26

September

Packers vs. Bears: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 27-17 Win In Chicago

Photo: Getty images.

Packers vs. Bears: Aaron Rodgers found Jermichael Finley three times for touchdowns and the defense held the Bears to four yards rushing as the Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears, 27-17, Sunday at Solider Field in Chicago.

Here are five observations from the game:

1. Big man in the red zone

Jermichael Finley sounded confident that he was going to make a major impact on this game, and he backed it up on the field. The Bears didn’t have an answer for him in the intermediate passing game and they certainly couldn’t handle him in the red zone. Rodgers found him three times inside the 20 for back-breaking scores.

On the first, Finley put a fantastic outside-in move on Bears safety Brandon Meriweather, who trailed Finley by a few yards by the time Rodgers found him in the back of the end zone. His second touchdown came when Rodgers rolled right to avoid pressure, and Finley broke off his route perfectly to give Rodgers an area to throw him the football. Finally, on a third-and-9 play in the fourth quarter, Finley exposed a misplaced Cover-2 look where backup safety Craig Steltz was far too slow rotating over. That left 88 wide open in the back corner of the end zone for an easy pitch and catch. All three were fairly routine plays for both Rodgers and Finley, but the fact that the Bears were helpless to stop them is an encouraging sign. If Finley is on the field for 16 games, there is no way he doesn’t score 10 or more touchdowns. He’s just too much inside the 20.

2. Grounding the run

With the way the Bears have struggled to protect Jay Cutler, you’d think the Bears would have wanted to establish the run early and often on Sunday. I definitely thought so, and I figured Matt Forte, who has looked so good through two weeks, would find room running the football against the Packers if he got the opportunities. That couldn’t have been further from what happened. The Packers were dead set on containing Forte and it showed, as the Bears running back Forte had  just two yards on nine carries. Five of those carries went for zero or negative yards. Forte did catch seven passes for 80 yards, but a majority of that came in garbage time with the Bears struggling to stay in the game.

I still think the Packers will have problems covering running backs in the passing game, but they did considerably better in that area today. In the end, the Bears offense ran the ball just nine times compared to 40 throws (Cutler had three runs, all on scrambles). That kind of play-calling ratio allowed the Packers to be comfortable in Dom Capers’ defensive calls.

3. Peprah’s struggles

If there was a player on Sunday who didn’t look like he belonged, it was Charlie Peprah at safety. On the Bears first touchdown drive, Peprah slipped and allowed a second-and-11 completion to Sam Hurd then lost his footing again on the next play as Johnny Knox caught a 24-yard pass down the far sidelines. Peprah has never been a player with outstanding physical skills, but it was clear that a more athletic player could have likely made plays on each throw. Peprah later got turned around on a 40-yard completion to Knox on a deep out pattern. He capped off the ugly performance with a missed tackle on Kellen Davis’s 32-yard touchdown that gave the Bears some hope early in the fourth. Peprah was a steady veteran last year playing along side Nick Collins, but he looked lost for the better part of Sunday afternoon. I’d expect teams to continue to target him in upcoming contests.

4. A new 25

If you had watched Ryan Grant in the preseason and the first two regular season games, you wouldn’t have known who you were witnessing running the football on Sunday. From his first carry on, Grant ran with the kind of vision and burst that allowed the 28-year-old back to record back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons in ’08 and ’09. It’s a skill set that looked potentially behind Grant after coming off of ankle surgery last season, as he appeared slow and hesitant to start this season.

That all changed against the Bears. Eight of his first 10 runs went for five or more yards, and Grant finished the day with 92 yards on 17 carries. He was even finishing off runs with a violence we rarely saw in the past. On one 10-yard run, Grant flatten Meriweather with a simple lowering of the shoulder. It’s a style of running usually attributed to James Starks, but he was the back who showed indecisiveness  and his fumble could have been a turning point. Even with Grant running the ball well, however, the Packers showed that they’d like Starks to be the main guy. Mike McCarthy gave him the ball 11 times despite all his struggles throughout the game. He’ll ride the hot hand when needed, but Starks is always going to get opportunities. In my opinion, that’s the way the Packers should be handling the running back platoon.

