Packers XLV

A Game For the Ages

Posted January 22nd, 2011 @ 05:01pm

I'm 48 years old. Been watching the Pack since the late '60s, just too late to catch the Lombardi years, and just in time to endure a quarter century of mediocrity. The last 20 years have been all we could ask for (except for '98 when we handed Elway the trophy).

Sunday's Packer-Bears NFC title matchup is the second biggest game of my football watching life. It can't surpass Super Bowl XXXI when the Packers finally put the title back in Titletown at the Superdome, with Favre, Reggie White and Desmond Howard leading the way.

But this one is next. For a native Milwaukeean, heck for any Wisconsinite living at least 100 miles east of the Minnesota border this is THE rivalry. The one our grandparents and parents told us about. Lambeau. Halas. Lombardi. Ditka. Big city vs. small town. The Monsters of the Midway vs. Titletown U.S.A.

It's meeting #182 in the NFL's oldest rivalry. 21 NFL titles between them but unbelievably only the fourth time they've both reached the post-season in the same year. The Bears dominated in the '70s and '80s, the Packers the past two decades. And now here we are. The Packers were considered by many in the preseason to be a Super Bowl favorite. The Bears? It was Lovie Smith's contract year and it appeared the team was set to give it one more year and then move in another direction.

But a funny thing happened in the Windy City. The Mike Martz-Jay Cutler marriage worked. They got through the growing pains and found a rhythm. And the aging defense stayed healthy and excelled with the addition of playmaker Julius Peppers. Toss in some typical Bears luck like the Calvin Johnson pseudo-TD in the opener and they find themselves hosting a game that will determine a Super Bowl berth.

The Pack is looking to become the first #6 seed to reach the Super Bowl from the NFC and they are 3 1/2 point favorites at Soldier Field. That shows the power of Packer fans' belief in their team by putting so much money on them in Las Vegas that the line shifted to a silly number. This should be a pick 'em game in my eyes. Yes, the Pack played eye-poppingly well in Atlanta this week. But this is a divisional rivalry that seems to always produce close games and the strengths of both teams are their defense.

That's another reason this game means so much. Finally, the Packers are developing into a defensive powerhouse. The transition under Dom Capers has been remarkable. Despite season-ending injuries to opening day key performers like Nick Barnett, Morgan Burnett, Brandon Chillar and rookie Mike Neal, as well as lingering injuries to Cullen Jenkins and Atari Bigby, the Packers finished the season #2 in scoring defense and only gave up six rushing TDs all season.

In four games against Capers and the Pack's D, Jay Cutler is 1-3, with a passer rating of 58, four touchdowns and nine interceptions. They've scored 16 points in two games against Green Bay this season. They will not move the ball on long scoring drives Sunday. If the Packers don't turn the ball over and don't give up big plays on special teams resulting in short fields for Cutler and Forte, the Bears will be lucky to score ten points.

Cutler looked comfortable and confident in the pocket last Sunday and showed mobility under heat. But that was against the Seachickens. In Week 17, Lovie Smith elected to play to win, and vanilla scheme or not, allowed Cutler to absorb a beating. Six sacks in all. It took him longer to get up each time. He'll remember that and be a lot more skittish behind center this week. If Mike Martz is smart, he will make Matt Forte and Chester Taylor the feature of the offense. The Pack has been better against the run of late, but can still be gouged for big runs, as Forte showed us a couple of times early in Week 17.

The way Rodgers is playing, it looks like the Packers offense can move the ball against anybody right now. Yes, they had a tough time in Week 17, when the Bears surprised the Pack by abandoning their trademark Cover 2, which Rodgers shredded for 300 yards in week 3 and going more to a press man coverage. It took a while for McCarthy to figure it out, but the Pack hit on some big sideline plays late to get the win.

James Starks will be key on Sunday. First, as coach Edgar Bennett said, is ball protection. Those linebackers will be looking to strip him all afternoon. He's a weak link: a rookie who's never seen this kind of spotlight and needs to prove he's up to the moment. He needs to pound away. I don't care if he averages three yards a carry. If he gets 20-25 carries, the Packers will win this game.

We all know about Devin Hester. Tim Masthay will earn his paycheck on Sunday if he can minimize the number of times Hester touches the ball. Aim for the sidelines. I'll take a 25-30 punt all afternoon and let my defense hold them down, rather than let #23 electrify his team and the crowd.

My ultimate dream scenario: Pack leads late 14-13. A late turnover gives the ball to the Pack on the Bears one. In comes BJ Raji as a fullback, as he did last week in Atlanta. Only this time, Rodgers hands off to #90 and Raji, a la the Refrigerator on a Monday night in '85 on this field against the Pack, takes it in for the knockout touchdown.

Chicago Bears and America: meet "The Freezer!"

Pack 21 Bears 13

I'll be there, and unlike the '08 title game when I sat in the press box, this time I'll be in the end zone and I get to yell and scream and cheer. It has to be that way. It's Packers vs. Bears for the NFC title. It doesn't get any bigger, or better, than this.

Go Pack!

