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The Aftermath: Packers vs. Bears

September 25, 2011
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The Packers came away from Chicago with a 27-17 victory over last season’s NFC North champion Bears.

Home Field Advantage?

Just when you thought the worst playing surface in the NFL couldn’t get any worse, the officials had to stop the game in the second half because there was a piece of metal protruding from the Soldier Field turf. Packers cornerback Tramon Williams put it best after the game, “Every time we come back to Chicago, we hope they get some new grass or something,” said Williams. “Guess they’re sticking to their history.”

To make matters worse, the play on the field matched the condition of the field.

To put it bluntly, the Bears offense, specifically Jay Cutler, did not look very good. Capitalizing on one of the many fourth quarter miscues, Packers safety Morgan Burnett leapt high in the air to snatch an errant Jay Cutler pass. The pick presumably dashed any hopes of a late Chicago comeback, but before Packers play-by-play man Wayne Larrivee could even get the word “dagger” out of his mouth, running back James Starks fumbled the football right back into the hands of Julius Peppers and the Bears. On the very next play, Chicago scored (more on this later) and the Packers, once again, proved they were unable to step on the throat of an opponent and finish a game with ease.

Making The Most Of Your Opportunities

Coming into the third week of the season, the sieve-like offensive line of the Bears had already given up 10 sacks. On Sunday, the Packers defense added three more. Surprisingly, the quarterback knock-downs came from two unexpected players: Defensive end Jarius Wynn recorded two sacks, and Jarrett Bush took down Cutler for another.

Jarius Wynn has gone from not even making the 53-man roster a year ago to a solid — and at times spectacular — starter for the Packers. And Bush, the man Packers fans love to hate, has now turned in two good performances on defense. For all the big name players on this defense, Dom Capers continues to utilize the talent of every player at his disposal. As for Wynn and Bush, they continue to make plays.

In Other Defensive News

As good as the defense looked against the run (holding Chicago to just 13 rushing yards), the pass defense continued their lackluster play. The Jekyll-and-Hyde-like secondary made some big plays (see: Morgan Burnett’s two interceptions) but allowed a few as well (See: Kellen Davis’ touchdown).

The tackling on Davis’ catch-and-run was pitiful, and as the announcers pointed out, there seemed to be some miscommunication amongst the cornerbacks as to what defensive scheme was being employed.

Ultimately, McCarthy will get things “cleaned up,” but Dom Capers will have his work cut out for him as he tries to compensate for safety Charlie Peprah in the passing game. A good offensive coordinator can isolate any defensive player, and on Sunday, Capers’ answer was to move Woodson to safety in the base defense. However, the Packers rarely line up in their base defense, so Peprah cannot be hidden forever.

Forget Me Not

Two players who spent the year on injured reserve last season came up big for the Packers on Sunday: Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley.

Ryan Grant rumbled for 92 yards on 17 carries while his counterpart, James Starks, had a day to forget (5 carries for 11 yards). The 28-year-old Grant looked speedy and spry as he masterfully cut back run after run for first downs. It’s days like these that Packers fans truly appreciate having two starting-caliber backs…even if the team rarely runs the ball.

In the passing game, Jermichael Finley ruled the day. The 6-foot-5 Finley accounted for all three Packers touchdowns as he hauled in a total of 7 catches for 85 yards. In addition to his three touchdown performance, ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert points out that Finley has caught 15 of the 17 passes thrown in his direction this year…It’s not a contract year for Finley, is it?

Finally, I have to mention Greg Jennings. Jennings finished the day with a career-high nine catches, and on the very first drive he was virtually unstoppable, covering 61 yards with his four receptions. After that initial drive, Jennings slowed a bit, but when the Packers needed a play in the second half, the dynamic receiver converted two key third-downs.

It Wouldn’t Be A Packers Game Without A Few Injuries

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga left the game early with a left knee injury. After the game, head coach Mike McCarthy characterized the damage as a “knee bruise.” More will be known on Monday, but Rob Demovsky reports that at least two people in the Packers locker room said it was not a torn ACL. Backup Marshall Newhouse took over for Bulaga, and the second-year player looked great considering he was matched up against a stout defensive front that includes a guy by the name of Julius Peppers.

The other injury was to Ryan Grant. In the fourth quarter, Grant was sandwiched between two Bears tacklers, causing him to leave the game in obvious pain. Grant would return to the contest, but as a precautionary measure, an ambulance took Grant to the hospital after the game to have his ribs x-rayed.

Looking Ahead

Ultimately, a win is a win, and the Packers were happy to escape Soldier Field with a victory. Next week the 3-0 Pack returns to Lambeau Field to face the 1-2 Denver Broncos.

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