Green Bay Packers Week 2 Unit Grades vs. Chicago Bears
Being the only sport with total revenue sharing and nearly equal payrolls, the margin for error is very narrow in the NFL. It leaves too much parity to have performance drop in even small areas.
The Green Bay Packers had a stretch of 19 straight wins. They came into this contest against their oldest rivals having dropped three of five and two in a row at Lambeau Field. And the primary difference was the drop in big plays—something the Chicago Bears defend well.
A loss would signal that recent troubles are not easily remedied, and left the team in a battle two games and a tiebreak back of a very good team.
The revamped Bears offense was going to test the vulnerable Packers defense. The tougher game Green Bay was coming off was going to leave them more battered, starting with the best receiver on the roster.
The stout Chicago defense would neutralize the anemic running game in Green Bay. Once the offense became one-dimensional, the heavy four-man pass rush would be let loose on a shaky offensive line.
That's why they play the games. Let's take a look at each unit's contribution to the Packers victory...
Sure, the interception on the stats page of Aaron Rodgers is rightfully blamed on James Jones. There were also, once again,too many drops.
But at least three of the throws that drew the "he's gotta catch that" response from the television crew were overthrown to the point of barely in reach. The receivers should come up with one or two of those, but his off-target throw made that less likely, and he missed entirely on a couple other throws.
Finally, Rodgers held the ball too long and took five sacks five sacks for a loss of 31 yards without a run until the three kneel-downs. But he still was 22-for-32 (.688 completion percentage) with 219 yards (6.8 per attempt) and a score (85.3 passer rating) despite being under pressure and having an unreliable receiving corps.
Running Back: B
This was not only a big game for Cedric Benson because he had to show more than the two yards per carry and no catches he had in his starting debut for the Green Bay Packers. He was also playing the team that drafted him fourth overall in the same draft as the Packers took Aaron Rodgers.
He did not disappoint this week.
Benson carried the rock 20 times for 81 yards (4.1/carry) and caught four passes for 35 yards for 116 all-purpose yards and 4.8 yards per touch. John Kuhn added just one yard (a first down) on two runs, but had three catches for 23 yards (7.7) and the same 4.8 yards per touch.
Alex Green carried the ball twice for two yards to round out running back production, giving the unit 142 yards on 31 touches for a 4.6-yards per play average.
The Green Bay Packers receiving corps is the deepest in the NFL. The Chicago Bears might have been relieved to not have to defend Greg Jennings, but they knew they still faced a potent unit.
Outside of two scores—one of which is correctly credited to special teams—they held them in check. Donald Driver walked in for a 26-yard score for what would be his only catch and the only Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass.
Passes that could have been caught were dropped by James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley. Outside of the ball he could have caught, Nelson alone was effective with six catches for 84 yards (14.0).
Jones failed to come back to the ball on the Rodgers pick, got four yards on one catch and lost five on another that should have been recorded as a run because of a missed block by another receiver. Randall Cobb had a run for 26 yards lined up in the backfield, plus one 20-yard catch.
Finley had four catches but just 26 yards (6.5) but lost a fumble. D.J. Williams added another reception for six yards from the tight end position. That is a total of 161 yards on 15 catches (10.7) and one score while being responsible for two turnovers.
Offensive Line: D
The job of the offensive line of the Green Bay Packers is to prevent the guy across from them from reaching the ball. That job does not change because the opponent's defensive line includes future Hall of Fame defensive end Julius Peppers.
Green Bay allowed five sacks even though the pass rush of the Chicago Bears was limited because of its focus on keeping Aaron Rodgers in the pocket. Most of the credit for rushing yards goes to the runners, as Cedric Benson in particular bounced through narrow crevices to get extra yardage.
Defensive Line: A-
The Green Bay Packers defensive line showed up in a big way. Granted, they were up against an offensive line that may have been worst in the league last season. However, they made enough upgrades to protect Jay Cutler decently against Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis last week.
They could not handle the Packers Thursday. Even though stats go more to linebackers than linemen in a 3-4 defense, the front had eight tackles, four assists and two sacks.
Jerel Worthy recorded the first of his NFL career to go with three tackles. Fellow rookie Mike Daniels also had his first sack and a tackle. B.J. Raji had a tackle and an assist. Phillip Merling a tackle and Ryan Picket two plus three assists.
The Chicago Bears running backs had just 82 yards on 22 carries, a 3.9-yard average.
Clay Matthews has as many sacks through two games this season as he had through 16 in 2011. He had 3.5 sacks, forced a holding and an off-sides, had four tackles and three assists.
He was not the only linebacker to have an impact, either. Erik Walden had a half-sack, two tackles and an assist. D.J. Smith had a sack, three tackles and four assists, but a big pass interference penalty. A.J. Hawk had just two tackles and three assists, but drew a big penalty.
They get high marks because their play went beyond the composite 11 tackles, 11 assists—unimpressive tackle numbers, really—five sacks or even penalties drawn.
They did their job in coverage once Matt Forte (four catches, 49 yards) was hurt. There were no other completions to running backs and only two to tight ends—a four-yard pass and a 21-yard touchdown that was at least as much on the secondary as the linebackers.
The Green Bay Packers secondary may share some blame for the one touchdown to the tight end up the seam on a fourth down play. But outside of that, they were nearly flawless.
Tramon Williams not only shut down the ever-dangerous Brandon Marshall, but got two picks and four tackles. Charles Woodson added a pick, two tackles and three assists. Rookie Jerron McMillian got his first pick and had two assists.
Morgan Burnett added four tackles and two assists. Casey Heyward had two tackles and an assist. The total of 12 tackles, eight assists and four turnovers were all the more impressive considering how few times the Bears offense was able to attack the secondary.
Jay Cutler only completed seven passes to tight ends or wide receivers for 77 yards. This unit deserves much of the credit for Cutler's 11-for-27 (.407) passing game, the maligned pass defense giving up just 74 total yards on 34 plays (2.2 per play and a 28.2 passer rating for Cutler).
Special Teams: A
Remember when the special teams of the Green Bay Packers would be considered weak at best? That was the perception as the 2010 season concluded even though that unit served Cheeseheads well in helping secure a title.
Two weeks in a row, this unit was every bit as good as two of the most elite special teams squads in the NFL. On Thursday, the Packers did everything that could be asked of them.
Sam Shields had a ball deflect off him blocking on a punt return, but was alert enough to cover it up. Randall Cobb got 16 yards on the other punt return and 21 on his lone kick return.
The coverage held its own against the dangerous Devin Hester. He had seven- and one-yard punt returns and kick returns of 38 and 19 yards.
Mason Crosby had five kickoffs, put four of them in the endzone and had three touchbacks. He hit field goals of 48, 35 and 54 yards (plus two extra points) without missing a kick.
Tim Masthay not only had five punts for a 47.6-yard average, but put three of them inside the 20 and still managed a 37-yard net on a touchback. And that was nothing compared to his well-executed shovel pass from his knee to Tom Crabtree for the 27-yard touchdown on a fake field goal. Coach Mike McCarthy said he did it to send a message, and his team extended a lead from 3-0 to 23-3 over the next 30-plus minutes.