The Green Bay Packers are trying to pull away from the rest of the NFC for a wild card spot, so every win is a good win. Especially when it comes against a division rival, which helps in case they need it for a tiebreaker. It's their 5th win in a row, and it moved them up into the top wild card spot. Another good thing: Mike McCarthy said only 4 players were injured during the game and they all returned. Here's the big recap from the Sports Network.
A couple things that didn't make it into my play-by-play recap after the jump. I was expecting a big game from OLB Brad Jones against backup Bear RT Kevin Shaffer, but instead Jones didn't record a single stat. I also noticed during the game that there were several times when the Packers went with one defensive lineman (DE Cullen Jenkins) and 5 linebackers. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers has been showing some unusual formations this season, but that was very usual and I'm not sure it's good that he calls that defensive package 'Psycho'. It's not something I expect to see against every team, but the Bears running game has been toothless all season, so they weren't as likely to get burned by a power running formation.
This game reminded me of last week's game against the Ravens. They were in control for most of the game, but their opponent kept it close so that their opponent was able to get back into it with a couple TD drives. The Bears offense didn't do much, they only had 254 yards of offense in the entire game, but managed 136 yards on their two TD drives. I'm not sure if that's just the normal flow of the game, but it didn't make sense that the Packers were behind when it seemed like they had outplayed them. Overall it was a dangerous game, but they were better than the Bears and they deserved the win.
The play-by-play comes from NFL.com:
2-M.Crosby kicks 62 yards from GB 30 to CHI 8. 13-J.Knox to CHI 20 for 12 yards (36-N.Collins).
I was worried about the special teams in this game, and they did a very good job on kick coverage. They didn't allow a kickoff return for more than 26 yards.
(13:23) 25-R.Grant left tackle for 62 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Well that was a surprise. Nothing exceptional about the play. The o-line blocked well and LG Daryn Colledge got into the 2nd level to block LB Lance Briggs. The cornerback was blocked, and the safety ran to the other side of the field, which left a wide open path for RB Ryan Grant on the left side.
(11:05) (Shotgun) 6-J.Cutler right guard to GB 44 for 21 yards (36-N.Collins). PENALTY on CHI-68-F.Omiyale, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at CHI 35 - No Play.
Usually it's the Packers who are hurt by penalties, but in this game, it was the Bears doing most of the self inflicted damage. And this was a legitimate penalty that effected the play: Omiyale held Jenkins left arm back as he tried to reach out and tackle QB Jay Cutler.
(7:49) 12-A.Rodgers pass incomplete deep right to 85-G.Jennings (33-C.Tillman). PENALTY on CHI-91-T.Harris, Defensive Offside, 5 yards, enforced at CHI 36 - No Play. Green Bay challenged the incomplete pass ruling, and the play was Upheld. (Timeout #1.)
(3:40) 2-M.Crosby 33 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-61-B.Goode, Holder-10-M.Flynn.
How was that not a TD pass to WR Greg Jennings? I'm no rules expert, so I don't have some hair splitting reason why. Settling for a FG a few plays later added some sting to it.
(3:31) 6-J.Cutler pass deep right intended for 19-D.Aromashodu INTERCEPTED by 21-C.Woodson at CHI 48. 21-C.Woodson to CHI 39 for 9 yards (13-J.Knox).
Another one of those INTs that make all Bear fans groan. It looked like Cutler threw off his back foot with pressure in his face. Maybe he under threw it, or maybe the receiver ran the wrong route. I couldn't tell for sure.
(13:07) 2-M.Crosby 26 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-61-B.Goode, Holder-10-M.Flynn.
Unfortunately the turnover doesn't lead to a TD. They converted two first downs, including one 4th down conversion, but couldn't find the right play near the end zone. The only thing I've noticed about their red zone offense is that they don't seem to attack the sidelines. There aren't a lot of fade routes to the corner type of plays. Those are low percentage plays, but it wouldn't hurt to try something new either.
(12:07) 4-B.Maynard punts 37 yards to GB 34, Center-65-P.Mannelly. 87-J.Nelson to GB 39 for 5 yards (32-K.Bell, 65-P.Mannelly).
By this point, the Bears have had the ball 4 times and have 10 yards of total offense (plus 1 INT).
(9:02) (Shotgun) 32-B.Jackson left guard to CHI 41 for no gain (92-H.Hillenmeyer, 91-T.Harris).
This is just my preference, but I hate it when it's 3rd and short, they are in the shotgun, and they hand the ball off. I have no idea what the success rate it on these plays, but I would expect it's low.
(1:54) (Shotgun) 6-J.Cutler pass deep right to 13-J.Knox for 19 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
The first of the Aromashodu drives. He had 3 catches for 37 yards on this drive alone. It's understandable that he might have come as a surprise to the Packers. He only had 2 receptions on the season coming into this game. I wasn't expecting anything from the Bears' receivers other than WR Earl Bennett and Knox. No flag on CB Tramon Williams on this play, he just got beat. I'm not sure why SS Atari Bigby came over so late. Was he supposed to help on deep coverage?
(:21) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass short middle to 88-J.Finley to CHI 36 for 19 yards (24-A.Afalava). FUMBLES (24-A.Afalava), RECOVERED by CHI-38-D.Manning at CHI 31. 38-D.Manning to CHI 30 for -1 yards (80-D.Driver).
It was a careless fumble by TE Jermichael Finley and it took points off the board. They were at least in field goal range. But it was the 2nd game in a row that Finley was the leading receiver. He's been playing very well, this fumble aside, since he returned from injury last month. Over the last 4 games, he's been just as important as Jennings and WR Donald Driver (who was very quiet in this game).
