For the third year in a row, the Green Bay Packers faced the possibility of starting the season 1-3 Sunday in Chicago. But as they did in Houston two years ago in the famous “shhhh” game, the game in which Aaron Rodgers silenced his critics, the Packers silenced them again with a 38-17 butchering of the Bears.
Leading up to that legendary performance in Houston , the Packers had lost to the Colts after holding a 21-3 halftime lead the previous week and were 2-3. The pressure was on and it was real. Talk of the Packers demise was being proclaimed by fans and media alike and Rodgers took offense. So, the former MVP with the permanent chip on his shoulder threw for 338 yards and six touchdowns in a 45-24 Packers win.
After, he held up his finger in a post-game interview to say, shhh.
This week, Rodgers told a panicked fan base to R-E-L-A-X after the Packers 1-2 start. He was right. And now after his masterful day against the Bears which saw the ten-year veteran complete 22-of-28 passes for 302 yards and four touchdowns. We can all relax.
Before the season, yours truly (The Packers Guru), predicted Green Bay would be 12-4. After four games, I had the Packers sitting at 2-2, which is where they are at right now and after three difficult road games in the first quarter of the season, they are right where they need to be.
NFL people break the season up into four quarters and with their schedule, the Packers needed to just stay afloat early on, they have done that, now they have they need to turn this momentum into a winning streak.
Before we get too ahead of ourselves, I am going to take the time to review, analyze and grade the Packers performance against the Bears. I have not done this before but going forward this will be a weekly installment on the Packers Guru blog. It will grade offense, defense, special teams and coaching.
Note: Also, the site was light on content due to my day job as a print journalist but we will get back on track this week, especially with the quick turn around as Minnesota comes to Green Bay Thursday for a critical NFC North battle.
Packers Offense: Grade: A-
Don’t get me wrong, the Packers offense was very good against the Bears. 38 points, 357 yards (302 passing), 7.6 yards per play, one sack allowed, 50 percent conversion rate on third downs, no turnovers and touchdowns on four of five red zone opportunities are all great. But, Green Bay still had issues running the football.
Eddie Lacy managed just 48 yards on 17 carries and had just one run of ten yards or more. He did score a key rushing touchdown early in the game but he has to get more productive as the season goes on. Seeing rookie tight end Richard Rodgers catch two passes for 56 yards was a good sign and led directly to points. Richard Rodgers is inconsistent but has shown flashes thus far of being able to potentially hold down the starting job long-term.
Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb may get credit for the offensive fireworks and that is understandable. Rodgers threw for 302 and four TDs, while Nelson and Cobb each went over 100 receiving and caught two touchdowns apiece. But, it was all made possible by the stellar play of the offensive line. After Rodgers was pummeled by Detroit, he was sacked just once and experienced very little pressure. Bryan Bulaga seems healthy and rookie center Corey Linsley continues to hold his own.
Packers Defense: Grade B
The defense, which was solid against Detroit was a mixed bag against Chicago. On one hand, the Packers intercepted Jay Cutler twice and held the high octane Bears to zero points in the second half. But, on the other hand, Chicago racked up 496 total yards, 235 of which came on the ground. Matt Forte and Ka’Deem Carey combined for 199 yards rushing and a team the Bears averaged 5.7 yards per carry. The numbers are mitigated slightly by two weird runs of Cutler, who fumbled the ball twice but recovered and scrambled for a total of 29 yards.
The run defense is a concern but when the Packers are playing their best defensively, turnovers are commonplace. The deflection by Tramon Williams that led to Clay Matthews interception was just another example of why he still the team’s No. 1. cornerback. The former undrafted free agent from Louisiana Tech has a prowess for making plays and with Chicago driving for a game-tying score in the third quarter, there was no better time for a game changing play.
Shields interception was another huge play. It happened in part because of miscommunication between Cutler and Brandon Marshall but Shields still found the ball and made the play. Williams and Shields give up more passing yards than they should but in the end, they make enough game changing plays to justify their big salaries.
Special Teams: B
Thanks to a great day by the Packers offense, Tim Masthay did not attempt a single punt. Therefore, it was difficult to grade special teams. Yet, Mason Crosby was solid. In his seven kickoffs, five went for touchbacks. On the two that were returned the Bears got just 43 yards, so the coverage unit did well. They also recovered a pooch onside kick late in the first half.
The only miscue was a blocked field goal late in the fourth. Other than that, it was a solid, ho-hum performance by Green Bay’s special teams.
After some poor game management decisions and seemingly predictable play calling a week ago against Detroit, head coach Mike McCarthy got his team back on track. Instead of playing exclusively out of 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 1 WR) MM changed some things around and showed more two-tight end sets. One such formation paid off big early in the game with a 43-yard completion to Rodgers on Green Bay’s opening drive, which led to a touchdown. Also the Packers did a good job of adjusting at halftime and did not allow any Chicago scores in the second half.
Packers Guru’s Fun Facts: Jay Cutler has a 1-9 career record against the Packers and has thrown just 11 touchdowns compared to 20 interceptions. Contrast that with Aaron Rodgers, who is 11-3 against the Bears with 25 touchdown passes and just 11 interceptions. His career passer rating against Chicago is also over 100.
The Bears loss on Sunday was their fifth consecutive home loss to the Packers. The win improves Mike McCarthy’s overall record against Chicago to 12-6 overall, 7-3 at Soldier Field.