Bears run wild on Packers’ defense
By Tyler Dunne, Journal-Sentinel
Green Bay – He’s usually the 340-pound source of optimism. Ryan Pickett can light up a room. But on the sidelines, teammates saw a different Pickett Sunday.
This one wasn’t easy for the Green Bay Packers defensive end to stomach.
“I can just see it in his face,” defensive end C.J. Wilson said. “He wants it so bad.”
Easy to see why. In Green Bay’s breezy 35-21 win over Chicago on Sunday, Pickett was out again. He missed his second straight game with a concussion suffered Dec. 11 against Oakland. His void was felt in a big way.
Part of the problem is missing Pickett. Teammates acknowledge that much. But they also realize this isn’t a quick fix.
“You definitely have to address the issue,” nose tackle Howard Green said. “For me, that’s not what you want. . . . It’s something we have to stand up as men on a defense and get that stuff corrected.”
On three of their first four offensive possessions, the Bears strung together drives of 11, 10 and nine plays. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was on the sideline, powerless. And the Bears’ offense – a hodge-podge collection of backups – ran the ball 73% of the time in the first half. The plan worked. A week ago, the Kansas City Chiefs rushed for 139 yards. This week, Chicago nearly eclipsed that total in the first half.
Of course, the Bears’ three long drives netted only a field goal. Robbie Gould missed one 49-yarder wide right, and Clay Matthews’ interception halted another other drive.
Afterward, players didn’t use the bottom line as a cop-out excuse.
“We didn’t play as good as we wanted to,” said inside linebacker Desmond Bishop, who played for the first time since Thanksgiving. “I know it’s been the same old song, but there’s nothing we can do but look at the film and see what we can do better and try to execute next week.”
In Pickett’s place, Wilson was not a complete liability. He finished with six tackles, including one for loss. Pickett, though, can make life much easier on linebackers. While the Packers have had trouble against some plus-sized backs this season, they’ve also shut down Matt Forte (2 yards on nine carries) and Michael Turner (56 yards on 16 carries).
“He means a lot,” Bishop said. “As you can see with some of those plays, his experience could have helped. But the guys that filled in did well. C.J. Wilson had a good day.”
Added Wilson, “I feel like I held my own. My goal was to not have a drop-off in production that Ryan Pickett gives us. He does a great job.”
Maybe just as big of a factor was Chicago’s strategy. Green said the Bears pulled their center and guard out of formations the Packers were not expecting. Or in football-speak, “unscouted looks.” Bell gashed the Packers repeatedly on cutback runs.
Chicago’s line effectively washed linemen downhill, swinging open tollbooth-sized running lanes.
“They changed it up a lot, and it was working for them,” Green said. “There was a lot of gap blocking. They pulled the center and the guard a lot up front. We knew they pulled a lot, but we haven’t gotten those looks during the week when we were watching film.
“The back was seeing the holes and making the right cuts and getting where he needed to get. And he ran hard. He ran hard.”
By Wisconsin standards, Christmas night was tropical at Lambeau Field. Green realizes the weather can turn in a hurry here, and opposing teams are bound to tote their running game. On national television, a potential flaw in the Packers’ defense was exposed. If the Bears could’ve finished drives, maybe this would have been a slugfest instead of a circus.
Pickett or no Pickett, the defensive linemen know teams are going to test them again.
“Overall on defense, we didn’t play our best game,” Wilson said. “We all know that, and all know we have some work to do. We have to take coaching and believe in the system to come together and do our job. We have some work to do.”
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