It’s not how you start, but how you finish. Luckily for the Green Bay Packers, their finishing efforts were enough to offset many early miscues against the Chicago Bears last weekend.
In many ways, this week’s musings could center around one of the Packers’ worst special teams games of all time. There is plenty for both fans and team officials to ponder heading into this week’s matchup with Baltimore. However, this piece focuses on three positives from the contest, including an offensive awakening in the second half that was among the unit’s best showings of the season.
The Packers’ final put-away drive was one of their most impressive overall drives of the season
When Green Bay took possession of the ball with 13:11 to play in the fourth quarter, they held a two-score advantage in a second half dominated by the Packers. Still, the score was well within reach for the Bears to make a comeback if Green Bay was to have a three-and-out. The Packers had other plans, however, and put together what might have been their best drive of the season.
On 13 plays covering over eight and a half minutes of game clock, the Packers were able to get into the end zone and open up a 45-27 lead. After Aaron Jones opened the drive up with a rush, it was the AJ Dillon show the rest of the drive, as he toted the ball seven times and plowed through Bears defenders, displaying the type of power that could make the offense dangerous in the cold of January. Paving the way for Dillon and controlling the line of scrimmage was an absolute makeshift offensive line that, having lost Billy Turner earlier, included just one original starter this season.
Then, of course, there was Davante Adams. Adams was on the receiving end of two third-and-short plays on that crucial possession. Rodgers and Adams toyed around with the Bears’ defense, seemingly getting whatever play they wanted. Perhaps the best offensive drive of the season was finally capped off by one of the best individual pass plays of the season. With beautiful footwork, Adams was able to fake an end zone fade route before slanting inside to make the touchdown grab. Adams nearly juked Jaylon Johnson to the ground with his master-level fakery.
The Packers’ offense has been inconsistent at times this season, but on a must-have drive, they were able to exert their will and find their groove in impressive form.
wanna see a dead body? pic.twitter.com/3MIUyDRF3Q— Ross Uglem (@RossUglem) December 13, 2021
Deception from a previous play fueled Jones’ touchdown reception
Following Preston Smith’s sack-strip of Justin Fields midway through the third quarter, the Packers needed just one play to reach the end zone and open up an eight-point lead. A difficult catch by Aaron Jones for a 23-yard score was a highlight in itself. However, the Packers’ creativity and deception needs to be recognized.
On the previous drive, the first of the second half, Green Bay had just entered Chicago territory with about 13 minutes left in the third quarter. Marquez Valdes-Scantling came in pre-snap motion as Rodgers took the snap, faked the handoff to Dillon, and then rolled to his right. Coming across the field at the snap was Adams and Rodgers was able to quickly dump it off to his star receiver and let him run for a well-crafted 16-yard play.
#Bears-#Packers— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) December 13, 2021
The Davante Adams-Jaylon Johnson matchup was really good.
And we saw some adjustments from GB vs. man-coverage. Slot reps for Adams + play-action.
Hide Boot here. Run away from coverage — and force Johnson to work over the traffic. @NFLMatchup pic.twitter.com/gmFZ1JamXW
For Jones’ touchdown on the very next drive, the Packers ran a variation of that same play that caught the Bears keying in on the crossing receiver. With Jones and Josiah Deguara in the backfield this time, the Packers used some pre-snap motion with Deguara and once again faked the hand-off to the running back. On this play, MVS was the crosser in the same role as Adams had been earlier. As Rodgers rolled to the right on the play-action, two Bears defenders quickly recognized the play that had burned them earlier and sprinted to guard MVS as he flew to the right. The decoy worked as Rodgers’ eyes misled the coverage and left Jones by himself on the reverse side of the field. Fortunately, Rodgers was able to just get the ball over Bilal Nichols’ outstretched hands for Jones to make an exceptional catch and run to the end zone to extend the lead.
That’s two touchdowns for Aaron Jones within a MINUTE pic.twitter.com/jd35FsGm70— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) December 13, 2021
Matt LaFleur’s offense has been predicated on running different plays off of similar looks and formations, and this play was no different in using deception to come away with points.
Taken with a grain of salt, it was hard to ignore the difference between Jenkins and Stokes
It was the first game action of Bears tackle Teven Jenkins’ rookie season, so that fact must be considered. But it will not be a shining moment in Jenkins’ career, no matter how it ultimately turns out. Forced into action by Jason Peters’ injury, Jenkins picked up two false starts and two holding penalties. He also gave up a the game-changing sack to Smith in the third quarter. While Chicago did not put Jenkins in a great position to succeed on all plays, including a curious play with him split out wide to block in the short passing game, it was a particularly rough debut for Jenkins.
As the Packers continue to have a next-man-up mentality on their offensive line with former developmental players carving out large roles in the midst of injuries, it is hard to ignore Jenkins’ struggles. The Oklahoma State product was a popular name associated with the Packers in last year’s draft, but he eventually slipped to the Bears at pick 39. Meanwhile, the Packers passed on Jenkins to select Eric Stokes.
Stokes had the opposite performance on Sunday night, being targeted just four times all game. In fact, Stokes had been thrown at just twice leading up to the final two drives of the football game, and he allowed just one catch for eight yards. Covering Allen Robinson for a good portion of the evening, Stokes prevented Robinson from tallying a single catch. As Stokes continues to emerge as a starting boundary corner, with Rasul Douglas sliding in exceptionally well on the other side, the Packers can feel confident in their secondary entering the playoffs. Stokes’ dependability also allows for Jaire Alexander to work his way back in the mix slowly when he is able to return.
It’s too early to fully assess the career trajectory of both Jenkins and Stokes, but early signs indicate the Packers made a very good draft choice.