The Green Bay Packers are back on track to a division title. Last week's loss to the San Francisco 49ers left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, but they cleansed their fans' pallets with an impressive 23-10 victory over the Chicago Bears on Thursday night.
Mike McCarthy said that he regretted going away from the run so early against the San Francisco 49ers, and he went about establishing the running game early. The first two plays were handoffs to Cedric Benson, and he carried the ball 11 times for 45 yards in the first half. He would finish the game with 81 yards on 20 carries. Randall Cobb also took two handoffs early -- though one was called back for a penalty -- and had one spectacular run in the first half for 28 yards.
From the Bears' first series, it was obvious that the Packers' defense had a different strategy and level of intensity than they did last week. Dom Capers sent a blitz on the first play from scrimmage for the Bears, and a sack by D.J. Smith was the result. That was a regular occurrence in the first half, with the Packers picking up three first half sacks. Clay Matthews finished the game with 3.5 sacks, and the Packers picked up seven sacks on the night.
The Packers had more success offensively in the early going than the Bears did and were able to win the field position battle with their play on both sides of the field, but it took them until their fifth drive and the second quarter to break the deadlock. The first score came on a nine-play drive that started at the Packers' 21-yard line. It featured a 17-yard pass to Benson and a challenge win for McCarthy on 3rd down, which led to the Bears getting called for 12 men on the field upon review. That led to a 48-yard field goal for Mason Crosby.
Green Bay would score the game's first touchdown on their next drive, though they did it in unconventional fashion. Once again, the Bears defense bent, but did not break and stopped the Packers short of a touchdown. Crosby lined up for another field goal, but the Packers, in unbelievable fashion, called a fake. Tim Masthay flipped the ball up to Tom Crabtree on an end-around and backup offensive linemen Don Barclay and Evan Dietrich-Smith made stellar blocks to spring Crabtree for a 27-yard touchdown reception.
Again, the Bears' offense stalled on their next drive. While trying to push his team down the field for a score to get them back into the game, Jay Cutler forced a throw over the middle and was intercepted by Tramon Williams. The play was reviewed, but the officials determined that there wasn't enough evidence to overturn the call on the field.
The Packers took over at the Bears' 48-yard line and managed to drive into field goal range, but didn't look sharp. Aaron Rodgers was almost picked off by Lance Briggs, but the Bears' linebacker dropped what should have been an easy interception. Their last play of the quarter was a short pass to John Kuhn for 17 yards, setting up an easy field goal to make the score 13-0 at the half.
Chicago looked much different to start the second half. Their first drive was a successful one, though it didn't end how they wanted it to. They ripped off an excellent 12-play drive that eventually resulted in a field goal, but it should have resulted in more. On 3rd down from the Green Bay 27-yard line, Cutler hit Brandon Marshall in the end zone, but Marshall couldn't hang onto the pass.
Sadly for the Bears, that drive had consequences beyond that dropped touchdown. Matt Forte picked up an ankle injury that caused him to go back into the locker room, and he was unable to return to the game.
After a three-and-out for the Packers, things appeared to be going well again for the Bears until Cutler got impatient on 3rd down and threw another interception. Incredibly, the Packers were able to generate pressure on 3rd and 11 out of a three-man rush in a dime psycho package. Cutler forced a throw to Earl Bennett, who failed to come back towards the ball, and Charles Woodson stepped in front of him to come up with the pick.
The following drive looked like a huge one for Green Bay for x plays, until Charles Tillman came up with a massive play for the Bears. Jermichael Finley made a reception deep in Bears territory and was stretching for a first down when Tillman punched the ball out, and the Bears made the fumble recovery.
Chicago failed to make the most of that turnover, and went three-and-out on their next drive, quite obviously missing the versatility and explosiveness of Forte. That allowed the Packers to move the ball down the field and pick up some more points. They failed to pick up a 3rd and 1, but Crosby still got the Packers on the board with a 50-yard field goal.
The next two plays from scrimmage were the two biggest plays of the game, and they completely killed off any momentum that the Bears had. On first down, on the following drive, Cutler was hit by A.J. Hawk as he threw to Marshall in double coverage. It was a perfect double whammy of awful circumstances for the Bears, and Williams came up with his second pick of the night. On the very next play, Rodgers hit Donald Driver down the middle for a simple touchdown to make it 23-3, all but putting the Bears away.
However, the Packers let the Bears back into the game with a silly turnover. The Bears' next drive resulted in a punt and it felt like there was no way back for the visitors, but Rodgers and James Jones had a miscommunication on the first play of the next drive, and Jones' poor route resulted in Rodgers throwing an interception. Cutler hit Kellen Davis for a 21-yard touchdown on the next drive, making it 23-10 in favor of the Packers and making the game a bit more interesting.
While Cutler made an excellent throw on that play, he couldn't make the most of further opportunities. The Bears started their next drive with 4:09 remaining, and it was a disaster. Cutler was sacked by Jerel Worthy, then Matthews on consecutive plays. On 4th down, he threw a pick to Jerron McMillian while trying to force a pass into Bennett.
Benson picked up a first down with two runs on the Packers' next possession, which allowed them to take knees to finish off the game and clinch the win.
Not a member of Acme Packing Company? Sign up below and start commenting. Everyone here is super fun. Check us out on social media for updates when we update as well. You can also subscribe to our RSS Feed.