Now that was a football game.
Before we delve into its finer (and not so fine) points, let me just say this:
Packers fans, your team just won a game with its defense and a quarterback who would not give in.
Two of the biggest questions whirling around the Packers this offseason are starting to be answered.
Can the Packers make the defensive transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 in a few months and not look lost on the field?
Can quarterback Aaron Rodgers win games for his team?
Check and check. Now come on you guys; just 15 more times, okay?
While a perfect season is more than likely not going to happen for the Packers this year, they are currently unbeaten at 1-0.
Let's look at a few reasons why.
Wow. If you're a Packer fan, this must be like Christmas in September.
The Packers picked off Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler four times in Sunday night's contest. Chicago quarterbacks are known for INTs; Cutler was brought in to fix this situation and there are a whole lot of nervous Bears fans out there right now.
Speaking of nervous, Cutler never really looked comfortable on the field and his expressions on the sideline went from furious to actually tearful as the game progressed.
Cutler killed a first quarter Bears drive by throwing to Green Bay safety Nick Collins at the Packers ten-yard line.
Cutler's next noticeable play was a 68-yard bomb to rookie wideout Johnny Knox in the second quarter.
While Knox is actually on the same team as Cutler, the recipient of his next complete pass, two plays later, was Johnny Jolly.
Jolly plays defensive end for the Packers and was more than happy to make his first career INT to snuff out another potential Chicago scoring drive.
Cutler then threw another first half INT to CB Tramon Williams, who'd nearly picked him off twice before in the first quarter.
Williams returned the pick over 60 yards to the Chicago two. One play later, running back Ryan Grant scored his first touchdown of the season.
Cutler's fourth and final pick was to CB Al Harris late in the fourth quarter, sealing the game for the Packers.
Why do people throw at Al Harris late in games? As a Packer fan I like it, sure; but it doesn't make sense. Am I correct here Seahawks fans?
Blitzes and stunts:
While only recording two sacks, the Green Bay defense was in Cutler's face all night long. The Packers looked extremely comfortable in their new 3-4 alignment, and the pressure they brought was directly responsible for at least two of Cutler's INTs.
At one point in the first half, CB Tramon Williams came on a corner blitz. I don't believe I can remember the last time I saw a corner blitz by the Packers. Until last night, maybe never.
Packers inside linebacker Brandon Chillar had a strong night for the team, recording seven solo tackles, one assist, and one sack. Defensive end Cullen Jenkins recorded the other sack and was a handful for the Bears o-line all game.
Converted DE Aaron Kampman looked just fine for the Packers in his new position at outside linebacker; he didn't make any big plays, but he certainly didn't give any up, either.
Overall, with the Packers secondary making life hell for Cutler, their front seven kept Chicago running back Matt Forte contained quite nicely. He finished the game with 25 attempts for 55 yards on the ground; a sparkling 2.2 yards per carry.
Aside from the defense, this was the area the Green Bay Packers needed to strengthen before having any hope of success in the 2009 season.
One game in, so far so good.
The Packers looked decisive and focused on coverage, not giving up any big plays to one of the NFL's premiere special teams units.
Second year wideout Jordy Nelson took over punt and kick return duties from injured CB Will Blackmon and looked really good. Nelson didn't do much on punts, but looked excellent as a kick returner with a 31-yard average on four returns. He had one return of 48 yards that he was very close to breaking for a touchdown.
Kicker Mason Crosby was 2/3, making from 39 and 52 yards and missing from 49. I'll take it.
Punter Jeremy Kapinos looked fairly solid, if unspectacular. Spectacular is unnecessary, he's a punter; solid is great.
Aaron Rodgers/Greg Jennings:
Essentially, this was the Packers offense on Sunday night.
Jennings had a decent stat line with six receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown.
Rodgers had a slightly-above average line with 17 completions out of 28 attempts for 184 yards and a touchdown.
Rodgers was chased around all night by the Bears defense, and was sacked four times, once in his own end zone for a Chicago safety (their first points of the game).
The Green Bay offense did not look very good for much of the game.
The play of right tackle Allen Barbre was truly terrible. The Packers are very thin at the tackle position, but with Barbre's backup, Breno Giacomini, inactive for last night's game, the Packers had no other options.
