nose tackle.
Linebackers: Brandon Chillar was outstanding. I've watched his sack now at least 20 times and I'm still amazed by the hurdle and then how quickly after that he closed in on Cutler. As for all you Hawk haters and Kampman disbelievers, you'll have to find yourselves some new whipping boys (I believe Poppinga is available). Hawk finally played like a #5 draft pick. It seemed like he was involved in every play in some manner. Whether it was standing up blockers, crashing through the line, pressuring Cutler on blitzes, covering tight ends or running down Devon Hester on the sideline to stop a possible TD. He was everywhere, he played with aggression, smarts and ability we haven't seen before. Mr. Invisible left a huge impression on this game. His best game as a Pro that I've seen.
Aaron Kampman, was quite simply, Aaron Kampman. His coverage responsibilities were limited, and anytime he was asked to cover, the Packers were blitzing other players, making it difficult for Cutler to take advantage of the supposed mismatch of Kampman in coverage. A perfect example would be Chillar's sack. Kampman was back in coverage on that play. He looked fine as a linebacker against the run, especially when the ball was run wide to his side, standing up blockers and slowing down Forte until more help arrived. He was used extensively in the pass rush and was in the Bears backfield all night. He mostly played like Aaron Kampman, just not from a three point stance.
I would complain about the penalties, but three of them (against Clifton, Matthews and Harris) were just horrendous calls. The phantom illegal contact on Al Harris might be one of the worst I've seen in 40 years of watching football. Having said that, it does still seem like the Packers draw penalties at the worst times: when the defense gets a big stop or the offense runs off a big play.
Perhaps the second most amazing play of the night was Bret Swain's tackle on the fake punt. Swain is the outside end on the right side, down in a three point stance. He takes one step in like he's rushing the passer, then stands up. He immediately see's the fake, hustles down the line of scrimmage behind the scrum and makes a textbook, wrap-your-arms, linebacker-like tackle just as the ball carrier was breaking through the hole. If you look back at that play, you will see that there isn't another Packer in sight. If Swain doesn't make that tackle, we looking at a 30-yard gain and a back-breaking first down for the Bears. As much as everyone loved Ruvell Martin, Swain has already paid dividends.
Best TV announcer moment of the night: After the fake punt:
Al Michaels: "Lovie's thrown the challenge flag"
Collinsworth: "Maybe on his own call."
Aaron Rodgers is much more Bart Starr than Bret Favre. And as much as I enjoyed watching Bret Favre, I think that's a really good thing.
DeShawn Wynn couldn't run the ball, couldn't block anyone and couldn't catch a pass. Did I misss anything?
ANSWER: Charles Woodson on the Johnny Knox 68 yard pass. What? Have I lost my mind? No, not at all. If you have the ability to watch it again, you'll see an amazing thing. You'll see Charles Woodson, beaten badly by one of the fastest players in the NFL, refuse to give up. He could easily have eased up and relinquished the touchdown. But he didn't. By sheer will, he somehow caught up to Knox, dove, and got enough of Knox's left leg to make him take a step out of bounds. A sure touchdown and seven points were put on hold. A few plays later, Johnny Jolly intercepts a pass and the Bears get 0 points when they should have had 7. When you win the game by six points, I'd say this was a key moment. So blame Woodson all you want for getting beat, but also laud him for the amazing play he made to prevent the touchdown.
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