Bears vs Packers: Sketching Out a Game Plan for Green Bay
The Packers need this win. Sure, the season is young and even a loss doesn't scuttle it or their championship hopes.
However, dropping an early game to a division rival doesn't go a long way to reaching those hopes either.
Here's how the Packers should approach that goal.
When the Packers are on Offense
Before we get very far, let's get one thing straight. The offense cannot get off to the same slow start as they did against the San Francisco 49ers.
First of all, the offensive line needs to get more push off the snap. Overall they did a decent job, but the Niners' defensive line got the best of them several times and really hampered the run game early. Once the game got out of hand, they had to ditch the ground attack, but it was't doing much to begin with.
The line wasn't getting much in the way of push, as you can see in the following two screen caps.
In the first one, Benson finds himself facing a huge pileup at the line, but is able to force his way forward.
In the second cap, he takes the ball and moves to the hole on the right side of the line. However, you can see the defender quickly coming up to close the gap and Benson only gets a yard before being brought down.
In both cases, you can see that the line isn't getting enough push on the defensive line. Neither of these plays were aimed to gain much in the way of yards, but they're designed to get more than the resulting two.
Rodgers was also sacked three times and pressured throughout the game. This poor protection is disconcerting, though it's way too early to be worried.
The O-line going to see as much pressure from the Bears' front seven as they saw against the 49ers.
The Bears' secondary, though, is a bit shakier. It took Rodgers a while to get the offense going, and they'll want the offense to snap into gear earlier against a team who might score a bunch themselves.
Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy need to work at spreading the offense out and pulling the defense wide. Using a spread formation with Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb (coming off a huge day) and Jermichael Finley, the defense will leave some gaps for one of the receivers to get open on a route.
With Cobb running a drag or crossing route, Nelson on a fly, Jennings on a short to intermediate route and Finley on a short route on the opposite side of the field from Cobb, the defense is going to be stretched enough for one of the targets to get the ball.
If the offensive line can keep Rodgers upright long enough.
When the Packers are on Defense
The Packers were all right rushing the passer; they got Alex Smith four times and kept him moving around a ton. The combination of Nick Perry and Clay Matthews looks to be a solid one, even if Perry didn't have a big Week 1.
The Bears' line was able to protect Cutler against a Colts team that lost Dwight Freeney during the game, but will find their task harder against the Packers' rush.
J'Marcus Webb played far better than anyone expected, but Clay Matthews is a cut above the Colts' talent.
So the Packers should test Webb often, and keep the pressure on second-year right tackle Gabe Carimi as well. Carimi had an up and down game, and he can be cracked.
Let's use a play from the Packers vs. Niners game this Sunday to illustrate how the Packers should attack Cutler and the offensive line.
In this first screen cap, we see a four-man front with an extra linebacker in on the right side, next to Matthews. Matthews is lined up over the left tackle while Perry is set across from the right.
For the Bears, that would be Matthews on Webb and Perry on Carimi most times.
On the next cap, you can see that both Perry and Matthews are getting good penetration, though their blockers are still between them and Smith. If it looks like Frank Gore might be stepping up to block Perry (or help), you'd be wrong (though it's the right idea).
Gore is going to slip outside to be an outlet just in case.
Let me also point out that the short area of the field is well covered by the Packers for now.
On the final frame, we see that Matthews and Perry have shoved their blockers back into Alex Smith. Perhaps Smith could have squirted out of the pocket sooner, or hit the two open receivers (circled in red).
As it stands, neither thing happened and Clay Matthews bulls his way through his defender to sack Smith.
The Packers need to not just get pressure on Cutler, though that will help as he tends to get shakier under duress. No, the Packers need to finish the play like this—with Cutler under a defender on the grass.
The entire play took about five seconds, and the Packers caught Smith on a three-step drop from a shotgun.
That speed is the key to success for this rush, that and an improved game by the secondary.
The Packers have to tighten up their coverage, especially in the short to intermediate area.
Look back at the last screen cap to where I circled the two 49er receivers. Why Alex Smith didn't put the ball near them I don't know, although at least in Kyle Williams' case (No. 10) he's not yet turned around. Certainly Vernon Davis is.
Here's a first down completion from Smith to Michael Crabtree.
The play starts out much like the one above, though there is no running back in the backfield. Matthews and Perry line up a little differently, but ultimately are set to come in off the edge again.
In the next cap, the play is setting up much like the last. Perry and Matthews are getting good push on the linemen they face.
The wrinkle here? Take a look at Mike Crabtree, who is following the little red arrow to a wide open space near the first down marker.
AJ Hawk has dropped into coverage and seems to be stepping up, but he's not quick enough and there is nobody else in the middle of the field.
In fact, if you look above where Crabtree runs his route, you can see two more Niners who could be open for Smith.
In the final cap, Smith delivers a somewhat high pass to Crabtree who does a great job hauling it in, then turning upfield for a first down.
Really, had Smith seen it, the better selection is the receiver near the top of the screen, by the left sideline. He's got seven yards on his defender.
The Packers' second area of attack defensively is to tighten up that coverage. The secondary across the board looked lost at times and linebackers who dropped into coverage, Hawk and Perry specifically, didn't achieve all that much.
The Packers have to lock down the middle of the field or Brandon Marshall, Kellen Davis and Matt Forter will kill them. Cutler can also set up up a long bomb to someone like Alshon Jeffery.
It won't be easy for the Packers, but it never is against the Bears. Now you've got a Chicago team with a versatile offense to go with their potent defense.
The Packers should come out hot, especially off their last, disappointing game.
Using the points above, they should have a fair shot at coming out on top
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