Da Beat Down.Posted:Nov 30th, 2020 3:39 am
Well that was just what the doctor ordered.
There's nothing like a visit from the Bears to cure what ails you and provide a glimpse at what might be possible in December and beyond.
Here's what we know: the Packers' offense is elite and it begins with #12 and the offensive line. Yes, the Bears were missing Akiem Hicks, the heartbeat of their defense. But there were plenty of talented defensive players on the field Sunday night and they were completely invisible. Rodgers wasn't hurried, hit or sacked all night and the offensive line set the tone by opening up massive holes up the middle for Aaron Jones to scamper through.
Yes, the Packers' defense is flawed and we'll get into that in a bit, but when the offense is clicking like it was against the Bears, they can beat anybody in the NFC on any given day. It was so nice to see a virtuoso performance at Lambeau, after the previous two stinkers. Would've been nice to be one of the 400 lucky souls who got to watch from the stands (and not wait in line at the concession stands).
The money quote after the game came from head coach Matt LaFleur: "This is as good as I've ever seen anybody play." Where are all of those jokers who were saying Rodgers was washed before the season? Clearly the combination of comfort and understanding in year two of LaFleur's system, along with the kick in the pants that came on draft night has recharged Rodgers' battery and has him playing at a level we haven't seen in years.
But any appreciation of Rodgers' play must go hand in hand with the play of the offensive line, which has been a revelation this season. Remember how concerned we were about the right side? Lucas Patrick and Billy Turner have been stellar. Bakhtiari and Linsley are playing at All Pro levels and Elgton Jenkins has proven that he's the glue and maybe one of the five most valuable players on the team with his versatility and stellar play.
For the second straight week, he slid over to center when Linsley went down and the line didn't miss a beat. How about rookie Jon Runyan stepping in again at left guard and showing he's ready to handle the position full time, if needed. It sounds like Linsley abided a major knee injury, but the MCL sprain will probably cost him some time. It may also provide a glimpse at next year's group, if the Pack decides to part with Linsley as they make tough free agency decisions.
The running game finally got untracked and it was startling to see them gash the Bears front seven (even without Hicks). This is what we've been waiting to see for weeks. As great as Rodgers is, this team needs to punish teams on the ground. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams got 17 carries apiece and averaged nearly five yards per carry. That's the kind of balance that will keep the Pack in any game it plays.
Defensively, it was kind of a mixed bag as usual. As expected, Mitch Trubisky threw a few in their direction and it was great to see Darnell Savage make some big plays, including his two picks and a couple of big hits. Rashan Gary got the start over Preston Smith and it clearly awakened something in #91, who played by far his best game of the season, with a sack and a touchdown, courtesy of Za'Darius Smith's fumble-causing hit on Trubisky.
But there were still too many breakdowns, beginning with the 57 yard run by David Montgomery on the game's first series. There were some missed tackled and soft coverage that an average quarterback would have taken advantage of. The two fourth quarter touchdowns the Bears scored after falling behind 41-10 are excusable because the Pack was clearly playing in soft zone coverage and allowing them to move the ball 5-10 yards at a time to prevent allowing a big score. But it's still leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
If you listened to me over the weekend, you know I was concerned about special teams--all four units--but it turned out to be a non-factor. The Packers were able to corral Cordarelle Patterson and the absence of Tyler Ervin didn't cause any major problems.
Now we wait to hear about the injuries to Linsley, Savage, Kamal Martin and Allen Lazard. Hopefully none of them will miss extended time. And we can watch the Eagles on Monday night to get a glimpse at what the Pack will be dealing with on Sunday afternoon--they're having a lousy season, but seem to have the Pack's number of late. Rookie QB Jalen Hurts apparently will be worked into the equation, so that will be interesting to watch.
With five games to go, the Pack has a comfy three game lead in the division, and sits one game out of the top seed in the NFC. We would have taken that when the season started and as we head into December football, it's nice to know that this team, warts and all, is led by a guy who is playing better than anyone in the world who is not named Patrick Mahomes.