Packers vs. Bears: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 35-21 Win over Chicago

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Jermichael Finley was a catalyst for the Packers' opening touchdown drive. (Photo: Rick Wood, JSOnline)

Behind five touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers wrapped up home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and won a franchise record 14th game in 2011 with a 35-21 victory over the Chicago Bears.

Five observations from the game:

1. Next man up

The Packers makeshift offensive line bounced back in a big way Sunday night. Facing one of the better defensive lines in football, Rodgers wasn’t sacked and rarely was hurried. The banner performance came from left tackle Marshall Newhouse, who all but took All-Pro defensive end Julius Peppers out of the game. This was a big time performance with just two players, Scott Wells at center and Josh Sitton at right guard, starting at the same position they did to begin the 2011 season.

2. Missing Pickett

It’s been shockingly evident how much the Packers miss Ryan Pickett up front. Without him the past two weeks, the Packers’ run defense has been gashed repeatedly. On Sunday night, third-string running back Kahlil Bell ran for 121 yards as the Bears totaled 199 on the ground. If not for a big lead in the third quarter that took the Bears out of their game plan, Chicago could have ran for 250 or more yards. Getting Pickett back will help, but the gap discipline from the run defense has to be much better. They were all over the place against the Bears. Frank Gore, Michael Turner and the rest of the NFC running backs had to be salivating watching Sunday night.

3. End of discussion?

Is the case finally closed? After a week of MVP debate surrounding Drew Brees and Tom Brady as potential candidates, Rodgers might have stamped his name on the trophy with his first career five touchdown passing game. He now has 45 passing touchdowns and 48 total on a 14-1 team. If that doesn’t win you the MVP, I’m not sure what will.

4. Making their case

Think all the “blueprint this, blueprint that” talk fell on deaf ears in the Packers’ offensive meetings? Not the case. James Jones, who caught two touchdowns Sunday night, mentioned after the game how that discussion was motivation for the offense to put their best foot forward against the Bears. Mission accomplished. Jones had one of his finest games of 2011, Jordy Nelson went for 115 yards and two scores and Jermichael Finley was the catalyst for the Packers’ opening touchdown drive. Even though Greg Jennings is expected back for the playoffs, this was a confidence-restoring performance for the Packers’ passing offense.

5. Special specialist

I challenge you to find a punter who has been as good as Tim Masthay over the second half of the 2011 season. He was terrific again on Sunday, as Devin Hester (two returns, seven yards) was a non-factor in the return game. Three of Masthay’s four punts were downed inside the 20, too. With some dangerous weapons (Ted Ginn, 49ers; Darren Sproles, Saints) looming in the playoffs, the Packers can have a lot of confidence in their punter to put a cap on the opponent’s special teams weapon.

Other observations

The Packers did not commit a single penalty Sunday night…RB James Starks left the game in the third quarter with another ankle injury and didn’t return…Rodgers broke Lynn Dickey’s franchise record for passing yards in a season. He finished Sunday’s game with 283 yards, which puts him at 4,643 yards for the season…As was the case last week, the Packers were dominated in total plays (70-51) and time of possession (35:48-24:12).

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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.

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  • Mojo

    The o-line came through and kept A-Rod clean. Great game by that group.

    Considering it took this long before a QB surpassed Lynn Dickey’s team passing total gives you an idea how productive he was.

    Hoping Dom comes up with a solution for the D. I don’t want to rely on the O playing lights-out against three play-off caliber opponents to win this thing again.

    • http://none glblank

      Now maybe the D line will rise when Pickett returns

    • Steve Cheez

      Agree totally, Mojo, just think “what could’ve been” if we’d had even a little bit of D in the Dickey years.

  • Ron LC

    As previously stated on Al’s game review I am eating some crow, AGAIN, courtesy of James Campen, EDS and Newhouse. My worries about the left side blocking were unfounded. Good Job guys!

    The D is now my biggest worry. They seem to be able to make any reject QB into an All-Pro. The Dline is being knocked off the LOS by 3 to 5 yards on virtually every play ( against a bad Oline of the Bears). Pickett is being missed alot. The cover zones promotes wide open receivers underneath. Add to that the pathetic tackling by the DB’s and some LB’s (Hawk and Walden) are you listening?)and you’ve got a real problem looming for the playoffs.

