After watching the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears 31-23 on Sunday, Packers fans were giddy with the play of many and pleased as punch with the road victory against a division opponent. On the other hand, Packer Nation also has a few lingering qualms about certain aspects of the Packers game. Here are a few good and a few not so good Green Bay Packers “Odds-N-Ends.”
Aaron Rodgers looked sharp all game, completing 18 out of 23 passes for 3 TD tosses and no interceptions. In addition, Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones and running back Eddie Lacy both made tremendous one handed circus catches in the first half that gave the team some spark.
Randall Cobb had the most receptions of any Packers receiver with 5 on Sunday and is considered by many NFL defensive coordinators to be the key cog in the Packers’ passing game. When Cobb is doubled teamed like he was by the Bears secondary, somebody has to step up and have a big game. That person on Sunday was clearly savvy veteran James Jones. Looking at his 4 receptions, it’s like Jones never left Green Bay. The chemistry and timing between him and Aaron Rodgers was down pat.
Jones has a big physical body and strong hands, which makes him a go to guy when tossing footballs down field called “opportunity passes.” He proved that on Sunday, making a one handed grab and literally stealing it away from the Chicago defender by shielding the Bears DB from the ball when it was in the air. Jones should have had three touchdowns, but one of his intrepid catches in the end zone was nullified due to a Packers’ holding penalty.
Starting field position is important to any NFL team. The point is: The shorter the field, the better–especially if you have an MVP QB like Aaron Rodgers. Even though it’s only one game, it’s safe to say that the Packers can boast of a kickoff returner who can shorten the field. The Packers Ty Montgomery proved he can give them that coveted excellent starting field position.
Montgomery averaged 35.3 yards per kickoff return. He said during a radio interview after the game that he has to do even better, since scoring a touchdown on a kickoff return is one of the goals of special teams. Hopefully, this goal will be achieved against Seattle, which would be nothing short of a high octane boost for Green Bay when they play this arch rival.
Penalties. Penalties. Penalties. Not so good. Packers must stop shooting themselves in the foot with penalties, which are drive killers and keep opponents drives alive.
All three phases of the Packers’ game had those frustrating yellow flags flying. Perhaps the most costly was an off-sides penalty by Sam Shields on a Chicago Bears field goal attempt. Instead of giving up three points, the Bears took advantage of the penalty and converted a 4th down and 1 for a 1st and goal inside the 5. A play later Forte would score a rushing touchdown making it a 4 point swing.
So instead of the score being 10 – 9 Packers at the end of the first half, it was 13-10 in favor of the Bears. These mental mistakes cannot happen against quality opponents such as the Seahawks, Cowboys, Cardinals or Eagles.
Another concern is the Packers inability to contain really good running backs such as Matt Forte. Granted, it’s difficult to stop a guy like Forte, who most likely will be near his 100 yard benchmark, but to allow 141 yards for a 5.9 rushing average is not going to win you many championships. The task of stopping powerful runners doesn’t get any easier for Green Bay when in week 2 they face Marshawn Lynch and then Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs in week 3.
Not only is stopping the run an issue again, but the Packers inside linebackers must also find ways to keep up with running backs coming out of the backfield for passes in the flat. Both Sam Barrington and Nate Palmer have been a step or two behind since the 2nd week of the preseason. They will need to get this fixed soon or this kind of poor defense can end up costing the team a game.
Perhaps Jake Ryan can step in and keep pace with these fleet footed NFL running backs. He almost had his chance on Sunday when Nate Palmer left with an injury, but returned to the game the very next play.
When other teams can run the ball well, keeping the drive alive, they employ “ball control theory.” When other teams control the clock, Rodgers and company’s time on the field is cut short. This means fewer possessions and fewer chances to score. The strategy almost worked for the Bears, given the fact that it was a four quarter game and wasn’t over until the end with an Aaron Rodgers victory kneel down celebration.
Teams like Seattle will also utilize ball control theory. Like Chicago, they have the quarterback and running back that can control the clock. This is why it is imperative that the Packers fix this facet of their defense and soon.
Back to the good, Packers fans jumped up and down for joy when LB Clay Matthews’ picked off Bears QB Jay Cutler with his timely interception. Matthews baited Cutler perfectly by stepping in front of a Bears wide receiver who appeared to be open, but really wasn’t. Matthews’ big play was the only turnover in the game and was the pivotal point in the riveting season opener win against the Bears.