Countdown to the NFC Championship: 6 Days (Part 2)
The second part of today’s post will be a recap of the Week 17 matchup between the Bears and Packers , this time at Lambeau Field. The Packers had to win in order to clinch a playoff berth; the Bears had already clinched the #2 seed for the NFC playoffs. However, Bears’ head coach Lovie Smith elected to not rest any of his starter, saying that the Bears always want to beat the Packers; and how it was important to try to kep a rhythm going into the playoffs.
The Bears surprisingly led 3-0 at halftime; but ended up losing 10-3, with Jay Cutler getting intercepted with 30 seconds left in the game on the potential game-tying drive. Here is the box score. Now, a few thoughts:
1) While Lovie did play all of the starters the whole game, it was obvious that the Bears’ game plan was more like a preseason game—-geared more toward not showing too much to a potential playoff opponent than actually trying to exploit advantageous matchups. Offensively, the Bears do not make adjustments to the Packers’ blitzes; choosing instead to let their offensive linemen, TEs, and backs attempt one-on-one blocks. The runs were all powers and sweeps—no traps or counters. Until the last couple drives, the passes were all simple routes—no combination routes or crossing patterns. Quick stat—over the season, the Bears averaged nearly 8 yards per pass attempt; in this game, the Bears averaged 4.3 yards per attempt. Defensively, it was pretty much cover-2 shell all game long—you could see the difference in the defensive scheme from this game to the Divisional Round game versus the Seahawks. It is obvious the Bears were trying to play it safe, and not show too much.
2) The Packers had no answer for RB Matt Forte and the Bears’ improved offensive line. Matt Forte ran it 15 times for 91 yards; and caught 8 passes for 60 more. And this was a game the PAckers HAD TO WIN. Unless the Packers put Woodson on Forte, they have no one that can cover him out of the backfield. If I noticed this, don’t think this got past Mike Martz.
3) The Packers’ offensive line performed much better in this game than the Week 3 matchup. The Packers’ did not allow Peppers to dominate this game—and they only had 4 penalties (opposed to 18 in the Week 3 game). However, their longest run of the day was 8 yards. 8.
4) The Bears missed opportunities to win this game in the Red Zone. You cannot go 0 for anything in the Red Zone and expect to beat a team as good as the Packers. You have to get points when you have the chance.
5) Aaron Rodgers took advantage of the lapses in coverage by the Bears. The Bears did well overall, holding the Packers to 10 points; but they allowed Aaron Rodgers to average 13 yards per pass completion (as opposed to in the Week 3 matchup), and the Packers had 6 pass plays of over 20 yards. The only time that happens in a Cover-2 defense is when someone loses the integrity of their zone. And Aaron Rodgers will take advantage of those—EVERY SINGLE TIME.
Overall, a game the Bears had a chance to not only win, but put away pretty early. And we will see on Sunday if allowing the Packers into the playoffs comes back to bite them.