    Next week, anyone who is injured needs to be held back. Use that extra time to get them healed up enough to make it all the way through the playoffs to the Super Bowl. A win would be great, but a healthier team on the field for the 17th/18th is much more important. It sure is looking like Starks is going to be a continuous injury issue. Maybe missing a year at Buffalo should have been investigated further. But he was a 7th round pick (I think) and worth a shot.

  • Tarynfor 12

    As much as I agree about the visibly bad play of the defense this game,last game or simply every game this year,there are three things IMO that should be taken from it.

    1)Every week we allow a ridiculous amount of yards and every week we hear how teams are salivating over it whether it be via passing yards or rushing yards depending on the scheme of the opponent.

    2)What is going through the pre/post-game minds of these teams HCs,OCs,DCs every week after slipping in their own salivating drool of anxiousness.
    Answer…Score more points than they do.

    3)Until somebody outscores us,yes I believe,perhaps dillusionally,that our offense scored every point in the KC game and allowed them to keep more than us.The Offensive play and it’s lack of possession time justifys it for me.

    With that,I look forward to all the future adaptations of the”blueprint”,a weekly special brought to you by all sports networks.

  • Chad Lundberg

    You didn’t mention that So’oto had one tackle for a loss and one quarterback pressure. I know that’s not like a WHOLE LOT but that was within like 15 snaps, so I think you aught to mention it for what it’s worth.

    • http://none glblank

      It would have been interesting to see if So’oto could have contributed more if not hurt. With all the talk from the draftniks about getting a bookend for Clay maybe So’oto is it.

  • Dan

    Great win, warped up HF for the playoffs and beat the hated bears. The Patch work O-line played inspired football, what a great performance, the exact opposite of our pathetic Defenses performance. I was hoping after last weeks losing performance that the D would play inspired this week. I’m so disappointed in this unit.

    I’ve been saying this all year, this unit is ‘soft and confused’. Aside from CM and R Pickett (and CW occasionally), this unit has under achieved. Shame on the players and Dom Capers. Just another huge egg they laid last night against another horrible offense.

  • Ron LC

    MM’s PC today:

    1: Goai is for Clifton to play against Detroit. Know more after Thursday pads practice.

    2: Starks ankle is a problem, then said they’ve both been a problem. Sounded frustrated

    3: Bulaga said he will play he will play Sunday and MM said he’ll see.

    4: They will be playing to win Sunday. Goal is undefeated in the division and 15-1.

    5: MM was very disappointed in the D. Graded out worst in his time in GB. Will be reviewing the game with individuals and team as a whole.

    6: Happy with thing So’oto’s play. Did some good things.

    • Ron LC

      with thing? Al, you need to insert a spell/gramar check

  • Art Rosen

    Does Capers think Packer fans are complete idiots by feeding us the following horseshit? Is he teaching us football? How about he for once says, “Sorry Pack fans, I haven’t been doing my job as best as I can/should/getting paid to do”. Capers, you’re as pathetic as your defense this year.

    The following was copied in parts from http://www.packers.com. (Vic’s blog).

    “We need to make improvement in our run-defense. They bled us for too much yardage. I know we can play the run a lot better than we did yesterday,” Capers said.
    “When you get to this time of the year, you have to stop the run,” Capers said.
    Capers blamed Sunday’s problems on loss of gap-control and bad footwork.
    “We knew it was going to be that kind of game. We’ve got some things to work on. Teams that can mix the run and keep you off-balance, they make you play more honest. If you do stop the run, it becomes a one-dimensional game,” Capers said.
    “When that ball is on the ground, you have to find a way to come away with it,” Capers said.

    • Oppy

      I don’t get what you are angry about.. A reporter asks the DC questions about his unit, the DC gives answers… There’s nothing here to be angry about.

      You are frustrated with the defense. You don’t like the product that Dom Capers has put on the field. I understand. Maybe you just shouldn’t read post game press conferences if you don’t want to hear the coaches’ answer questions.

  • Steve Cheez

    Gap control is the new pad level?

  • Dan

    Thanks Steve Cheez for breaking down the new coaches term for ‘our D players and coordinator suck’ ….I guess its now called gap control issues instead of pad level probs.