Packers XLV

A Special Feeling: Pack Wins NFC North Again

Posted December 17th, 2012 @ 12:12am

It is always special to beat the Bears. It's even more special to beat them six straight times.  It's special to win the NFC North for a second straight season. All in all, a special day at Soldier Field. What wasn't special was the Pack's special teams, which almost singlehandedly kept the Bears in it until the final minute.

More on that later. This was a game dominated by the Packer defense, which found its footing after opening the game allowing big chunks of yards on the ground. The Bears amassed only 190 yards and were 0 for 9 on third down. What a difference Clay Matthews makes to this unit. Two sacks, five tackles and a whole lot of attention from the Bears offense, which freed other guys to make plays. BJ Raji was all over the field, as was Mike Neal, and once again the young secondary stood tall.

Casey Hayward got his sixth pick and it was his easiest of the season. Sam Shields got pushed all day by rookie Alshon Jeffery, who was flagged multiple times in the second half. And Tramon Williams did a solid job on Brandon Marshall, who scored thanks to some poor tackling but was held to six catches for 56 yards. Cutler completed just 12 passes for 121 yards--his biggest play was the pass interference call on Morgan Burnett, which gave the Bears the ball on the five.

Offensively, the Pack got off to a slow start, but never gave up on the run, with 32 carries for the game.. Du Juan Harris had the best run of the day but Ryan Grant coughed up the ball in the third quarter, giving the Bears some life. The Pack was driving and leading 21-7 at the time, but the Bears only managed a field goal to cut the lead to 21-10.

The passing game was money. Aaron Rodgers found James Jones three times for touchdowns and hit a number of key third and fourth down conversions, mostly to Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley. Rodgers got hit a lot and took a bit of a beating, though I thought the roughing the passer penalty on Julius Peppers was a bad call.

Let's consider the Missin' Crosby situation. Mike McCarthy once again steadfastly stood behind his kicker after the game. "We are not changing our kicker. You can write that down right now," he said after the game. "He is our guy. He needs to make those kicks. He knows that."

Yes, Mike, we all know that. But he's a mess right now and he will cost this team in the playoffs if he doesn't shake his funk. I've been patient and slow to endorse the radical change of switching kickers this late in the season. But enough is enough. I'd bring in a couple of guys this week, if nothing else to put a scare into him. Maybe that's what he needs.

Now let's talk about that asinine punt return play in the final seven minutes. Pack's defense forces a three and out and the Bears punt the ball, trailing 21-10. Randall Cobb fields and fires a pass across the field to Jeremy Ross, who muffs it and the Bears recover and ultimately kick a  field goal to make it a one possession game. I have yet to hear who made the call and what possible explanation he could give. The only one I will accept is something like this, "I completely lost my head for a minute there and had a complete brain fart." Any other reasoning will ring hollow. That was the single dumbest call I can recall from this regime.

Fortunately, it didn't cost the Pack on this day. They won their 12th straight NFC North game and have put themselves in a position for a first round bye. If they win out and San Francisco loses once, they'll grab the #2 seed.

The most encouraging takeaway from the Bears game, to me, is the play of the defense. If this team can add Charles Woodson and CJ Wilson to the mix, they should be in great shape for the post-season. And we know one thing, there will be at least one playoff game at Lambeau, giving Rodgers a chance to win one at home for the first time.

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Comments (7):

Yeah, I think that ross muff soured everybodies mood. We need to get over it. The defense held pretty strong and the team didn't wilt after it. I thought Shields deserved a game ball for his play at the end, just perfect. Giants just got crushed, hat team maybe prefers to play outside. Matthews makes everybody better. Man, I love beating the Bears!

on December 16th, 2012 at 07:33pm

The Packers are making, "winning ugly" a habit. It can be hard to sit through so I usually don't, and try to watch the replay on NFL network. It works for me... PS: Don't fire Crosby, just score TD's instead.

on December 16th, 2012 at 08:18pm

I love that they are taking what the defense is giving them. Also, it seems like they really want to run the ball. I wish Grant would stop w/the fumbling though.

on December 16th, 2012 at 08:54pm

on December 16th, 2012 at 09:44pm

Coming back from the slow start to the season to wrap up the divison title with two games remaining is a significant achievement. But, as THC says the Packers allowed it to be much closer than it needed to be. The only damper on the weekend was San Fran. going to New England and winning. That leaves the Pack in a race for the number two "seed" and first round bye. Here's where that Seattle officiating fiasco now comes in to bite the Packers. Without that and the second half at Indy Green Bay would have the #2 and bye all but cinched now.

on December 17th, 2012 at 05:22am

Can we be done with the trick plays for the season? Chicago knew something was up when they see Jeremy Ross lined up on the punt return team. The fact you made a trick play work back in September was certain to raise their awareness, don't ya think? A win's a win!

on December 17th, 2012 at 10:00am

This was one of the most interesting polls taken yet. Let me get this straight...79.2% of you would dump Crosby right now in favor of someone with a pulse. Really? SERIOUSLY?!? That's absolutely insane! I would have thought most of these people were intelligent, non knee-jerk fans who would look at this situation with a more rational eye. Guess I was wrong. If ever came the day when one of you, along with myself, were GM's of an NFL team, and if I found out you wanted to unload Crosbly because he missed a few, I'd be calling your hotline every day wondering if you'd be dumb enough to make a deal. How many picks would you give up? I'm listening for your offer. For those of you who would answer the question with "anyone other than Crosby", that's not an acceptable answer. Again, that's just dumb, knee-jerk fan reaction. You're also probably part of the crowd that 6 years ago you would've traded Rodgers away because you had a proven commodity in Favre. Don't laugh...I've ran into a few of those at the time, and I told them the same thing - are you nuts? The other unacceptable answer to that is "Ryan Longwell". That's also ridiculous. Look...the Bears were in a pinch with losing Gould, and have they called Longwell yet? No. Why? Because he's DONE! And why hasn't any other team signed him before this? At the risk of repeating myself, BECAUSE HE'S DONE!! You can't dump a proven kicker with 2 games left and the division title wrapped up, regardless of how he's doing - you just CAN'T!! The only reason you'd replace him would be if he's hurt - end of story. McCarthy's not a knee jerk guy, and if you think he's not monitoring Crosby's practices closely, think again. What kind of message would that send to the rest of the team if he was dumped at this point? Think about that. LIGHTEN UP, PEOPLE!! This is not the time to rock the boat. And yes it's true...79.2% can be wrong, and they are. Now you know why I use the moniker I have. Let's dispatch the Titans and Vikings, and bring on anybody but the Giants. - preferably the Seahawks. I want those bums in the worst way. I've said my peace.

on December 19th, 2012 at 09:27am

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