Packers vs. Bears: Aaron Rodgers found Jermichael Finley three times for touchdowns and the defense held the Bears to four yards rushing as the Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears, 27-17, Sunday at Solider Field in Chicago.
Here are five observations from the game:
1. Big man in the red zone
Jermichael Finley sounded confident that he was going to make a major impact on this game, and he backed it up on the field. The Bears didn’t have an answer for him in the intermediate passing game and they certainly couldn’t handle him in the red zone. Rodgers found him three times inside the 20 for back-breaking scores.
On the first, Finley put a fantastic outside-in move on Bears safety Brandon Meriweather, who trailed Finley by a few yards by the time Rodgers found him in the back of the end zone. His second touchdown came when Rodgers rolled right to avoid pressure, and Finley broke off his route perfectly to give Rodgers an area to throw him the football. Finally, on a third-and-9 play in the fourth quarter, Finley exposed a misplaced Cover-2 look where backup safety Craig Steltz was far too slow rotating over. That left 88 wide open in the back corner of the end zone for an easy pitch and catch. All three were fairly routine plays for both Rodgers and Finley, but the fact that the Bears were helpless to stop them is an encouraging sign. If Finley is on the field for 16 games, there is no way he doesn’t score 10 or more touchdowns. He’s just too much inside the 20.
2. Grounding the run
With the way the Bears have struggled to protect Jay Cutler, you’d think the Bears would have wanted to establish the run early and often on Sunday. I definitely thought so, and I figured Matt Forte, who has looked so good through two weeks, would find room running the football against the Packers if he got the opportunities. That couldn’t have been further from what happened. The Packers were dead set on containing Forte and it showed, as the Bears running back Forte had just two yards on nine carries. Five of those carries went for zero or negative yards. Forte did catch seven passes for 80 yards, but a majority of that came in garbage time with the Bears struggling to stay in the game.
I still think the Packers will have problems covering running backs in the passing game, but they did considerably better in that area today. In the end, the Bears offense ran the ball just nine times compared to 40 throws (Cutler had three runs, all on scrambles). That kind of play-calling ratio allowed the Packers to be comfortable in Dom Capers’ defensive calls.
3. Peprah’s struggles
If there was a player on Sunday who didn’t look like he belonged, it was Charlie Peprah at safety. On the Bears first touchdown drive, Peprah slipped and allowed a second-and-11 completion to Sam Hurd then lost his footing again on the next play as Johnny Knox caught a 24-yard pass down the far sidelines. Peprah has never been a player with outstanding physical skills, but it was clear that a more athletic player could have likely made plays on each throw. Peprah later got turned around on a 40-yard completion to Knox on a deep out pattern. He capped off the ugly performance with a missed tackle on Kellen Davis’s 32-yard touchdown that gave the Bears some hope early in the fourth. Peprah was a steady veteran last year playing along side Nick Collins, but he looked lost for the better part of Sunday afternoon. I’d expect teams to continue to target him in upcoming contests.
4. A new 25
If you had watched Ryan Grant in the preseason and the first two regular season games, you wouldn’t have known who you were witnessing running the football on Sunday. From his first carry on, Grant ran with the kind of vision and burst that allowed the 28-year-old back to record back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons in ’08 and ’09. It’s a skill set that looked potentially behind Grant after coming off of ankle surgery last season, as he appeared slow and hesitant to start this season.
That all changed against the Bears. Eight of his first 10 runs went for five or more yards, and Grant finished the day with 92 yards on 17 carries. He was even finishing off runs with a violence we rarely saw in the past. On one 10-yard run, Grant flatten Meriweather with a simple lowering of the shoulder. It’s a style of running usually attributed to James Starks, but he was the back who showed indecisiveness and his fumble could have been a turning point. Even with Grant running the ball well, however, the Packers showed that they’d like Starks to be the main guy. Mike McCarthy gave him the ball 11 times despite all his struggles throughout the game. He’ll ride the hot hand when needed, but Starks is always going to get opportunities. In my opinion, that’s the way the Packers should be handling the running back platoon.
5. Typical Packers-Bears
When the Packers look back on this film, they are going to see a lot of missed opportunities and bad breaks. The final scoreline simply doesn’t do justice to the talent discrepancy between these two teams, as Sunday’s game at Solider Field easily could have ended 31-10 or 38-17. In typical Packers-Bears form, however, this game stayed close and came down to the end. A couple of turnovers and a crazy play were mostly to blame, as Starks’ fumble after Morgan Burnett’s interception prevented what had the potential to be the game’s dagger. The Packers offense was rolling and they were given the chance to turn the game into a blowout. The fumble was quick to make the game interesting as Cutler found Kellen Davis for a 32-yard score on the Bears first play following the turnover. Brian Urlacher’s interception mid-way through the fourth stopped another potential scoring-drive for the Packers and gave the Bears another shot at making it a nail-bitter. In a Packers-Bears game, you have to expect these kind of plays. But it doesn’t take away the fact that the Packers outplayed the Bears from start to end, even if the scoreline didn’t exactly support that conclusion.
Other observations: Mike McCarthy told Larry McCarren following the game that Bryan Bulaga had a “knee bruise.” That sounds encouraging, but remember that’s what he called Mike Neal’s injury early on as well. Don’t feel comfortable about his injury situation until we hear more from him later this week…All Greg Jennings does is produce. He caught nine passes on 10 targets for 119 yards but people hardly even notice. That kind of game is almost expected from him and Rodgers now…Cutler easily could have thrown five or six interceptions. He attempted some throws on Sunday that would make even No. 4 shake his head. Others landed incomplete and were no where near an offensive or defensive player. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be to watch him for 16 weeks…Marshall Newhouse held up fine after replacing Bulaga. There were no catastrophic mistakes and you didn’t hear his name much, good signs for a young tackle…Who would have guessed Jarius Wynn would lead the Packers in sacks (three) through the first three games? He’s relentless in working back to the quarterback…Two more picks for Morgan Burnett gives him three already on the season. He’s making the big plays needed to fill in for Nick Collins. His first quarter pick looked a lot like 36 as he ranged from centerfield to the sideline.——————
Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.
You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.Follow @zachkruse2