3

January

Game Balls and Lame Calls Week 17: Packers defeat Bears 10-3

The Green Bay Packers defeated their arch rival Chicago Bears on Sunday to lock up a wild card berth and the number six seed in the NFC.

To steal a line from Jim Mora, “PLAYOFFS?! PLAYOFFS?!”

Yes, the Packers are playoff-bound for the second consecutive year. This one, however, seems to be a little more special because of the injuries and adversity the Packers had to overcome. With 14 players on injured reserve, the Packers refused to feel sorry for themselves and find themselves in the middle of a wide open NFC playoff field.
Can the Packers win three straight on the road? That remains to be seen, but for now let’s take a look back at Sunday’s game in another edition of Game Balls and Lame Calls:

Game Balls

LB Erik Walden

WHO?

In yet another example of why general manager Ted Thompson’s system works so well, Walden came out of nowhere and sacked Bears quarterback Jay Cutler twice. Replacing the injured Frank Zombo, Walden gave all he had yesterday and contributed big to the six total sacks Cutler suffered yesterday.

In such a close defensive struggle, any tackle for a loss is huge and Walden got to Cutler more than most. His tremendous and hustle and surprising power helped turn the tide of the game in the Packers’ favor.

P Tim Masthay

I think it’s safe to say the Packers have finally found the punter.

With dangerous Bears returner Devin Hester lurking downfield on every punt, Masthay played brilliantly, keeping the ball out of Hester’s hands for the most part and at one point pinning the Bears at their own two yard line on back to back punts.

In the two times Hester did get the ball, the punt was long and high enough that it gave the Packers coverage team enough time to get downfield to minimize any damage that could have been done.

It may or may not be enough to save special teams coach Shawn Slocum’s job (judging by body of work, it shouldn’t), but at least coach Mike McCarthy can rest easily knowing he finally found his punter after five years on the job.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers

Words really cannot express what Capers has meant to the Packers the past two years, yet alone the last two games.

Capers’ unit did a brilliant job of disguising blitzes that Cutler had no clue who was coming and from where. He’s a quarterback that frustrates very easily and that was evident in his two interceptions. Both came on typically boneheaded Cutler throws, one in the end zone and the other with time winding down in the fourth quarter.

The defensive coaching staff has brought fire and a swagger to the Packers that was lacking on the defensive side of the ball since Fritz Shurmur left all those years ago. That attitude is back and the credit belongs to not only Capers, but to McCarthy for hiring him in the first place and Thompson for giving Capers the talent he needed.

Lame Calls

Head Coach Mike McCarthy

When you get the ball 1st and Goal at the opponent’s one yard line, you need to get six points. A field goal might as well be zero.

Well, that’s what happened after a long completion from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings. A failed fullback dive, a fumble, and a sack from three feet out of the end zone just doesn’t cut it.

Pounding Kuhn three consecutive plays up the middle would have likely worked once and that’s all it would have taken. Instead, McCarthy tried to get fancy with his quarterback and catch the Bears off guard.

That kind of stuff won’t cut it in the playoffs, Mike. Pound it in. Wear the defense out.

Packers receiving corps

Chicken soup can cure a common cold, or so they say. Perhaps it could cure a case of the drops too?

Either way, the normally sure-handed Packers receivers picked other bad game to start dropping passes. When you have a quarterback like Rodgers that usually puts the ball right between the numbers, there is no excuse for dropping those passes.

My recommendation would be to tell them to catch the ball and then think touchdown or extra yardage, not the other way around. Jennings’ drop up the middle comes to mind.

Again, these mental lapses can’t continue to happen if the Packers expect to make a deep playoff run.

RT Bryan Bulaga

The last time the Packers played the Bears, the Packers committed a team record 18 penalties. For a while, it seemed like Bulaga would reach that total all by himself.

Even though one holding penalty was questionable, Bulaga looked like a rookie on Sunday. His penalties resulted in a couple big plays coming back that could have helped the Packers extend their eventual margin of victory. Combine those with some false starts, and Bulaga had a very rough day. He could very well turn out to be a solid lineman, but the mental errors have to stop.

With Bulaga now exposed as someone who could fall prey to making mistakes, the Eagles and other teams going forward should the Packers advance will be targeting him constantly.

If they can get some free yards via penalty flags, opponents will go after him all day long.

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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19 Responses to “Game Balls and Lame Calls Week 17: Packers defeat Bears 10-3”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jersey Al – Packers . Jersey Al – Packers said: On JerseyAl.com: Game Balls and Lame Calls Week 17: Packers defeat Bears 10-3 http://bit.ly/h02sBY #Packers #GoPack [...]

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  2. Tom Freeman says:

    Nice article. I think the only thing I disagree with is on the play-calling at the 1 yard line. I think the opposite of what you say is a better point. Based on last week’s game, everybody expects a Kuhn run, which is why the Kuhn dive was stuffed. The timing was then messed up on the 2d down play by the bad throw, and Rodgers was sacked on third down. Rather than Kuhn, Kuhn, Kuhn as you suggest, I think a play-action pass or a bootleg would be the right approach, and the touchdown later is a good indicator.

