With Lambeau Air Show, Pack Ensures Road to Indy Runs Through LambeauPosted:Dec 26th, 2011 5:39 am
What a great night at Lambeau, with festive Cheeseheads dressed for Christmas and celebration in the air. The Pack turned out the lights on the Bears and in the process earned the NFC's top seed.
The defense is still leaky and is giving up far too many yards, but the identity of the 2011 Packers remains the passing game and Aaron Rodgers and his merry band of receivers showed they're ready for the post-season with a five TD explosion against the Bears.
There is no more talk about the Packers offense without Greg Jennings. After marching down the field and scoring on its first drive, the Pack sputtered until the final two minutes of the first half, when Rodgers engineered a pinpoint drive that gave the Pack a 14-3 halftime lead. After spotting Chicago a touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter, Rodgers took over--hooking up with Jordy Nelson on a 55 yard bomb and scoring two more touchdowns in the third quarter to put the game away.
Kudos to the patchwork offensive line--playing without both opening day starting tackles. Marshall Newhouse and TJ Lang kept the heat off Rodgers, making Julius Peppers invisible and giving Rodgers all the time he needed to carve up the Bears defense.
Once again, the absence of Ryan Pickett was felt deeply. Third string running back Kahlil Bell found gaping holes all night, gaining 121 yards on 23 carries even though the Pack knew he was getting the ball play after play. The run defense needs to get shored up pronto, but let's be honest, the reality for this team is they will go as far as Rodgers and the offense takes them. It's unlikely that they'll be able to completely stop any team they meet in the post-season. They will need to outscore them.
Now we've got three weeks before the Packers play a significant game. McCarthy will rest most of his stars next Sunday--some may start, but there's no benefit to playing them extensively, unless you care deeply about the Pack's home winning streak. The Lions also have very little to play for next week, having already clinched a playoff spot. It should make for a kind of a surreal game, played before thousands of hungover New Year's revelers.
One year ago, we were holding our breaths hoping the Packers could sneak their way into the post-season. Now they're the #1 seed in the NFC and will likely look a whole lot different when they host a divisional round playoff game. They should get back Clifton, Bulaga and Jennings on offense and Pickett on defense. And whoever they play, they'll have them exactly where they want them: at Lambeau Field.