Packers Beat Bears: Thumbs Up & Down
By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com senior analyst
~The Packers welcomed back All-Pro OLB Clay Matthews Sunday, and what a difference he makes. Matthews had a pair of sacks on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, and five solo tackles including four tackles for loss.
Not everything was perfect though.
While Aaron Rodgers seems to lock onto Randall Cobb on about half of his passing plays, Jones has proven too good of a matchup for Rodgers to totally ignore as he did in the blowout loss at the Giants when Jones wasn’t targeted once by Rodgers.
Jones had a career high three touchdown passes Sunday at Chicago and Rodgers was 5/7 overall throwing to Jones. Jones has great size and strength, runs precise routes, and has strong hands.
Cutler threw at him time and time again Sunday, with little success. Sam was usually matched up on Bears rookie Alshon Jeffery, who was supposed to give the Bears that strong number two receiver and be a size mismatch. Instead, Shields was often in perfect coverage and Jeffery often resorted to pushing off. The refs missed it for awhile, and actually the first flag they threw was on Shields, for getting his facemask tugged.
Shields was solid all day long, aside from a run early in the game outside when he lost containment on the edge and allowed Matt Forte to bust off an 18-yard run. Other than that, Shields had three fine pass defends.
Packer fans love to boo Finley, and are ruthless on him when he doesn’t come up with a catch. But he came up big Sunday with a few key third down receptions, and Rodgers was 5/6 when throwing to the big tight end.
Finley was also wide open, uncovered, on a key third down play in the second half when Rodgers instead forced one low to a well-covered Greg Jennings in the same general area, and missed. It would have resulted in a punt, but the refs felt compelled to throw a flag on DE Julius Peppers for a late hit on Rodgers. It’s great for the Packers for the refs to finally look out for Rodgers like they do Manning and Brady. But it was a bad call, and Finley had good reason to be ticked off Rodgers looked right passed him. A few weeks ago, Rodgers did that again throwing one to Cobb on a 4th down play, that was intercepted. Finley was wide open on that play. Perhaps his drops issue has gotten Rodgers to the point where he only will look at Finley first on a few plays now.
I usually cringe when I watch him play inside but he was solid against the Bears both in pass coverage on Forte, and against the run. He led the Packers with eight tackles and had two pass defends.
He’s certainly not in the league of Desmond Bishop, whom the Packers really miss. And he’s not even on par with D.J. Smith, but he’s gotten better and he played a fine game Sunday in the windy city.
The rest of the Defense
From Ryan Pickett inside, to B.J. Raji, Mike Neal, and Jerel Worthy, the DL had a great game and they were a mismatch for the atrocious Bears offensive line. One almost feels badly for Cutler behind that line.
It is great to see Neal healthy enough, finally, to be out there because the guy has a big heart and skills in there. It’s easy to see what Ted Thompson liked in him so much to draft him higher than anyone expected a few years ago. When he’s on the field that is.
As usual, Hawk was solid if not a headliner. His work, like fellow Buckeye Pickett, often goes unnoticed by the fans, and announcers who should see it. But coaches and teammates know how important Hawk is.
Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward had fine games again, and Morgan Burnett was solid. Aside from the one touchdown Brandon Marshall had where he broke away from Jones and stiff-armed Hawyward’s head, the pass defense was fantastic.
It amazes me how Dom Capers’ defense can always put a blanket on the Bears offense, but never slow down Eli Manning and the Giants. A bad defense, Atlanta, pitched a shutout on New York today.
As I type this right now at 4:15 CST, I am seeing the injured Raider veteran kicker Sebastian Janikowski just chip-shot a 51-yard FG thru the middle of the uprights.
With Crosby, it’s an R-rated short film. You, he, we never know if the ball will curve left a little, right, left a lot, or right a lot.
This guy has earned a flatout release now three times at least this year but coach McCarthy has so much loyalty to him, he’s sticking with him. While noble in a sense, it’s also handicapping the team, quite obviously.
So obvious that the coach passed on a 45-yard FG early in the game and went for it instead.
Later on, McCarthy let him try a few under-50 yarders. Crosby responded by going 0-2. He should have kicked his final ball in a Packer uniform as games are going to be too close in January to have a handicap like this.
The Bears kicker today was Olinda Mare, who was 2-2. He was on the street until this week when the Bears called him in as their regular stud kicker Robbie Gould was injured and put on IR. What a difference there was in kickers today. One guy looked like a sure strikeout at the plate, while the other guy, the new guy, looked confident that he’d get a hit.
Crosby keeps slicingor hooking them into the hazard.
If Ryan Longwell wants to come off the golf course and kick again, he should be on a plane tomorrow morning.
I love Ryan Grant, and I seem to have defended him dozens of times over the past four years to friends and readers. But his fumble today was unacceptable. I know it was Charles Tillman and the famous “punch”. But Tillman has tried that a lot the past month and nobody has fumbled from it.
Grant did today, and it was at a point where the Packers were up 21-7 and marching. They were in field goal range already (for normal kickers), but were headed for a possible touchdown and a 21-point lead.
I’m still not sure why Grant was getting carries at that juncture ahead of Alex Green and DuJuan Harris. One of them might have been dinged up, who knows. But Harris only had five carries on the day, and Green 13. Grant was given eight carries.
The Packers were up 21-10, with 7 1/2 minutes to go, and the defense had just stopped the Bears again and forced them to punt it back to Rodgers and the offense. The Bears offense had been stymied for most of the day, and the Packers were up two scores and about to take the ball back and ice the game at best. At worst, a three-and-out, but taking a few more minutes off the clock.
Instead, punt returner Randall Cobb fielded the punt at the 23-yard line, and shockingly threw a lateral backwards all the way across the field, intended for seventh string wide receiver Jeremy Ross. The throw was low, but should have been caught and fallen on at the worst. Instead, Ross dropped it, and couldn’t pick it up before a Bear came in and scooped it up.
The mystery call ultimately gave the ball back to the Bears with a first down at the Packers 16-yard line. Fortunately for the Packers, the defense, again, held up and kept the Bears out of the end zone. But the chip shot (it wasn’t Crosby) field goal made it a one score game at 21-13, with still seven minutes to go.
Also, McCarthy’s loyalty to the obviously shaky kicker Crosby has proven to be a handicap to this team.
Crosby left six points on the table today, and when facing teams like the 49ers, Giants, Falcons, Seahawks in the playoffs, those six points are going to come back and haunt the team sooner rather than later. When a coach passes on a 45-yard FG and instead goes for it, you know there’s a problem at kicker.
There are many better options available right now, starting with former Packer Ryan Longwell.
While I like Crosby, and surely so do his teammates and coach, the NFL is a business, even for the Packers. Crosby is one of the game’s highest-paid kickers, and should be a strength. Instead, he’s an achilles heel.