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      I’m in agreement with Tom. The last thing I want to see is John Kuhn on a fullback dive on the 1 yard line. The OL doesn’t get the needed push and he’s always stopped in the backfield. Let Kuhn carry it from a halfback position with a lead fullback, but not the fullback dive.

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      • Kris Burke Kris Burke says:

        I can see where you guys are coming from. I think ol #4 has created a mindset for me that throwing near the goal line is hazardous. Rodgers has basically been money inside the 20, so maybe this is something I need to get over.

        My argument for Kuhn though is basically like chipping away at a boulder: it cracks, cracks some more, then breaks. I get your viewpoint though and it’s fair.

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        • WoodsontoSafety says:

          the straight t formation has got to go in my opinion. it was a nice slightly confusing wrinkle the first time we showed it. it is a gimmick, should not be a major part of your short yardage game plan.

          if rodgers give jackson a decent throw on the goal line he walks in. i do not like having to resort to that crap, but our short yardage game is what it is.

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  3. kdawg says:

    It’s been great reading your articles this season especially Game Balls and Lame Calls. I thought it was obvious that the Bears were not gonna let Kuhn beat them. I like Kuhn but for weeks now I’ve been waiting to see the Packers unleash Starks. I know McCarthy says “he needs to practice better” but when he plays you can see the power and determination in this guy. Troy Aikman even pointed that out in the telecast. I would sure like to see a RB rotation that featured Starks more. Jackson is great at picking up blitz’s But when it’s time to run the ball down there throats why does McCarthy mess with the rotation. Just leave Starks in there and pound the ball!!!

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    • Kris Burke Kris Burke says:

      Thanks for the kind words kdawg! Much appreciated. It’s my rookie year in the Packers blogosphere so feedback has always been appreciated (when not followed by insults to my mother lol)

      I concur with the point about Starks. I initially scoffed at all the hype he was getting, but I do see some promise with him. A two headed monster with him and Grant next year and BJax this year could be just what the doctor ordered for the running attack.

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      “I thought it was obvious that the Bears were not gonna let Kuhn beat them”

      A very valid point. Seemed like all 11 Bears were up on the line waiting for Kuhn. A bootleg would have been a stroke of genius and a sure TD.

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  4. Russell says:

    Kdawg, perfectly said! It seems as though everyone can see the potential of Starks except MM. This kid has the “it” factor that you look for in a RB.

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    • Kris Burke Kris Burke says:

      When McCarthy talked about his habits in practice, that image of Allen Iverson played in my head.

      “We’re talking about PRACTICE!”

      Still, McCarthy hasn’t had many issues with guys slouching in practice and since we aren’t out there, we can’t tell for certain.

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  5. Ruppert says:

    I don’t like our short-yardage goal-to-go offense one bit. The offense doesn’t seem to have an identity in that situation. It’s like McCarthy would like to just line up and stuff it in, but he knows we can’t. So here we are in week 17, running my favorite (NOT) Kuhn Fullback dive. Then he tries to get cute with a fake sneak/screen. The call itself wasn’t that bad and it’s a TD if AR throws a good ball–it’s just disappointing that we’re still experimenting with something cute and unpredictable this late in the season.

    I think we’d be better off just lining up with 3 wides, even on the 1. At least it would reflect the offense’s true identity.

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      You know I’ve been on this all season. I’ve been crying for some creativity at the right times, and finally got it with the TD to Lee. MM needs to get over his stubbornness. The dive play assumes you can move the DL back. On the goalline, the Packers OL just can’t do the job.

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  6. PackersRS says:

    WHAAAAA?

    Kris complaining about MM??? Cats and Dogs living together!!!!

    Anyway, I would nag on MM more on preparation than on that playcalling, but you’re right. In the playoffs we need to be perfect.

    Absolutely agree with the rest. Too bad it can only fit 3, because Tramon Williams had a great day as well.

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    • Kris Burke Kris Burke says:

      I try to keep it “fair and balanced” regardless of victory or defeat unless someone really stinks it up or it’s a perfect game.

      Regarding McCarthy, I’m not a “MM Homer” as some would say. He’s made his share of mistakes.

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  7. LeeR says:

    I like your story! Agree w/all of it. I also would like to see more use of Starks. On the 1st and goal Rodger could have bootlegged to his left and walked in after faking it to Kuhn. Thanks!

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    • Kris Burke Kris Burke says:

      Thanks for the comment! Kuhn as a decoy would be brilliant too. Al touched on that already I believe.

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  8. LeeR says:

    Kris… Maybe off the subject but it sure looked like Lovie was not playing for OT on that final drive?? A touchdown and then going for two?? Just my thinking…

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    • Kris Burke Kris Burke says:

      Thankfully, we will never know. Lovie said he would have played for OT, but hindsight is 20/20. I think he gets overconfident in his quarterback sometimes. I think Cutler blows it in the playoffs for them

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