Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Packers beat Bears for 4th time in 2011

Fans of the top-seeded Green Bay Packers got their Christmas wish Sunday night with a Green-n-Gold-wrapped victory over the Chicago Bears. It was actually the fourth time in the 2011 calendar year that the Pack beat Da Bearz. But who's counting? OK, we are, of course.

The Pack's 35-21 win was more or less similar to the team's 13 earlier wins this season: a fast start, followed by nada, followed by another offensive surge, particularly in the second half. Oh, and the Packers' defense continued to give up huge yardage and was unable to stop the run. Against better teams, going into the playoffs, the weaknesses on defense might just be enough to trip up the Pack on their way to the Super Bowl, particularly if the offense loses its magic as it did in Kansas City.

But let's take a look briefly at something that did get fixed, at least for a game and relative to the loss against the Chiefs: the offensive line. The line didn't give up a sack (at least until scrub time late in the game) and also didn't commit a penalty. Head coach Mike McCarthy said in his press conference Monday that he'd be giving a game ball to the entire O-line for their effort Sunday night. It was a patchwork line, and they held up against what is unarguably the best part of the Bears' defense. Kudos have to especially go to LT Marshall Newhouse. After a subpar performance against KC, one for which I and others called him out (although this blogger was far more genteel than many commentators, particularly those in the Twitterverse), Newhouse performed well, and we have to acknowledge that. Great job, Mr. Newhouse. Also, T.J. Lang, who had to move from left guard to right tackle, also did an outstanding job, as did RG Josh Sitton, who had been struggling of late. Scott Wells was his usual reliable self at center and Evan Dietrich-Smith played well moving into Lang's usual spot at left guard.

That offensive line enabled QB Aaron Rodgers time to throw for 5 TDs on the evening. They still didn't open up much ground for the running backs, but that's something that is more on the coach and the playing calling than the players; they just don't get called on to make that part of the game work very often. But looking ahead to January at Lambeau Field, they need to make sure they can strike a better balance between the run and pass. Make no mistake, with Rodgers at the trigger, the receiving weapons available, and McCarthy calling the plays, this will still be a pass-first offensive attack. But getting yards on the ground is going to be key to sustaining drives and running the clock.

Defensively, the Packers are what they are after 15 games, as many others have noted. This is pretty much what we have: no pass rush, linebackers susceptible to being burned over the middle, and D-backs who sometimes bite and give up the big plays. But, this is also the defense that generates turnovers. After getting none against KC, they again generated two against Da Bearz. When they get turnovers, it is certainly a key to a team win and when they don't...well, it doesn't help, does it?

We'll have a bit about the Lions coming to Lambeau in a future post.

For now, just savor yet another win over the hapless and hopeless Bears. It's great to get two in a season...but four? Oh baby...it doesn't get much better than that.

Say it with me: it's great to be a Packer fan!