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Packers 7, Chicago 35

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Well that was an embarrassing loss. The only other game like it this season was the week 5 loss versus Chicago. The boxscore will only show two turnovers, but that doesn't count the three blocked/botched punts. The Packers have been very lucky that most of their turnovers this season didn't lead to any points by the other team, but the second blocked punt was returned for a touchdown and both of QB Brett Favre's interceptions either led to a touchdown on a short field or was returned for one. Those three turnovers alone led directly to 22 points (2 point conversion) and was the difference in the game.

It was pointed out to me that this season is a reverse version of the 2001 season when Chicago had a 13-3 record but lost both games against Green Bay. Unfortunately Chicago went on to lose their only playoff game that season.

There can be a lot of finger pointing in the Chicago week 16 loss but what really stood out for me was how badly Lovie Smith and his staff has outcoached Mike McCarthy and his staff this season. The Packers coaches have impressed all season long with their ability to make adjustments and attack the opponent's vulnerabilities. I doubt many Bears fans have been dazzled by Smith's coaching abilities this season, but he blew McCarthy away in this game. The Packers defense played their safeties back a lot in this game although QB Kyle Orton appeared to have no intention of throwing further than 10 yards downfield and they had three runs for every pass. When it was obvious P Jon Ryan was having trouble handling the snap, Chicago let CB Charles Tillman blitz and left the gunner to run downfield unblocked, apparently the Packers didn't expect Tillman would blitz or be able to make it to Ryan before he could get the punt off. McCarthy did a really poor job of disguising the plays until late in the game. It was obvious when the fullback was in the game it was a running play and QB Brett Favre threw from a lot of empty backfield formations that sold out the pass play.

First Half

  • The 18 play, 10:45 minute drive by Chicago to start the game would really have been upsetting if that had been the entire game. The defense finally came together and held them to a field goal. Chicago went 67 yards on the drive, but only had 173 yards for the rest of the game. They were 4 for 5 on third downs conversions on this drive, but only 2 for 10 the rest of the game. Still given the ineptness of Chicago's offense and the poor weather, they could have done more.
  • Of course K Robbie Gould made both of his field goal attempts in this weather. On his second field goal he played the wind and his slice. I doubt he's ever missed one against the Packers.
  • Special teams have been a big reason for the Packers success this season, but they completely fell apart against a superior unit. Chicago has the best special teams in the NFL this season, and this game solidified that standing. It was a wobbly snap to P Jon Ryan, but the ball hit him right in the hands and he's got to make that play instead of fumbling it.
  • Despite the botched punt, the defense holds and P Brad Maynard shows Ryan how it's done. When did the Packers start playing like a dome team?
  • Favre had a lot of trouble throwing the ball in the wind, but Orton had it figured out.
  • The offense should have been embarrassed by their first half performance. They had the ball six times in the first half. Four were three and out. One had RB Ryan Grant's 66 yard TD run on the second play. The last was a kneel down to end the half.
  • Every blocked/botched punt was unique. On the first blocked punt, LB Brady Poppinga wiffed on a rusher right up the middle and there is no excuse for that either.
  • The Packers offense botched the two-minute offense, and gave Chicago plenty of time to walk down the field to score. The big problem was the long gain by RB Garrett Wolfe. Chicago had the receiver on the right side run deep or across to clear out the right side, Wolfe slips out to the right side with a blocker in front who takes out the linebacker, and he runs for 33 yards. How can you expect Orton to throw deep in that weather and why wouldn't you crowd the short passing lanes? Where were the safeties? Without that 33 yard gain, the 14 yard completion to Berrian and RB Adrian Peterson's 8 yard TD run wouldn't have mattered.
  • The two-minute defense is becoming a mini-problem. Two weeks ago Oakland's inept offense scored a TD in the final minute of the first half, and now Chicago's struggling offense does the same. It was especially shocking given the poor weather conditions, and it has to be looked at by the coaches.
Second Half
  • Favre's first interception was awful. It was like the Packers hadn't seen a zone blitz before. DE Alex Brown dropped back into coverage while the cornerback rushed unblocked. He had to get rid of the ball, but Chicago was determined to clog the short passing lanes to the middle of the field. Chicago linebackers and linemen are either the best in pass coverage in the NFC or Favre just makes them look like it.
  • The Packers let TE Desmond Clark and TE Greg Olson kill them in the week 5 loss. It was not that bad this time around, but Clark and Olson combined to score Chicago's first TD of the second half. The defense did a good job against them in this game, but not on this drive.
  • I described the final botched special teams punt up above. Either the coaches blew it or the gunner playing in front of Tillman blew it. Maybe everyone was to blame.
  • McCarthy said at the post game press conference that it was never his intent to throw that much, and it is understandable to start throwing when you're down 21-7. But in these weather conditions and with the success Grant had running the ball it didn't make any sense to start throwing exclusively. He started bringing in RB Vernand Morency to signal to Chicago it was a passing play, and Grant only entered the game to run it.
  • The final interception which LB Brian Urlacher returned for a TD was typical for the game. The Packers expected one thing and Chicago did something else. It looked like Favre expected one of the linebackers on that side to blitz because it was a quick pass, but instead both Urlacher and LB Hunter Hillenmeyer stayed short to the left side and he threw right into them. It didn't matter at that point, but it would have been nice to have come away with something positive on offense in the second half.
  • Something positive from this game! The Packers have been having problems with penalties this season, but they committed only one penalty in this game on an illegal formation call with five minutes left in the game.
  • Rookie RB Brandon Jackson actually got some playing time near the end, and I wouldn't be surprised if he has a big second half next week at Detroit after McCarthy pulls Grant and Morency from the game.
Update: I got the one penalty wrong. The illegal formation call was declined, it was an offensive pass interference call on WR Greg Jennings that was the lone accepted penalty. He was really open on that play, so although I didn't get a clean look at it on replay, there probably was some truth to it. Also it's really good news that his ankle injury was just a bruise and isn't serious.