I don't know if Giacomini is even an upgrade over Barbre at the tackle or not, but judging by Barbre's play last night, it won't be hard to find somebody better. Unless Barbre shows massive improvement soon, the Packers will need to.
The Packers running game looked fairly anemic with starting tail back Ryan Grant rushing for only 61 yards on 16 carries and one touchdown. The touchdown was something of a gimme, as CB Tramon Williams did all the hard work with an INT, leaving the Packers offense and Grant with a 1st-and-goal at the Chicago two-yard line.
Grant did break a few nice runs in the second half, but this was after Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher left the game with a wrist injury and did not return. While Urlacher was in, there were no chances for Grant.
I'm not sure if this says more about Urlacher than Grant.
Backup tail back DeShawn Wynn had eight yards on three carries and that says it all for him. I know it's called "rushing," DeShawn, but try a little patience out there next time.
So, with a porous offensive line and no running game to speak of, where did that leave Aaron Rodgers?
Well, with two minutes to play he found himself losing 15-13 and holding the ball at the 50-yard line.
With poise and confidence in the face of pressure, he lofted a perfect strike to Greg Jennings for the game-winning score and his first come-from-behind victory that didn't include the Detroit Lions.
Watching Rodgers all game, I have to say he's improving very quickly. He has a strong, accurate arm, presence in and out of the pocket, and is very fast and elusive. It's probably not a matter of if, but when, with regards to him joining the NFL elite at the QB position.
Why do Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth have jobs? Listening to these two boneheads prattle on for over three hours is irritating.
Late in the game, Packers CB Al Harris was called for a very suspicious illegal contact penalty. Instead of showing it, NBC let their talking heads do the work.
Collinsworth mumbled something about who the penalty was on and, I swear to God, the name I heard him say sounded a lot like "Abdul Wilson." To be fair, I didn't hear him clearly. He might have said "Gibril."
Gibril Wilson plays for the Miami Dolphins, a team suspiciously absent from Lambeau field last night. I don't know who Abdul Wilson is. Maybe Chris Collinsworth could tell you. If you ask him, though, be careful. He might answer you and then you'd have to listen to him talk. Ugh.
I've already mentioned Cutler's four INTs. This was sort of strange, until you look at his receiving corps.
Devin Hester actually had a very solid night with four receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown. He made some difficult catches that show he has the potential to one day be a number one receiver in the league.
There were definitely plays made by Bears receivers Sunday night; it was the plays they didn't make that killed them. Poor route-running and bad communication seemed to set the bar for the Bears' wideouts and the Packers feasted on their mistakes.
Does anybody know who Patrick Mannelly is? You do. Did you know on Saturday?
For those of you uninformed, Mannelly has been the Bears long snapper for the last twelve years. Understand that if you're doing your job as a long snapper, nobody except for your own fans should ever know your name.
He was involved in one of the strangest plays I have ever seen on a football field Sunday night in Green Bay.
Early in the fourth quarter, with the Bears up 12-10, Chicago was punting from their own twenty on a 4th-and-11.
Apparently, Mannelly observed Packers rookie linebacker Clay Matthews III racing off the field, trying to avoid a too many men penalty.
So, Mannelly then decided to snap the ball directly to second string tail back Garrett Wolfe instead of punter Brad Maynard.
If you watch the play, Wolfe has no idea that the ball is coming to him. In slow motion you can see him jump in surprise as it hits him right in the bread basket.
To Wolfe's credit, he takes off running pretty much right away and is tackled by Packers first-year WR Brett Swain, pretty much right away.
An NFL coach probably doesn't want his long snapper thinking too much; but one has to wonder if Mannelly was thinking at all when he did this.
A too many men penalty would only have gotten the Bears five yards. It was 4th-and-11. Green Bay ended up kicking a go-ahead field goal because of the turnover.
The biggest surprise to most in Sunday night's game was the fact that it was a defensive football game.
With Chicago's upgrades to their offensive line and quarterback position and Green Bay's talented receivers, most people expected a shoot-out.
Didn't happen. Chicago's defense looked like it normally does; fast and aggressive.
If the Packers had not had such a fundamental change in their defensive philosophy in the 2009 off-season, I don't believe they would have stood a chance in this game. The offense has changed very little since last year and was contained very well by the Bears.
No, it was Green Bay's new commitment to defense and special teams that led the way to victory.
As a Packer fan I have to say:
It's about time.
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