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Packers vs. Bears: Film Breakdown of Green Bay's 23-10 Win

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Packers vs. Bears: Film Breakdown of Green Bay's 23-10 Win

Thursday night at Lambeau Field was supposed to be different.

The Chicago Bears offense was re-tooled and confident. The Green Bay Packers still couldn't stop a nose bleed. Chicago was more physical. Green Bay had just been punched in the mouth.

Yet it was mostly the same story in the Packers' 23-10 throttling of the Bears Thursday night.

The Packers (1-1) beat Chicago for the fifth-straight time at Lambeau Field and fifth-straight overall, turning Jay Cutler over four times and sacking him another seven. Green Bay held the Bears (1-1) under 170 total yards for the first time in over 20 years.

With the win, Packers fans were able to take one giant step back from the imaginary cliff they had created following a disheartening Week 1 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

After taking a second and third viewing of the game this morning, here's the break down of my notes from Thursday night's win:


Smith's start

ILB D.J. Smith owned the Bears' first possession. His blitz on first down wasn't anything fancy, but he powered past Matt Forte at the point and threw Cutler to the turf. On second down, Smith attacked down hill aggressively and helped blow up a stretch play to the strong side. On third down, Smith was credited with the tackle on Forte's give-up draw call. Impressive start after getting engulfed by the 49ers in Week 1.


Mistakes killed both of the Packers first two drives. Nelson's drop on 3rd-and-short put a halt to the first, and a holding call and sack made quick work of the second, more promising drive. The official called T.J. Lang for the hold, but it was clearly on Marshall Newhouse. One play later, Newhouse couldn't contain Shea McClellin's speed on an otherwise well-set up screen play. At 3rd-and-26, 99 percent of drives are over.

Stretching it out

The Packers best running plays Thursday night were stretch plays to the outside against seven-man fronts. The Bears ran two safeties deep with seven in the box on probably 90 percent of plays, and Benson was able to find seams and cut-back lanes when the Packers pushed the action to the edge. When Green Bay needed to run against soft fronts, they mostly did it Thursday night. Big change from last Sunday.

Matthews the man

It's almost unfathomable how long the Bears allowed J'Marcus Webb to block Clay Matthews one-on-one. Webb simply couldn't handle Matthews' combination of speed, power and violent hands while on island at left tackle, and quarterback Jay Cutler paid for it. When the Bears did double Matthews, others stepped up to collapse the pocket.

Overall, the Packers probably generated as much pressure Thursday night as they did during entire four-game stretches in 2011. Matthews was the catalyst for it all. Hard to think of a better overall performance from Matthews during his four-year NFL career than the show he put on Thursday night.

2010 again

Tramon Williams joined Matthews as MVPs of this win. The work he did on Bears receiver Brandon Marshall was fantastic, even if the Packers did play with a bracket safety for most of Thursday night. Remembering back, Marshall chewed up Williams for 10 catches and over 100 yards back when he was with the Dolphins in 2010. By the time this game was out of hand, Marshall had just one total target for zero yards.

The Bears weren't creative in getting Marshall the football, but the Packers also schemed to take away the slants, digs and posts by using Williams in a trail situation. Cutler couldn't find Marshall with anything underneath because Williams was in his back pocket.

The result

Charles Woodson said post game that this was the "same old Jay." He was spot on. When the Packers broke down the Bears' protection and Marshall was taken away, Cutler's footwork disappeared as he attempted to force plays under duress. He went to his back foot and threw up prayers to his third and fourth options as the pressure kept coming. That's a recipe for disaster for any quarterback, but especially Cutler. The Packers were in position to make the mistakes hurt.

Perfect pitch

Randall Cobb's pitch play in the first half worked so well because Jermichael Finley held the edge and Bryan Bulaga kicked out the linebacker. Execution up front was perfect, leaving Cobb with an open lane to get up field. Safety Chris Conte didn't have a chance getting him to the ground once he broke into the second level. Easy 28 yards.

Special idea

Speaking of execution, the Packers couldn't have done the fake field goal any better. Tom Crabtree joked after the game how anyone could have scored that touchdown, and he's right. There was no one in the area code once he broke the line of scrimmage but a bevy of blockers.

Passing subs?

The Packers upgraded their pass defense the second Jarrett Bush was left on the sidelines for the opening series. They may have to think about doing the same with D.J. Smith, who looked overmatched in man coverage for the second straight game. Smith can play early downs, but he may need to be replaced in passing situations. He committed a pass interference penalty, should have had a holding call on a third-down play and gave up two other plays (including a touchdown) down the seam.

River dance

Good for Donald Driver on his touchdown catch. You can bet it's been a difficult couple of days for the veteran after playing only a handful of snaps against the 49ers as an injury sub. While it was all Aaron Rodgers' arm in busting the two-high safety look, Driver probably let out one long exhale while he was river dancing in the end zone.

