The Chicago Bears took advantage of a clock-eating 18 play drive in the fourth quarter, and their defense held on as they knocked off the Green Bay Packers by a score of 27-20 on Monday night at Lambeau Field.
We’ll have plenty of coverage throughout the days to come on Grizzly Detail, and we kick things off with our weekly Grizzly Details column.
Blocking Up Front Outstanding Against Great Run Defense
Coming into Monday’s game, one of the biggest keys for the Bears was going to be making sure that they could run the ball effectively against the Packers. This was the case not only because they wanted to make sure to stay on the field and take some of the pressure off of their often-porous defense, but also because they wanted to try to get Josh McCown more time to throw in the pocket, and having a solid running game would mean that the Packers couldn’t key on the pass.
Doing so was never going to be easy, as the Packers came into the game with one of the best run defenses in the league, and they were going up against a rusher in Matt Forte whose numbers have been a bit inflated by several big runs this season. Also, the Bears had been having some difficulty in terms of their run blocking on the season, with Jordan Mills being one of the bigger offenders in that regard.
On Monday night though, all of those things were turned on their ear. Forte ended up rushing for 124 yards and a touchdown in the game, and picked up several key conversions on the Bears’ final drive as they ate up a ton of clock. Overall for the game, the Bears had 171 yards rushing on 33 attempts, and ended up winning the time of possession battle thanks to that final drive, holding onto the ball for nearly 34 minutes.
Credit for the incredible play of the team’s run game has got to go at least in part to the stellar efforts up front by all five Bears linemen. Jermon Bushrod picked up several blitzes throughout the game, and did a tremendous job on the left side of the line. Matt Slauson pulled over from his left guard spot to help out both Roberto Garza and Kyle Long on a couple of key plays. Even Long himself had an excellent night, showing off a lot of the strength and quickness off the snap that the Bears saw in him when they drafted him in the first round.
The best play of the evening for the line came in a goal line situation with a little under six minutes left in the first half. On that play, the call was for Forte to take a draw up the middle, and a great hole opened up to enable him to take the ball into the end zone. Long took care of the block right at the line of scrimmage, and it was Slauson pulling into the A-gap off Garza’s right shoulder that enabled Forte to get across the goal line and give the Bears a 14-10 lead.
It was a great example of the kind of blocking that both guards displayed throughout the game, and the statistics back up the assertion that they had a great evening.
Bears Take Advantage of 1-on-1 Coverage Against Receivers
In the early stages of the game, the Green Bay secondary was giving McCown and company a pretty clear idea of what it was that they feared the Bears doing: running the football. To wit, they ended up settling for man coverage out against wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
Now, with receivers who are 6-foot-3 (Jeffery) and 6-foot-4 (Marshall), going 1-on-1 in coverage isn’t a good idea unless you’re confident in getting a pass rush to disrupt the timing of the quarterback, but with McCown getting ample protection and a great gameplan from Marc Trestman that involved throwing quick slants early and often, the man-matchup scheme for the Packers ended up causing their defense some big problems.
On the Bears’ first touchdown of the game, McCown actually had to duck a sack attempt by BJ Raji, and as soon as he stood back up, he fired a perfect strike to Marshall, who was covered 1-on-1 in the end zone by Tramon Williams, and gave the Bears a 7-3 lead. Making the throw and catch even more impressive was that Williams actually was flagged for pass interference on the play, but obviously the Bears declined and took the touchdown.
Later on in the game, the Bears got to take advantage of another 1-on-1 end zone matchup, with Jeffery being the beneficiary this time. On the snap, McCown didn’t even hesitate as he zipped a perfect pass right into Jeffery’s hands, and despite having a defender all over him, the Bears’ second year wideout was able to hold onto the ball and keep his feet inbounds, giving the Bears a lead that they would never relinquish.
Jay Cutler is a guy who is widely known as capable of making throws like the ones that McCown made tonight, and the Packers had to have assumed that the back-up QB wouldn’t be able to duplicate those feats of timing and power. McCown proved once and for all though that his timing is impeccable, and he was able to take advantage of matchups that favored his wide receivers as the Bears’ offense hummed along nicely in the winning effort.
Special Teams Play Must Improve
Another area that many writers felt that the Bears needed to continue to build in was their special teams unit, but unfortunately, the group took a step back after having a very nice week against the Washington Redskins in Week 7.
In the game, Adam Podlesh had a punt blocked in the first half after Jamari Lattimore broke through a remarkably porous protection scheme and got a free run at the ball. It was a bad breakdown by the line, and one that surely had Joe Decamillis scratching his head on the sideline.
The Bears also had a couple of other near-blocks through the rest of the contest, as the Packers seemed to tee off on a couple of bad blocking schemes.
The Bears also had to watch Devin Hester pull one of his trademark “what was he thinking” returns. On a kickoff in the third quarter, Hester caught the ball near the middle of the end zone, and after hesitating for a moment, decided to bring the ball out. He was brought down well short of the 20 yard line, rendering many people speechless as to what he was actually thinking on the play.
There were a couple of good plays mixed in there for the special teams unit, such as Eric Weems’ stellar open field tackle on Chris Banjo on a squib kick with less than a minute left in the game, but it wasn’t enough to mask the difficulties that the Bears’ third phase had in this contest.
They simply aren’t playing very disciplined football for the most part, and although those difficulties can likely be traced to the fact that their core players are likely tired from stepping into more prominent roles due to injuries in the Bears’ defense, it still doesn’t excuse the poor execution they showed Monday.