5. Typical Packers-Bears

When the Packers look back on this film, they are going to see a lot of missed opportunities and bad breaks. The final scoreline simply doesn’t do justice to the talent discrepancy between these two teams, as Sunday’s game at Solider Field easily could have ended 31-10 or 38-17.  In typical Packers-Bears form, however, this game stayed close and came down to the end.  A couple of turnovers and a crazy play were mostly to blame, as Starks’ fumble after Morgan Burnett’s interception prevented what had the potential to be the game’s dagger.  The Packers offense was rolling and they were given the chance to turn the game into a blowout. The fumble was quick to make the game interesting as Cutler found Kellen Davis for a 32-yard score on the Bears first play following the turnover. Brian Urlacher’s interception mid-way through the fourth stopped another potential scoring-drive for the Packers and gave the Bears another shot at making it a nail-bitter. In a Packers-Bears game, you have to expect these kind of plays. But it doesn’t take away the fact that the Packers outplayed the Bears from start to end, even if the scoreline didn’t exactly support that conclusion.

Other observations: Mike McCarthy told Larry McCarren following the game that Bryan Bulaga had a “knee bruise.” That sounds encouraging, but remember that’s what he called Mike Neal’s injury early on as well. Don’t feel comfortable about his injury situation until we hear more from him later this week…All Greg Jennings does is produce. He caught nine passes on 10 targets for 119 yards but people hardly even notice. That kind of game is almost expected from him and Rodgers now…Cutler easily could have thrown five or six interceptions. He attempted some throws on Sunday that would make even No. 4 shake his head. Others landed incomplete and were no where near an offensive or defensive player. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be to watch him for 16 weeks…Marshall Newhouse held up fine after replacing Bulaga. There were no catastrophic mistakes and you didn’t hear his name much, good signs for a young tackle…Who would have guessed Jarius Wynn would lead the Packers in sacks (three) through the first three games? He’s relentless in working back to the quarterback…Two more picks for Morgan Burnett gives him three already on the season. He’s making the big plays needed to fill in for Nick Collins. His first quarter pick looked a lot like 36 as he ranged from centerfield to the sideline.

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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26 Responses to “Packers vs. Bears: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 27-17 Win In Chicago”

  1. BTF says:

    Finley was simply awesome. Lovely to watch.

    Run D has been superb all year, especially the amount of time we spend in nickel-though we seemed to spend more snaps in a 3-4 base (I have no way to check just a feeling)

    I’ll say again Grant ran solidly in the first 2 games, picking up solid yards (I accept he looked a bit hesitant in pre season but surely that was to be expected) I’d say nothing has changed from last week in the run game-Starks has more potential but still has rough edges to knock off. Grant may not be flashy but is a good experienced NFL starter. Hopefully we will see the best of them both this year.

    Peprah game certainly looked ugly…but sure he can bounce back

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  2. aaronqb says:

    Studs: Defensive front 7, Finley, Rodgers, Grant, offensive line, Burnett, Crosby
    Duds: Peprah, Starks

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  3. PackersRS says:

    I kinda told you, Ron. Logic dictates Cutler will derp all over the game.

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    • Ron LC says:

      You certainly did. When the Pack played the aggressive man they had Cutler wondering what was happening. When they went back to the soft zone Cutler actually tore them up. Thanks for the drops Williams and Knox. The good news is Capers saw that he is better off playing with an attacking scheme than the vanilla scheme. More of that and we have a real shot at an amazing season.

      Sure wish MM would play with a killer instinct and destroy any chance of a come back before going back to the womb.

      Newhouse did a nice job in a tough spot. He ain’t no Bulaga. Let’s pray that this isn’t the same kind of knee bruise that Neal had.

      Go Pack!

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      • PackersRS says:

        Man, I was screaming my lungs out. Why was MM insisting on using Starks when Grant was having a clearly much better day?

        He does that all the time. He takes a long time to make adjustements on the gameplan.

        Unless we’re in the playoffs. Then suddenly he realizes what is working and what is not.

        It baffles me.

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      • Zach Kruse Zach Kruse says:

        Ron, our fears were misplaced pre-game, but I know you’re not complaining. Glad to be wrong.

        Though Newhouse played well considering the circumstances.

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  4. Lucas says:

    It’s nice that we have the ability to go with the hot hand. Players have off games…and when Grant was just okay the first two game, St(ud)-arks was better. This game, hey, Starks was off and Grant was on.
    As far as the pass D covering RBs, this was a great first test and Capers didn’t disappoint. Not too many teams pass to the RBs as much as Chicago, and we did well.

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    • Zach Kruse Zach Kruse says:

      It’s the beauty of having two-starting caliber running backs. Last season, I don’t think the Packers run as well as they did on Sunday without two established guys.