(12:56) 12-A.Rodgers to CHI 36 for -7 yards. FUMBLES, and recovers at CHI 36. 12-A.Rodgers to CHI 38 for -2 yards (92-H.Hillenmeyer). FUMBLES (92-H.Hillenmeyer), RECOVERED by CHI-95-A.Adams at CHI 41. 95-A.Adams to CHI 44 for 3 yards (63-S.Wells).
It's Rodgers's 10th fumble of the season (4th lost) which isn't good. It's also the 2nd drive in a row that ended in Bears' territory with a Packer turnover. They could have easily had scored 30 points in this game.
(10:27) 6-J.Cutler pass deep right to 13-J.Knox pushed ob at GB 10 for 22 yards (21-C.Woodson).
(9:41) 6-J.Cutler pass short right to 19-D.Aromashodu for 10 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
An unusual set of plays where CB Charles Woodson was beaten for 32 yards and 1 TD by two different receivers. He's having a great season, but he isn't unbeatable. This was a good 56 yard drive by the Bears, but it was their last hurrah. On their last 5 possessions, they gained a total of 69 yards.
(8:09) (Shotgun) 12-A.Rodgers pass short middle to 85-G.Jennings pushed ob at 50 for 25 yards (33-C.Tillman, 24-A.Afalava).
This was on 3rd and 10. There were a times when the Bears seemed to have more trouble stopping the Packers on 3rd and long then on 3rd and short.
(2:10) 32-K.Bell right tackle to GB 45 for no gain (20-A.Bigby, 56-N.Barnett).
In hindsight, the Bears probably should have gone for it. The Packers only managed two drives of more the 50 yards in the entire game, so it was unlikely the Packers would have turned this into a TD. Great play by Bigby to dive into the gap and stop it for no gain.
(:17) 6-J.Cutler pass short middle to 22-M.Forte to CHI 30 for 3 yards (56-N.Barnett). PENALTY on CHI-74-C.Williams, Illegal Use of Hands, 10 yards, enforced at CHI 27 - No Play.
I think this was the play when Bear LT Chris Williams tried to take off LB Clay Matthews's head.
(13:39) (Shotgun) 6-J.Cutler pass short left intended for 13-J.Knox INTERCEPTED by 36-N.Collins at CHI 42. 36-N.Collins pushed ob at CHI 11 for 31 yards (22-M.Forte).
Cutler's first INT was bad, but this was worse. Not just because of the big return by FS Nick Collins. Cutler was throwing off his back foot (again) and this time the receiver was in the right place. Cutler just didn't get enough on the throw. It was a good idea, he saw Williams come on a corner blitz and he threw it to the man Williams was covering, but he threw it far too late.
(12:46) 12-A.Rodgers pass incomplete short left to 80-D.Driver. PENALTY on CHI-35-Z.Bowman, Defensive Pass Interference, 4 yards, enforced at CHI 5 - No Play.
(12:42) 25-R.Grant right guard for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN.
(Pass formation) TWO-POINT CONVERSION ATTEMPT. 12-A.Rodgers pass to 85-G.Jennings is complete. ATTEMPT SUCCEEDS.
First, there is a pass interference penalty in the end zone, and it was not called on Tramon Williams. Second, the Packers retake the lead and I can relax again. Third, how can a team that has struggled in the red zone go for a two point conversion? And where has this play been: throwing to Jennings along the side of the end zone. They couldn't have tried it earlier?
(9:42) 25-R.Grant left tackle pushed ob at GB 29 for 17 yards (24-A.Afalava). PENALTY on CHI-24-A.Afalava, Unnecessary Roughness, 15 yards, enforced at GB 29.
Thanks to the 15 yard penalty on the rookie safety, the Packers got themselves out of a hole quickly.
(8:31) 12-A.Rodgers pass short middle to 88-J.Finley to CHI 25 for 25 yards (33-C.Tillman).
(6:10) 2-M.Crosby 42 yard field goal is No Good, Wide Right, Center-61-B.Goode, Holder-10-M.Flynn.
I hated this 2 and 1/2 minute series of plays. After Finley's reception got them down to the Bears' 25 yard line, they ran three plays (two runs, and a dropped pass on 3rd down) that seemed designed to run off some clock and settle for the FG. And then K Mason Crosby missed the FG anyway. Most of his misses have been beyond 50 yards, so they've been low percentage attempts anyway, but this is the 2nd week in a row he's missed FGs that he should be making. Kickers run in streaks, so hopefully it's better that he's missing them now instead of during the playoffs.
(4:58) 6-J.Cutler pass incomplete deep middle to 82-G.Olsen (36-N.Collins). Chicago challenged the incomplete pass ruling, and the play was Upheld. (Timeout #1.) Timeout #2 by CHI at 4:51.
This was the bizarre series of timeouts by Lovie Smith. First he called a timeout, and then he wasted another timeout for a challenge. I briefly saw his press conference after the game when he tried to explain the situation, but I had to turn it off. I didn't want to get vertigo from all the spinning he had to do to explain himself.
(3:06) 34-A.Green right tackle to GB 36 for -1 yards (95-A.Adams).
I didn't mind the Packers running out the clock here. It forced the Bears to use their last timeout, but it would have been nice if they actually had converted on 3rd and 1.
(2:19) 7-J.Kapinos punts 51 yards to CHI 18, Center-61-B.Goode. 80-E.Bennett to CHI 20 for 2 yards (51-B.Poppinga). PENALTY on CHI-21-C.Graham, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at CHI 19.
The Bears were copying the Packers' usual game plan of penalties and poor special teams.
(1:13) (Shotgun) 6-J.Cutler pass incomplete deep right to 80-E.Bennett (21-C.Woodson).
And the game ends on a 4th and 9 pass attempt that was far off the mark.