When the Packers and Bears last played on January 2nd, the Packers’ wide receivers played arguably their worst half of football as a collective group during the first half. Drops from Greg Jennings and James Jones, a fumble from Donald Driver, poor blocking in the running game from Jones and Jordy Nelson – you name it, the Packers receivers were doing it, and most of it wasn’t very good.
As stellar and as brilliant as the wide receivers played down in the climate controlled conditions of the Georgia Dome on Saturday night, it all means very little now with a showdown on the shores of Lake Michigan looming Sunday for the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. The wide receiving corps, lead by Greg Jennings, is the oil in the machine that is the Packers’ offense run. Aaron Rodgers may be the operator, but he’s only as good as his receivers’ play, to an extent.
When the Packers last appeared in an NFC Championship game in 2007, Donald Driver was the lone receiver who seemed to set up his game in the brutal cold. Greg Jennings, for whatever reason, disappeared that day. The Packers simply can not afford a repeat on Sunday against the Bears.
Lovie Smith’s team did a good job of taking Jennings away in the initial matchup in Week 3 earlier this year. After an opening drive touchdown on a post from the slot over Brian Urlacher, Jennings was barely heard from again in that game. In the Week 17 matchup, McCarthy did a much better job of working Jennings free (that, coupled with the absence of Jermichael Finley, who Rodgers definitely zeroed in on down in Chicago) While Jennings posted decent numbers (4 catches, 97 yards) he would have had a monster game had he caught the two passes he dropped, especially what looked like sure-touchdown in the first half.
Much has been made of James Jones’ inconsistency throughout the season, and for good reason. But more than anything this Sunday, Greg Jennings must come to play and McCarthy and Rodgers have to find ways to feed him the ball.