Packers-Bears Video: Jermichael Finley, Bear Killer

ALLGBP.com All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Jermichael Finley has been at his best against Chicago
Jermichael Finley has been at his best against the Bears

Packers tight end Jermichael Finley is perhaps the most scrutinized player on the Packers’ roster.

As a former Division I basketball recruit, Finley possesses as much athletic ability as any tight end in the league, but dropped passes and mental lapses seem to overshadow his on-field production. However, the 6’5″ 247-pound freak always seems to be at his best against the Packers’ top rival, the Chicago Bears.

Finley’s best regular season game as a professional came last season at Chicago, catching a season-high seven passes for 85 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. Of Finley’s eight total touchdowns last season, four came against the Bears. Oh, and of Finley’s fourteen drops last season, zero came against Chicago.

In the Packers’ Super Bowl season in 2010, Finley torched Chicago on Monday night for nine catches and 115 yards without dropping a pass. Finley missed the Bears game at Lambeau Field after suffering a season-ending knee injury against the Washington Redskins, but going back to the final Packers-Bears game a season earlier, Finley again brought his best, catching five balls for 70 yards.

There’s been an obvious theme for Finley against the Bears lately–consistent production, and more importantly, no dropped passes.

In his last four appearances against the Chicago Bears, Finley has posted 24 catches for 290 yards and four touchdowns, all without a single drop. Over a 16-game season, those numbers would equate to 96 catches for 1,160 yards and 16 touchdowns. Now, that’s the level of play Packers fans have been hoping to see from No. 88.

Despite dropping a pair of passes, Finley enters “Bear Week” fresh off a solid showing against the San Francisco 49ers, in which he caught seven passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. The 49ers were able to limit Finley, and the rest of the Packers for that matter, from producing “big plays,” but it’s pretty clear that the Bears struggled to find a favorable matchup against Finley last season.

Let’s put each of Finley’s four touchdowns against the Bears under the microscope for a closer look.

In an effort to isolate Finley one-on-one, the Packers split Finley wide to the left of their formation. When quarterback Aaron Rodgers sees newly signed safety Brandon Meriweather lined up across from No. 88, it’s game over. Finley simply beats Meriweather to the middle of the field, crosses his face and catches the touchdown.

Finley’s second first-half touchdown is an interesting situation. The Packers line up with two receivers, Greg Jennings to the left and Donald Driver to the right, and two tight ends, Tom Crabtree lined up tight to the right, with Finley in in the slot. Finley’s route is halted by Bears outside linebacker Lance Briggs, but Finley fights fire with fire and breaks free for an open touchdown.

Seeing as how well the Packers and Bears know each other’s personnel, plays are bound to break down, forcing both teams to rely on “broken plays.” Finley’s route may not have been as smooth as it was drawn up, but he finds the soft spot in the coverage and he’s right where Rodgers wanted him to be.

Finley’s third touchdown demonstrates the Bears obvious problems matching up with Finley–three touchdowns against three different defenders. On this play, cornerback Tim Jennings lines up across from Finley. The Bears are in a Cover-2, but Finley gets a relatively clean release off the line before safety help arrives via Craig Steltz. The 5’8″ Jennings couldn’t afford to play face-to-face against the 6’5″ Finley, which caused Finley to reach the endzone a couple steps before Steltz arrived.

Finley, doing his best Bill Goldberg impression, asks Lovie Smith, “Who’s next?!” In this case, outside linebacker Nick Roach gets a crack at covering Finley. The result is more of the same. With Finley lined up split to the left of the formation, Roach is clearly expecting a fade route, but instead, Finley beats him with a stutter step into a quick slant. Finley needed just five steps to score another six points for the Pack.

Finley scored a touchdown against four different Bears defenders. Brandon Meriweather? Check. Lance Briggs? No problem. Combination of Tim Jennings and Craig Steltz? No match for Finley. Nick Roach? Uh, yeah.

Both Roach and Briggs remain starters in the Bears’ 4-3 scheme, but it remains to be seen as to who will be Chicago’s main counter attack against Finley this Thursday. One likely possibility to see significant time defending Finley is starting free safety Chris Conte. The 6’2″ 203-pound defensive back was inserted into the starting lineup in week six last season, but was inactive for the Christmas night showdown in week 16 last year.

Conte picked off No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck last week, and the second-year safety has started in each of his last ten game appearances.

Regardless of who the Bears choose to assign to defending Finley, his production is only one piece to an extremely complex Packers-Bears puzzle. However, the Packers have undoubtedly been at their best against the Bears when Finley’s been on the field. Without Finley in 2010, the Packers scored just ten points in their must-win regular season finale, and mustered up just 14 in the NFC Championship Game.

