This loss was a throwback game, back to the days of 2004, 2005, and 2006, when a lot of turnovers and an inability to cover tight ends and running backs, led to some close and hard losses. 2005 was the worst of those seasons when QB Brett Favre was throwing a lot of interceptions and LBs Paris Lenon, Na'il Diggs, and Hannibal Navies couldn't cover any tight end or running back. The worst was an early season home loss to a bad Cleveland team when the Packers still had a chance to climb back into the race among a group of struggling NFC North teams but TE Steve Heiden probably had the only 100 yard receiving, 2 TD game of his career] and the loss established that 2005 was going to be a bad season.
But this is not 2005 anymore. Except for when FS Nick Collins let TE Desmond Clark run wide open for the game winning TD, which I'm sure defensive coordinator Bob Sanders will have a lot to say about this week in practice, he played tight coverage and forced the only Chicago turnover. Also, S Atari Bigby has shown that he can cover deep and play good in run support. He only surrendered a TD pass because QB Brian Griese made a perfect pass and TE Greg Olson had a great grab along the side of the end zone. The defensive line played great against the run, especially NT Ryan Pickett, but struggled to maintain a consistent pass rush. LB Nick Barnett played great too, when he wasn't getting called for one of his several penalties, which is something that happens to him once every few games. It isn't time to rebuild the defense like it was back in 2005. They just need to see what worked for Chicago in this game and learn how to play it better in the future.
Also, the Packers are still 4-1, tops in the division, and aren't looking up the standings at the rest of the NFC North after week 5 for the first time since 2003. They weren't going to win them all, and Chicago had some luck in recovering all three fumbles that the Packers coughed up. Forcing fumbles is a skill, but recovering fumbles is the luck of the bounce. Some games you lose three fumbles and your opponent recovers all three, but sometimes, like what happened to Chicago last week in Detroit, you fumble the ball five times and luckily your opponent isn't fortunate enough to recover a single one.
First Quarter: If the Packers wanted to do something in this quarter, other than to have WR James Jones hang onto the ball, then they did it. RB DeShawn Wynn ran, the defense stuffed Benson, and Griese couldn't convert on 3rd down. Favre completed passes to five different receivers and had only one incompletion. Although Jones was only playing slightly above average, until he fumbled away this game, he is still playing very well for a rookie. He's got great hands, he showed them off on a couple of great 4th quarter catches on bullets from Favre that a lot of receivers wouldn't have caught, but he didn't take care of the ball in this game. Those were the first fumbles of his career, it isn't a trend so far, just one bad game. I didn't like the strategy to avoid kicking off KR Devin Hester, but it worked except for Chicago's first score of the third quarter when they only had to drive 40 yards to set up a field goal. I didn't look back at the stats, but I doubt K Robbie Gould has ever missed a field goal against the Packers. They could probably make him attempt kicks in a scene out of some bizarre Nike ad where he has to kick on frozen ice in bare feet and he would make every attempt, so long as he was kicking against the Packers.
Second Quarter: Still a great, dominant quarter for the Packers except Chicago learns how to attack the Packer defense. I hate it when the Packers blitz, something they don't do very often, for two reasons. First it leaves the middle of the field or the flat open for an easy reception, and second the Packers suck at it. The blitzing linebacker always gets blocked. On a 3rd and 7, the Packers blitz when they don't have to, Barnett is easily picked up, and RB Adrian Peterson is left wide open in the flat for a huge catch and run. It didn't help that CB Jarrett Bush had his second bad game, completely whiffing on a tackle that would have saved about 20 yards. Plus he committed a penalty on special teams too. On this TD drive, Griese only completes passes to the tight ends and running backs, exposing the linebackers and safeties struggles in pass coverage. LB Brady Poppinga was the player who really showed that he has to play a lot better. Not only did he fill the wrong gap and vacated the area where RB Cedric Benson ran right through for his TD run, but he too let Clark run right by him for the game losing TD and couldn't keep up with him on an earlier big play too.
Third Quarter: Although it hasn't hurt the Packers that Mike McCarthy had almost completely abandoned the run in the first four games, it is something I hate because it takes away the offensive balance and makes them a lot more predictable. But please don't abandoned the pass either! Favre threw a grand total of two passes in the quarter, including that poorly designed bootleg that brought out his inner gunslinger that he had repressed over the first four weeks when he threw it on the run to LB Brian Urlacher and Jones wasn't even looking for it. The offense didn't have the ball much in the quarter, but calling 8 running plays against a defense that was clearly expecting the run, all three Chicago linebackers played very close to the line of scrimmage, compared to 2 passing plays, was a bad decision.
Fourth Quarter: Despite all the turnovers, the game was tied entering the fourth quarter and then Chicago just outplayed them. Chicago had their only turnover of the game in the quarter, which was a huge interception that happened within field goal range, but the only Packer turnover was on Favre's hail mary to end the game. The hail mary was a result of getting outplayed during the rest of the quarter. The offense had their chances, but three three-and-outs killed them. They could have had a cushion to work with if Jones hadn't fumbled away some chances in the first quarter, but that is water under the bridge and they got outplayed when it mattered. The offense couldn't find a rhythm, which had something to do with play calling but was more about Chicago playing solid defense. Again their inability to cover the tight ends was the problem because the only two passes on Chicago's game winning TD drive went to each of their tight ends.