Not as sharp

Rodgers wasn't sharp again Thursday night, but he got very little help from his receivers. Nelson dropped a couple big plays, James Jones let a touchdown go off his hands and Finley should have caught Rodgers' laser beam down the seam. Overall, the receivers left a ton of yards on the field. Still, this wasn't a 2011 performance from Rodgers, who held the ball too long on most of the sacks and made a couple more awful decisions with the football.

Lance Briggs really should have intercepted Rodgers in the first half when he forced a ball into a heavy zone. Briggs' drop saved three points for Green Bay. Tim Jennings' interception in the fourth quarter was equally on Jones' terrible route, but the throw was still an iffy one. The passing game is still a work in progress.

False start

James Jones didn't take advantage of his chance to start Thursday night. With Greg Jennings inactive because of a groin injury, Jones played a majority of the offensive snaps but caught just two passes for -1 yards (five targets).

He dropped a touchdown pass on a ball he's caught before, and the interception was at least half his fault. He broke off his route deep while Rodgers expected him to stay on course. Rodgers then let Jones have it after the play. He's great as a team's No. 3 receiver, but he was overmatched in a starting role.

A new way to win

For the first time in a long time, the Packers won by playing power football on offense and controlling the line of scrimmage on defense. Benson's 20 carries represented the first time in almost two years that a back has received that many touches in the running game.

Overall, most of what the Packers did on offense came off the run, which is completely opposite of how Green Bay's offense has been structured the last 18 months. The defenses are obviously dictating more runs, but the 2012 Packers may not be the same high-flying pass offense we've seen in the past.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (26) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Derek in CO's picture

excellent recap. One thing I would add is how good Tim Masthay has become. We finally have a pro-bowl caliber punter who can kick for distance, hang time, and put it directionally where he wants. Takes Devin Hester right out of the game. He's another huge weapon for a team plagued by dropped passes that kill drives.

GBinSTL's picture

Horrible play call on the INT. Up almost 3 scores with 8 minutes to play you should be running the ball on first down. Not sure if that was the original play call or if Rodgers called an audible.

packeraaron's picture

There's so much wrong with this I don't know where to start. It's a "horrible call" because it didn't work. It was horrible execution, mostly by Jones. Not a horrible call.

Derek in CO's picture

agreed. Mayock called out Jones on his aweful execution as well.

Sizzle's picture

Suprised Mayock didnt praise the Bears DB for making a great play. Every close play he went against GB. Over and over he repeated how the Bears keep imploding on OFF and DEF, not once giving the Packers credit for playing well. On a 3rd and short in the 2nd half the Bears were called for a false start and he let out a frustrated sigh. Maybe I just have something personnel against the guy that provides color for Vikings preseason games and the golden domers on saturdays.

Paul Ott Carruth's picture

I enjoy Mayock. He's very knowledgeable. However, he made a comment during the broadcast that was complete embellishment. He said Capers basically used the same game plan or approach as last week vs. the 49ers. In a word: Wrong.

PackersRS's picture

Mayock doesn't even try to hide his hate.

Really like him as an analyst, but he cannot call Packers games.

His job as a Vikings' preseason commentator apparently is more than work.

GBinSTL's picture

In my opinion you gotta take time off the clock as a first priority. That is the main goal of the drive in that situation. If you think there is so much wrong with that then there is something wrong with your football mind.

Zach Kruse's picture

For what it's worth, McCarthy said post-game that it was the wrong play call. Stil, execution from Jones and we're probably not talking about the play at all.

GBinSTL's picture

OK, I will take back that is was a "horrible" call. It was most definitely the wrong call for the situation in the game. Thats was my only point with which MM seems to agree with. The execution of the play is irrelevant.

Paddy's picture

C'mon Nagler... you really gonna stand by this comment?

packeraaron's picture

Um, yes.

GBinSTL's picture

Only arrogance can keep you from at least seeing my point (and McCarthy's) that the call was ill-advised. You saying that "there is so much wrong with this that I don't know where to start" in regards to my comment is laughable. As if the topic is undebatable. Come on.

packeraaron's picture

Arrogance? Or the knowledge that criticizing playcalling in retrospect is absurd...

And McCarthy saying he "regrets the call" is more his covering for the fact that Jones ran a terrible route than agreeing that it was a "terrible call" - which it wasn't.

GBinSTL's picture

All I am saying is that in my opinion it was a poor strategic move to throw the ball on first down considering the circumstances of the game. Even if JJ does execute I would still think that. It just my opinion, opposite of yours but there is nothing wrong with it.

longtimefan's picture

I agree with Nag...

If it worked it showed how we were putting foot on throat to end them..

PackerBacker's picture

I think the Packers passing offense is just taking a little time to come together this year. I don't think I'd write them off yet. First, they've had to play an outstanding SF defense and a Chicago defense that's always given them fits. Second, they have been just a little off these first two weeks. Think back on how many long passes have just missed the receivers, or how many have hit their fingers and been dropped. They just have to get back in a rhythm and they'll be back to scoring ridiculous points. Hopefully they peak somewhere in the range of week 21. ;)

Tony's picture

The Benson pickup is looking like the smartest move Ted's made since trading up for Clay Matthews.

