Aaron Rodgers and Illegal Hits: When Will the NFL Walk the Talk?

When I read that Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers was fined $10,000 by the NFL today for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Sunday’s NFC Championship, one thought and one thought only went through my head:


For a player who recently signed a huge free agent contract that could total $91.5 million, $10,000 is like pennies to you and me. During the regular season, the NFL apparently made it crystal clear to teams and players that hits that involve the leading of the helmet would not be tolerated and would be met with stiff fines and possible suspensions.

If $10,000 is a stiff fine to multi-millionaires, then I’m the King of England.

Look at Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison (who the Packers will face in Super Bowl XLV). He has been fined for times for illegal hits and the fines total $125,000 for an average of roughly $31,000 per offense. Again, pocket change to the millionaire players of the NFL.

But let’s get back to Peppers, and more importantly for Packer fans, Rodgers.

This is not the first time Peppers has rung Rodgers’ “bell.” In a regular season game at Lambeau Field in 2008, Peppers was flagged for a bruising hit on Rodgers out of bounds when he played for the Carolina Panthers. That hit can be seen here: Julius Peppers Nails Aaron Rodgers

If the NFL really is taking multiple offenses seriously, why aren’t they looking at past seasons so they can definitively establish a pattern of illegal hits from a player? As a lot of fans are so fond of saying when criticizing coaches, it’s not one game—it’s the “body of work.”

Worse yet, this fine once again raises a question that Packer fans have been asking over the past year and maybe more:

“Why is the league so interested in protecting 31 other quarterbacks but not Aaron Rodgers?”

Is some of this fan protectionism of “their” guy? Possibly. Have other quarterbacks taken shots like Rodgers has and not had a flag thrown? No question.

Still, it seems like Rodgers takes more illegal hits that don’t get called than any other quarterback in the league. The question everyone is asking is: why?



Our Packers – Bears Predictions

The writing crew at AllGreenBayPackers.com put their prognostication skills on the line for this NFC Championship game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears:

Adam Czech: Packers 26, Bears 22
The Packers need to win the turnover battle and put together long drives that result in touchdowns. Also, weird things will happen-it’s soldier field-don’t let it snowball.

Chad Toporski: Packers 23, Bears 17
Despite the hype of Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler, this game is going to come down to the performance of two of the best defenses in the NFC. And while the Chicago Bears are extremely solid up front, their secondary is less stellar. Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers defense is a more complete unit, with key playmakers at all positions. Look for the Packers to finish with at least a +2 turnover differential and four sacks.

Kris Burke: Packers 23, Bears 17
In what will be an emotional tug of war for nearly 60 minutes, the game likely will come down to the final drive. Aaron Rodgers will continue his hot hand Cutler will make another interception eerily similar to the one he threw against the Packers in Week 17.

Thomas Hobbes: Packers 16, Bears 10
I see this as a game of defense and field position.  The Bears will probably get one lucky strike against the Packers; either a kickoff/punt return for a touchdown or a long touchdown pass to one of their speedy receivers.  The Packers will have better success moving the ball on the Bears, but will have to settle for field goals.

Jersey Al Bracco: Packers 24, Bears 19
Robbie Gould has a big day for the Bears with 4 field goals but the Packers hold the Bears to one touchdown. Aaron Rodgers throws for two TDs, Mason Crosby makes one of 2 field goal attempts, and it’s enough to punch their ticket to Dallas.

Feel free to leave your own predictions in the comments…


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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.




Ditching the Dink and Dunk Approach Paid Off for Packers vs. Bears

I meant to do a post on this topic earlier in the week, but work got the best of me and I also got sucked into this documentary about the White family of West Virginia on one of my free nights (I could not decide if it was sad, disgusting, fascinating, or all of the above).

Anyway, I have been thinking about the Packers approach on offense in Sunday’s win over the Bears. It initially bugged me that the Packers did not stick with the short passes that moved the chains so effectively in the first Bears game, and appeared to be working fairly well early on Sunday. The Packers also showed brief flashes of a competent run game, so I also wondered why they didn’t stick with it a bit more, especially with James Starks in the second half.

I am usually not one of those people that nitpicks at playcalling (unless it’s the fullback dive), but I do like to try and look at the big picture after each game and decide if I liked the approach or not.

In the week three loss, the Bears were content to sit back, let the Packers move down the field, and wait until drives imploded via penalties, turnovers or other miscues. Under no circumstances were they going to let the Packers start connecting on their trademark deep passes.

This is what the Bears do and they do it well. They do it well against almost every team they face, but especially against the Packers.

Early on Sunday, the Packers game plan looked similar to week three. They were moving the ball, and it seemed like only a matter of time before the yards gained through short passes and the occasional run started resulting in points scored.

Then Donald Driver fumbled and everything started looking like week three again.

Instead of sticking with the dink-and-dunk/grind-it-out approach in the second half, McCarthy went back to what the Packers do best: Chucking the ball downfield. Some people might consider that decision impatient or stubborn. Others might call it a necessary adjustment. It is probably a bit of both, but added together, it was the correct move.

How would Packers fans have survived the offseason if Sunday’s game mirrored the week three defeat? If the Packers were going to go down, it was best they went down playing to their strength instead of trying to be something they were not because of who they were up against.



Packers 10 Bears 3: Defense Rules the Day

The Packers and the Bears met for the 181st time today. As would only seem appropriate for these two long-time rivals, defense ruled the day, with the Packers pulling out a do-or-die 10-3 victory. Yes, they’re in the playoffs. Bring on Michael Vick.