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Comments (51):

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on February 9th, 2012 at 03:17am

Stellar work there eevroyne. I'll keep on reading.

on January 19th, 2012 at 07:30pm

Wow I must confess you make some very trenchant piotns.

on January 21st, 2012 at 03:02am

Davy....Well written...I like you grew up in Milwaukee.. on the South Side...I am 63 yrs. old and have lived in the Twin Cities since 1970. I can remember being a freshman at Wisconin-Whitewater in 1965 and watching Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr, et al in Super Bowl I. I totally get the Bear rivalry.....going with my father to see Packer games at the old Milwaukee County Stadium in Milwaukee when the Pack played some regular season games in Milwaukee. The Vikes are a big rival but nothing like the Bears were and are for Cheeseheads. This to me is almost as big as the Super Bowl victory because of da bears. My dream scenario is Rodgers just starting a career with this big victory in building a legacy that will triple #4 equalling #12. GO PACK GO !!

on January 22nd, 2011 at 03:32pm

hope you travel well, and bring home the Halas trophy!! Hope Packer preview has a few Bears fans call in tomorrow. And above all else, THE BEARS STILL SUCK!! GO PACK!

on January 22nd, 2011 at 04:24pm

The history speaks potatos to me. I woke up this morning in a cold sweat because I was dreaming about Erik Walden coming around the edge to lay a pancake block on Julius Peppers! WOooo! My prediction is Packers 11 Bears 4, a total defense game.

on January 22nd, 2011 at 12:34pm

Well written and said Dave- I have been on pins and needles all week long. Watching all the sports shows analyze this matchup, listening to you guys. It's been an intense week to say the least. Have fun down there, and bring us back the NFC title will ya!

on January 22nd, 2011 at 12:35pm

I will be watching this game from Vienna in a sportsbar at 9 PM local time. Doesn't get much better than that!!!! (Except being at Lambeau) Bears can't stop Rodgers twice: Pack: 31 Bears: 13 A-Rodg one-ups favres score of 30-13 in the NFC-Chmp vs the panthers.

on January 23rd, 2011 at 01:57am

great prediction!! GO PACK!!!!

on January 23rd, 2011 at 05:48pm

Gentlemen, Its game day! Born and raised in Waukesha, WI. 39 years old and been a Packer fan for all of them (although I did love Tony Dorsett when I was little). Viqueen rivalry seems heated up here in the TC, but still can't shake the Fridge running over Brian Noble in the 80's. --- Anyway, its game day and in that spirit, I watched the Jan 2nd game again to see what went amiss during that 10-3 victory. A lot has been made of our inability to score during that game and so I broke down the drive-killing mistakes we made: Driver fumble after crisp 35 yard drive. (#80 is not one that I worry about ball security). -- Jennings 30 yard catch brought back because of Bulaga hold (unnecessary hold at that). --Near the end of first half, Jennings drops a sure touchdown that was a perfect ball from Rodgers. Next play, James Jones drops the sideline route that would have stopped the clock and given us a first down at the bear 40. (Another perfect ball from Rodgers).--2nd Half - Rodgers int (bad decision). -- Rodgers bad throw to BJ on the 1 yard line that would have been a TD(could also be argued that it was a poor playcall by MM - we settle for 3 points after 1st and goal at the 1).-- 4th quarter, driving, Jordy Nelson takes a terrible read and runs to the sideline when he could have simply cut upfield for a first down past midfield. --- I know that "woulda, coulda, shoulda" applies here but really, without silly mistakes on our part, 11 more points were there easily. Wouldn't the paper read differently had it been 21-3, rather than 10-3? Go Pack!

on January 23rd, 2011 at 06:49am

In watching that game over, I did notice a couple other items. We do need to make stopping Forte our biggest priority. He really did gash us pretty well during that game, however, Cullen Jenkins was not playing. His presence will make a huge difference in both run defense and rushing Cutler. The double teams that are going to Raji will allow Jenkins to have big game and I expect he will get to Cutler a number of times. -- Forte killed us to the outside. He almost never ran up the middle. The LB's need to be aware of that and eliminate the edge. ---- The second thing is that Starks had a total of 7 touches. 5 runs for 20 yards and 2 receptions for 15 yards. There was very little there for him on a number of the runs and he still gained yardage. His "reads" will be better today simply from the extra game time he's received. I expect Starks to have a big game. Whether i'ts catching dump-offs or running. He is going to break a few. I know that the Bears have a good run defense, but he is so quick through the hole that I think they will run right at the Bears LB's and see what they can hit. If he gets to the second level, watch out. He's a big kid. --Its 7am and I'm already a sweaty, nervous wreck. Go Pack!

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on March 24th, 2012 at 11:58am

i thought this was MMs poersot game since the lions debacle last year. going for it at the end of the first half was not a smart decision. sure jennings should have made that catch, but if carolina moves the ball and puts points on the board (which they were doing all day) that call is talked about all day today. you have to punt that ball in that situation IMO.I never like five wide with an empty backfield on the one yard line. back shoulder is beautiful when it works, but when it doesnt you have no chance. starks was running really well, he probably should have had more consistent touches. defense has a long way to go right now. i was hoping the first game was due to drew brees, which it was to an extent. but the panthers had guys running free all game with two and three man routes. cannot have that.but it was a road win, which i will always gladly take. but there were a lot of warts on display.

on May 17th, 2012 at 10:25pm

Normally, I really like your arlitces but I don't realy understand this one. If the game would have ended with 3:20 left then I would agree with you. However, in the final 3 minutes McCarthy called an out-of-character pass to Nelson that sealed the game. I am sure that many, including myself, were expecting 3 runs, a punt and a Carolina drive down to tie the game but that didn't happen. IMO McCarthy should get credit for doing exactly what you are requesting Make some changes in your “day” (game calls) when you get in those same situations next time.

on May 18th, 2012 at 03:03am

I agree that I would have punted. However, I don't have a huge pbelrom with them going for it, but I do have a big pbelrom with the play. Personally, I'm looking to complete a high percentage pass to just get me 5 yards and nothing more.As for the defense, you couldn't be more correct. How can guys be so wide open when they were in max protect most of the time? There were a ton of blown coverages is the only explanation. I wish I could do a film study on that, but you can't analyze the secondary from the tv tape

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on November 28th, 2011 at 01:11pm

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