Packers tight end Jermichael Finley is perhaps the most scrutinized player on the Packers’ roster.
As a former Division I basketball recruit, Finley possesses as much athletic ability as any tight end in the league, but dropped passes and mental lapses seem to overshadow his on-field production. However, the 6’5″ 247-pound freak always seems to be at his best against the Packers’ top rival, the Chicago Bears.
Finley’s best regular season game as a professional came last season at Chicago, catching a season-high seven passes for 85 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. Of Finley’s eight total touchdowns last season, four came against the Bears. Oh, and of Finley’s fourteen drops last season, zero came against Chicago.
In the Packers’ Super Bowl season in 2010, Finley torched Chicago on Monday night for nine catches and 115 yards without dropping a pass. Finley missed the Bears game at Lambeau Field after suffering a season-ending knee injury against the Washington Redskins, but going back to the final Packers-Bears game a season earlier, Finley again brought his best, catching five balls for 70 yards.
There’s been an obvious theme for Finley against the Bears lately–consistent production, and more importantly, no dropped passes.
In his last four appearances against the Chicago Bears, Finley has posted 24 catches for 290 yards and four touchdowns, all without a single drop. Over a 16-game season, those numbers would equate to 96 catches for 1,160 yards and 16 touchdowns. Now, that’s the level of play Packers fans have been hoping to see from No. 88.
Despite dropping a pair of passes, Finley enters “Bear Week” fresh off a solid showing against the San Francisco 49ers, in which he caught seven passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. The 49ers were able to limit Finley, and the rest of the Packers for that matter, from producing “big plays,” but it’s pretty clear that the Bears struggled to find a favorable matchup against Finley last season.
Let’s put each of Finley’s four touchdowns against the Bears under the microscope for a closer look.
In an effort to isolate Finley one-on-one, the Packers split Finley wide to the left of their formation. When quarterback Aaron Rodgers sees newly signed safety Brandon Meriweather lined up across from No. 88, it’s game over. Finley simply beats Meriweather to the middle of the field, crosses his face and catches the touchdown.