Oh, and thank you Lovie Smith for playing the game to win. The Packers had to beat your best to get in and that’s the way it should be.

My game day impressions:


As tweeted by Mike Vandermause, this is first time in history of Packers-Bears series that both teams enter game with 9 or more wins.

MY KEY TO THE GAME: If I had to pick JUST ONE thing, it would be this: Protect Aaron Rodgers.

The Bears come in with one of the best front sevens in the league.  As I said in a previous article:

They’re not going to dominate the Chicago DL, but they don’t need to. Like last week against the Giants, they just have to hold them off long enough to give Rodgers some clear looks in the Bears secondary.

My 1A key to the game: This could be a toss-up between avoiding Devin Hester and harassing  Jay Cutler. Assuming the Packers meet the goal of my #1 key, there won’t be many punt return opportunities for Hester, so I’ll go with pressuring Jay Cutler. Make him uncomfortable and the mistakes will follow.

Inactive for Green Bay on Sunday:

Green Bay inactives: Harrell, Bigby, Hall, Gordy, Zombo, Dietrich-Smith, McDonald and Jenkins.

Erik Walden will start at ROLB for Zombo.

Jenkins, out once again. Will he be back if (when) Packers play in the playoffs?

James Starks (Neo) is active today!

MM Comments on WTMJ Pregame show:

We’re not paying attention to what else is going on. We’re focused on winning  the football game and playing our best football.

Physicality: We stress it all the time. Ability to play your best football at the end of the year. When you pass a lot, people think you’re not physical. That’s not the case at all.

Aaron is a pro bowl quarterback. Strength is his intelligence, reading defenses. Statistically, he was not where he normally is early in the season. I just feel he’s now back to normal. He’s doing an excellent job in the pocket with his feet.



Bears 20, Packers 17 – First Impressions – NFL Week 3, 2010

The Packers and Bears squared off in a Monday Night battle that would be marred by poor play and penalties nullifying big plays. Here are my first impressions as the game was being played:

As the inactives were announced, I found it very interesting that all four tight ends and all three fullbacks are active. WIth the tight ends, I’ll be looking for a three tight end red zone set, with Finley, Lee and Crabtree and the Packers throwing the ball out of that set.

With the fullbacks, I’m thinking we might see passes to the running backs substituting for some runs tonight, especially with Nance inactive and Jackson as the only true halfback. Not to mention a power 3 fullback backfield.

Derrick Martin showed on the opening kickoff why he is on this team.

Dom Capers goes Psycho-crazy on first possession. Does that make any sense?

The Packers are consistently doing a nice job surrounding the kick returner on kickoffs. The returners may pick up some yards, but there are no lanes for them to break off a big one.

Jay Cutler throws some real head-scratching interceptions…

Twenty minutes in and Cutler already has that “deer in the headlights” look. This is looking like a good night for the Packers…

We’re seeing the expected use of the short pass to the running backs as a substitute for running the ball. Only in the second quarter, but we’ve probably seen as many passes to the running backs as in the first two games combined.

Mason Crosby just can’t handle prosperity. Just as he starts making field goals, he has to start messing up kickoffs.

As I have said, I’m pretty worried about Mathsay and his ability to handle kicking in the NFL. It’s just a feeling, but I don’t feel like he can handle the pressure.

One thing I can be sure of:  Kregg Lumpkin wouldn’t have 3 carries for -3 yards in the first half, as Jackson does. He always gains positive yardage. He’d sure look good back in a Packer uniform right now…

Sitton was knocked on his ass on the blocked field goal. Tried to block two players, didn’t pinch in, Peppers comes through. Big mistake by Sitton there…



Packers-Bears Preview: 2010 NFL Week 3: Black and Blue All Over

Now THAT was more like it.

Despite getting off to a sluggish start in the first half and after a fiery speech by a supposed red-faced Mike McCarthy, the Green Bay Packers ran over the Buffalo Bills 34-7.

This week, the Packers won’t be afforded the luxury of a slow start as they head to Soldier Field to face the Chicago Bears Monday night with first place in the NFC North on the line.

With two weeks of the 2010 NFL season now in the books, some trends are beginning to emerge. The Packer offense is every bit as potent as expected and the defense, despite some occasional shakiness, looks to have rebounded from the debacle that was last year’s playoff loss in Arizona.

Clay Matthews continues his torrid pace recording his second consecutive three sack game, a first in Packers history. Aaron Rodgers recovered nicely from a shaky game against the Philadelphia Eagles and the offense didn’t seem to miss a step without running back Ryan Grant who is out for the season on injured reserve.

The Chicago Bears enter this game as one of the biggest surprises of this young season. The Bears sit at 2-0 after a win over what could be a worse than expected Dallas Cowboys team and an incredibly lucky Week 1 win over the Detroit Lions when Calvin Johnson’s obvious touchdown catch as time expired was overturned by the officials.

With first place on the line and a potential three game lead over the Minnesota Vikings hanging in the balance, this is a very important game for both teams despite it being only Week 3.

Breaking Down Da Bears

I can’t believe I am typing this sentence, but Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is actually playing sound football. Thus far he has meshed nicely with new offensive coordinator Mike Martz and both men have been able to keep their bigger than average egos in check. Cutler has thrown only one interception thus far which is much lower than where he was at this time last season.

Cutler, to the surprise of no one, has found a reliable target in tight end Greg Olson despite the fact that tight ends usually don’t feature much in Martz’s offensive packages. He usually likes to stretch the field but with Chicago lacking in the wide receiver department (Johnny Knox aside, and I am still not convinced about Devin Hester), Martz obviously has decided to play to Cutler’s strengths.