Packers vs. Bears: Green Bay's Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 15
The Packers have beaten Da Bears six straight times now, including three straight at Soldier Field, which includes the 2010 NFC Championship Game.
The victory was very important to the Packers in many ways, as I'll name my winners and losers for the Pack in Sunday's game.
Winner: The Packers
The most important result of Sunday's 21-13 victory by the Packers over Da Bears is that Green Bay has clinched its second straight NFC North title.
That means that the Packers will be hosting at least one playoff game at Lambeau Field.
Add to that, depending on the outcome of the San Francisco-New England game, the Packers could also become the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs after Sunday night. That would result in a bye in the first week of the playoffs if the Packers were able to hold that No. 2 seed.
When a team has as many walking wounded as the Packers do, that is a very important consideration.
Loser: Mason Crosby
Mason Crosby is still in a funk. Crosby missed badly on a 43-yard field-goal attempt and then hit the left upright on another 42-yard miss.
After starting the season 5-of-5 in field goals, Crosby has made only 12 of 24 field goals.
Still, Mike McCarthy is still standing behind Crosby, although he's clearly not happy about how Crosby has been performing.
"Mason needs to make those kicks," McCarthy said via Packers.com. "We left points on the field today. Also, you factor in some of the decisions you make after that..."
Still, McCarthy was also emphatic about the future of his kicker.
"We are not changing our kicker, so you can write that down right now," he said. "He is our guy."
We shall see.
Winner: Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers was 23-of-36 for 291 yards against Da Bears on Sunday. Rodgers also tossed three touchdown passes to James Jones.
Rodgers also added 14 yards rushing, including one run that netted the Packers a first down on a third-down play.
With two games to go in the 2012 regular season, Rodgers has led the Packers to their first team goal (winning the NFC North), which is something he talked about after the game via Packers.com.
It been a difficult year for Rodgers and the Packers in many respects.
"It's been a grind," Rodgers said in his postgame press conference. "This season, more than last season or even 2010, it's been a grind. We've dealt with a lot of adversity, we've had a lot of guys hurt. We've had a lot of guys step up and play."
Still, Rodgers led the Packers to a big team goal on Sunday.
He's also still strongly in the running for an individual award as well. That would be becoming the NFL's MVP for the second consecutive year.
For the 2012 season, Rodgers has thrown 32 touchdown passes, compared to just eight interceptions for 3,588 yards. Rodgers also leads the NFL with a 104.7 quarterback rating.
Loser: Special Teams
Sunday was not a good day for the special teams units of the Green Bay Packers that are coached by Shawn Slocum.
We have already mentioned the woes of kicker Mason Crosby in a previous slide, but the biggest gaffe Sunday occurred on a punt return.
Randall Cobb fielded a punt and then attempted a crossfield lateral to Jeremy Ross deep in Green Bay territory in the fourth quarter. Ross mishandled the lateral and the Bears recovered. That play led to another Chicago field goal.
Mike McCarthy took full responsibility for the play.
"In the end it was not a good decision. I wish I had that back," he said in his postgame press conference.
Winner: The Green Bay Defense
The Green Bay defense definitely came to play Sunday against Chicago. Of course, it always seems to play well against Jay Cutler. Going into Sunday's game against the Packers, Cutler was 1-6 lifetime against the Packers as a Chicago quarterback (including the 2010 NFC Championship Game).
Cutler's regular-season stats were dreadful against Green Bay, as he had thrown seven touchdown passes versus a whopping 15 interceptions for 1,303 yards against the Pack. That all adds up to a quarterback rating of 54.5.
Cutler didn't exactly improve his resume against Green Bay on Sunday. He only threw for 107 yards and had one touchdown pass versus one key pick by rookie Casey Hayward.
Overall, the Bears only had 190 total yards.
The Packers also had four sacks, plus skunked the Bears on third down as Chicago was 0-of-9 in third-down situations.
Loser: Jermichael Finley
Jermichael Finley didn't make my losers' list because of his performance on Sunday versus the Bears. Finley actually had a good game, as he caught five passes for 61 yards.
The big news was what was written about Finley before the game, when the dean of Green Bay beat writers, Bob McGinn, wrote a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that seems to indicate that this will be Finley's last year with the Packers.
So, who knows? Finley has been very inconsistent this season.
That being said, if Finley played all season like he did on Sunday versus the Bears, the Packers would not be considering such a move.
Winner: James Jones
All James Jones does is catch touchdown passes. Jones caught three more on Sunday, giving him a NFL-leading 12 touchdown receptions this season.
On Sunday, Jones caught five passes for 61 yards. Three of those receptions, or 60 percent of those catches, were for touchdowns.
For the season, Jones has 51 receptions to go with his 12 touchdowns. That means that one out of every 4.25 catches by Jones is a touchdown.
Loser: Marshall Newhouse
Aaron Rodgers was sacked three times against the Bears on Sunday. At least two of those sacks were the responsibility of left tackle Marshall Newhouse.
Overall, Newhouse is playing better than he did in 2011, but the Packers need Newhouse to play better against top-notch competition. Newhouse certainly saw that on Sunday as he matched up against Julius Peppers.
Rodgers has to know his blind side is being protected, especially with the Packers helping out right tackle Don Barclay from time to time.
Winner: Clay Matthews
The presence of Clay Matthews certainly made a difference on Sunday in the Green Bay defense, as it held the Bears to just 190 total yards and also had four sacks.
Matthews led the way with six tackles and two sacks, which gives him 11 on the season.
Just having Matthews on the field seems to improve the Green Bay pass rush. The main reason? Matthews gets double-teamed quite a bit in blocking schemes.
That gives people like Mike Neal (3.5 sacks), Erik Walden (3.0 sacks), Dezman Moses (3.0 sacks) and Jerel Worthy (2.5 sacks) more opportunities to get to the quarterback.
The Packers are second in the NFL right now with 45 sacks. That number will keep improving with Matthews on the field.
Loser: Ryan Grant
The last couple of games, the Packers have been using a three-man rotation in terms of running the football. The running backs are Alex Green, DuJuan Harris and Ryan Grant.
It should be noted that both Green and Harris are only in their second seasons in the NFL, while this is Grant's sixth NFL season.
The Packers were in the process of driving for another score in the game on Sunday versus the Bears, holding a 21-7 lead, when Grant had a costly fumble with a little over five minutes to go in the third quarter at the 37-yard line of Chicago.
The recovery by the Bears led to a field goal, which tightened up a game that probably would have been iced with another Green Bay score.
Bottom line: veterans like Grant can not be putting the ball on the ground. That is not why the Packers brought him back a couple weeks ago.
Yes, Grant did gain 14 yards on the play he fumbled, but he has to be aware of players like Charles Tillman, who stripped away the football. Stripping the ball is Tillman's calling card in the NFL.
Grant should know that, especially playing against the Bears so many times like he has.