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  5. Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

    “knee Bruise” is the new code word for “We’re not telling you what it really is”

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  6. Ron LC says:

    Starks did not play worth a crap. Tentative and unsure of his direction, and ran with no authority. That said, I’ll say this, the fumble was not his fault. Briggs had both his arms and pulled them apart. I don’t know of any back that could have held that ball. The fumble was probably due more to the play call. It left Starks in space with Briggs and a DB uncovered.

    I can’t wait until this afternoon’s PC with MM. Wonder what we’re going to hear.

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  7. Ron LC says:

    CRIPES! Just heard vis Bill Micaels, Ryan Grant was taken to the hospital after the game. Problem breathing and thought it might be broken ribs. Apparently not ribs, but the condition is still unknown. MM’s PC is a must hear today. Bulaga and now Grant. Off for another Novena!

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    • PackersRS says:

      If it’s broken ribs it’s not season ending.

      That to me is a huge positive, considering…

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      • Ron LC says:

        MM just told the PC – “Grant has a kidney bruise and will ungo scans. Will know m ore wednesday. Dr Mac Kenzie told MM – “We just dodged a bullet here.” Typical recovery for bruised kidney is 2 to 4 weeks. Well, looks like Starks and Green will get their shots at Atlanta and Denver.

        Bulaga diagnosed as a strained/bruised knee. Undergoing scans today and will know more on Wednesday also. I hope this isn’t the same bruised/strained knee like Nealhad.

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        • PackersRS says:

          What shitty luck Grant has, though, regardless of the extent of the injury. He also had a great game against philly in 10′ before going down.

          On another bad field. I’m more and more sure that it is the explanation to Grant, that he is at his best playing on bad field conditions.

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        • Oppy says:

          Well, the sunny side is….

          Looks like we might finally get a glimpse of Alex Green!!

          I hope he’s up to speed with his pass-pro and the playbook, because this kid has got EXPLOSION.

          You think STarks is sudden? Watch how fast Green goes from zero to bullet-train as soon as the ball hits his hands.

          Speaking of which, anyone else notice the acceleration the Cobb displayed on his pass reception on sunday? Wow.

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          • Zach Kruse Zach Kruse says:

            Excited to see what Green can do as well, but he better be ready in pass pro. Can’t have any lapses.

            And RE: Cobb’s acceleration—couldn’t agree more. Quickest offensive player the Packers have.

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  8. Mojo says:

    Zach your comment on how it would suck to have Cutler as your QB was on the mark. What a contrast to Rodgers who is cerebral, precise, calculating and a winner. Cutler is a, “WTF just throw it up there and see what sticks” kind of loser. Last year will be the apex of his career and that was mostly due to an overachieving defense. The more I see of Rodgers the more I’m convinced he’s the best QB in the league (who frighteningly to the opposition), will keep on improving. Based on what I’ve seen of Cutler he exhibits 100% of the “bad Brett” commingled with only 25% of the “good Brett”.

    If Buluga is lost for awhile, I’ll gladly take what Newhouse provided yesterday. To keep the Bears front D-line (one of their strengths) in check yesterday, on the road, was the best thing (outside of the W) that came out of this game. Could our O-line be one of the strengths of this team?

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    • Zach Kruse Zach Kruse says:

      We’re definitely on the same page with Cutler. Even as an opposing fan, that was tough to watch. Looked just clueless on some throws

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  9. GalaxyM81 says:

    Hey Al: What is your take on the punt at the end of the game. I must give the bear’s credit on that fake out. What bothers me is no one on GB cover team even knew where the ball was??? Something here needs to be corrected. The punter and the cover team need to be on the same page and know which side of the field the punter is going to kick the ball or at least look up first to know where the ball is.

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    • Steve Cheez says:

      Oh, those tricky Bears. It seems like every time we play them they have something up their sleeves.

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  10. Mojo says:

    To continue GalaxyM81′s thought: that fat-head Bill Johnson on Pack Attack insisted it’s the norm that kick-off teams just charge down the field full-steam without ever knowing where the ball is. What they do is go straight for the supposed returner. I know players are often engaged with blockers, but you mean to tell me not one of the 10 nonpunter players ever looks to see where the ball is? And even if a player is occupied wouldn’t he notice the ball in his line of vision as it goes over his head? And what about shanks or extremely short punts? Do covering player react totally off what the return team is doing?

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  11. Steve says:

    Talking about the last punt, for all of the people out there that are complaining about the “phantom penalty” or having to deal with people that are, here are two links that will give you a better look at the penalty.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiFiaM4HDpM&feature=player_embedded

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwJU7zZkwJo&feature=player_embedded

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    • PackersRS says:

      Yep. There are photos out there too that show it pretty clearly Bush being held.

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