And now with the uncertainty surrounding Greg Jennings and his availability for Thursday’s game, Finley will need to continue his dominance of the Bears if the Packers are going to be able to match Chicago’s new explosive offense. Stopping Finley will surely be a focus for the Bears this week, but they showed no signs of solving the problem last season.

On the other hand, the Packers face serious matchup problems as well, as they try to stop 6’4″ wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Gulp.

——————

Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

——————

  • Tarynfor12

    “In his last four appearances against the Chicago Bears, Finley has posted 24 catches for 290 yards and four touchdowns, all without a single drop. Over a 16-game season, those numbers would equate to 96 catches for 1,160 yards and 16 touchdowns. Now, that’s the level of play Packers fans have been hoping to see from No. 88.”

    We don’t play the Bears 16 times and equating stats like that is good for fantasy football.
    This is a Lovie Smith mentality…as long as he plays good against the Bears thats all that matters.
    Law of averages…he’ll have his dropsies vs,the Bears sooner or later.Hopefully later.

    • Marques Eversoll

      Who said the Packers play the Bears 16 times a year? I certainly didn’t. And I’m failing to see the “Fantasy Football” reference, are you saying I should start Finley this week against the Bears?

      Over a 16-game span, his four-game numbers accumulated against the Bears are equivalent to 96 catches, 1,160 yards and 16 touchdowns. The point of including those stats was to show how effective he’s been in his past 16 quarters against Chicago.

      • Tarynfor12

        However,span or played,to think that those numbers would continue as mentioned…is fantasy.

        Point is,his high value rating against one team doesn’t offset his strong lapses in the others.

        He can have a big day and scream YOTTO and some fans and writers will do likewise,but the screams of joy turn quickly to pain and frustration all to often when he simply doesn’t do it consistantly and in too many must situations.

        For all the bravado that so many bestow him,lest himself,he should already be in the HOF but isn’t and won’t be unless it’s called the HOF of Potential..and that equates to crap even if he kicks the Bears ass twice a year…it isn’t enough.

  • cow42

    i can’t remember finley ever running the ball in for a score. seems like all of his TD’s come from him catching the ball while already being in the end zone.

    interesting that for someone who’s supposed to be such a “freak of nature” he rarely seems to make big run-after-catch plays.

    maybe i just have a bad memory.

    or maybe his athletic “rarities” are just over-exaggerated a bit.

    • Barutan Seijin

      Sheesh. The guy can’t catch a break. He scores 4 touchdowns against their most hated rivals & Packer fans say, “Yeah, but he caught the ball in the end zone.” As if that’s a bad thing. Am i crazy to think that maybe — just maybe — catching the ball in the end zone is part of his job description?

      At any rate, you can see him use his speed, height & reach in the videos. Would Bubba Franks have caught those 4 TD passes? Probably not all 4.

      • Marques Eversoll

        ^^ What he said ^^

        Thank you, Barutan, for being a realist. Packers fans love finding someone to hate, and Jermichael Finley is at the very top of the list. Sure, Finley has his drops and that needs to be corrected. But if you don’t recognize his elite athletic ability, then you have other issues.

        Finley has the talent to be the best tight end in the league, which is why he’s frustrated some fans. But you’re completely right — give this guy a break.

        You can have your Bubba Franks, I’ll take my Jermichael Finley 8 days a week.

        • cow42

          after 7 years we’ll still be waiting for finley’s “break out”.

          it ain’t happenin’.

          he is who he is.

          good? yes.

          special? no.

    • Marques Eversoll

      Cow42 – I don’t recall every individual TD of his career, but one play comes to mind specifically. On a Monday night in Minnesota, Finley got a ball downfield from Rodgers for a 60+ yard catch-and-run for a TD.

      As for his athletic “rarities” being over-exaggerated … I guess I don’t see what you’re saying. He had a D1 basketball scholarship to Arizona, but turned it down to play football. I really don’t think his “athletic rarities” are overrated in the slightest.

      Has he “put it all together” and reached his potential? Probably not, but to say his athletic ability is overrated is a bit misguided. Try telling that to opposing defenses, who constantly need to identify where No. 88 is lined up in the formation. He’s still a main focus every single week for opposing defenses.

      • cow42

        sooooooooooo tired of this… “He’s still a main focus every single week for opposing defenses.”

        so is graham. so is gates. so is gronk. so is hernandez. so is gonzalez. and yet they still get shit done.

        as for arguing his athletic “rarities” i guess it comes down to your definition of athletic ability. i include hand-eye coordination (catching the f’n ball without bobbling it). you, obviously do not. in my opinion it’s more than speed and strength.

  • Chad Lundberg

    Would’ve been epic to see the picture of this article being Finly wresting a Bear.

  • Kevin

    Calvin Johnson is the same height and only 11 pounds lighter than Finley but is about 38 mph faster. Considering we like to think of Finley as “unguardable”, this terrifies me.