Sizzle's picture

"Passing Subs"...Hawk and Bush on the sidelines in obvious passing situations is a definite improvement. Francios may be a good replacement for Smith if Smith continues to struggle. The scheme was executed very well, and it always helps having the right personnel on the field. Shields is starting to come back around. Heyward played as well if not better than Bush has. House if he is able to come back healthy and without to many limitations will only improve the pass D.

Paul Ott Carruth's picture

From a game-plan perspective this was as good as it gets on both sides of the ball. It certainly helps to have production from the run game. However, despite that pleasant occurrence, it was clear to see the value of the short and intermediate routes and the use of checkdowns and backs being given immediate releases from the backfield to integrate in the passing game. There were some opportunities to hit the 18-20 yard big chunks in some small windows but the throws weren’t forced. There were points left on the field because of execution not because of the approach in play calling or areas of attack. Although I would question the play design on the near interception by Briggs. We saw 3 verticals to the trips side of the formation and a deep in or dig route by Jones who was the single receiver to the right of the offensive formation. I’m not sure what McCarthy and/or Rodgers were thinking but when I saw the stems of the receivers I thought this isn’t going to be good. I understand wanting to get the big chunk and get 7 off the turnover but the Bears weren’t going to give that up at that point of the game. McCarthy and Rodgers should have known better. The short and intermediate middle was clearly vacated as it had been all game to that point. Other than that play call/design, the Packers offense stayed within themselves and didn’t get greedy. I especially liked the shallow cross routes by the receivers to attack the middle of the field. Nelson picked up a crucial 3rd down in the fourth quarter on one of these. I also appreciated the quick bubble screens even though they didn’t work. That had more to do with the fact that Finley and Nelson whiffed on their stalk blocks. It’s great to win games by 30 points but you have to win the knock down drag out types to be a champion. Getting a win in the professional game is hard even against the most overmatched teams. Just remember, when you start worrying about style you can overlook the substance. The last time I checked the only points kept on the board are the ones you produce and not ones of aesthetics.

It should come as no surprise that the defense excelled. Capers trusted his men, vets and rookies alike, to play to his philosophy. The bracket coverage on Marshall was great. It negated anything he wanted to do even as he pushed off Tramon Williams on his near TD catch. That was the same plan used against the Calvin Johnson in Detroit. The difference being that Burnett actually undercut most of the routes in that game and had Tramon playing the high side due to his inability last year to play press man with his injury. Different twist to the same approach with the same outcome. A lot of 2 man was played along with single high allowing the Packers to rush 5 and 6 guys in those single high situations. DJ Smith looks to be a liability in coverage. I’ll cut him a little slack on Forte. There aren’t many linebackers in this league that are going to have success covering Forte man for man in space (it’s the reason he’s the best back in football….when healthy of course). But it is an issue and something that needs to be watched closely and rectified quickly if it persists. The bottom line is Capers completely diffused the Bears by taking away their top receiver and banking on the impatience of Cutler (and his porous offensive line). However, it all started with Capers going back to his core philosophy of multiple looks (Psycho on 3 and 19 on the first series), multiple rushers (3,4,5,6) and coverages (2 man, and man free). It’s amazing what happens when you stay close to your core and trust in your players. Granted, it’s one game but it showed me perhaps Capers is back to calling a defense similar to 2010.

brewcityeddy's picture

I'm as excited about what Benson has done as a receiver as I am with his carries. They could've gone to him even more on those check-downs.

Doug In Sandpoint's picture

Zach, did you see any evidence that Rodgers seemed to be instructed not to run with the ball? A number of times the middle of the field was open for a 5+ yard gain and a slide. Instead he took sacks or threw away.

When he runs it really opens things up and against the Tampa two shouldn't the middle be open for him?

Lou's picture

Great to see the recently drafted defenders on the field, energized and assignment sure for the most part. Mathews, Walden, and Moses put some pressure on consistently and Burnett played under control for the first time in some time. Williams is special at CB when healthy. Best special teams overall game in 15 years.

Only negatives were Finley having the ball punched out, against the Bears that has to be stressed (and I am sure it was) all week, a few years back Jones had it done to him multiple times. Jones is an enigma, drops easy ones and will make the hard catch and for his physical build is not a physical player. No wonder Boykin made the roster.

brewcityeddy's picture

Jones looks like he's built to be a physical receiver but he plays like a finesse one.

Maybe he should borrow from the AJ Hawk playbook and drop a few pounds to lighten up. That might help his game.

brewcityeddy's picture

It sure looked to me like the best Benson running came between the tackles and not as stretch plays.

I feel like its going to be a few weeks before Benson and the O-line are really in synch, as he adjusts to some new formations, etc.

longtymefan's picture

I am glad I got to go to the game..Never been to a Bear game before and this was a perfect one to attend

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