Under the bright lights of Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers' defense shone even brighter in the first victory of the season.
In a game thought by many to become a shootout, only two passing touchdowns were registered (one by each quarterback), and four interceptions were thrown (all by Jay Cutler). This game brought all the hard hitting of the Packers-Bears rivalry, while commencing the Rodgers-Cutler comparisons.
Both defenses pressured the quarterbacks and stopped the run all night, but had minor lapses that almost cost each team the game. Thanks to a gutsy call on third and one with just over a minute remaining, the Packers emerged victorious.
With that, here are my quick hits from the game:
Dom Capers may be the biggest offseason acquisition for the Packers
It may take a full season to confirm this hit, but Capers' 3-4 scheme has such a variety of looks and blitzes that it forced three turnovers in the first half of the first regular season game in which the Packers used it.
The Packers at certain points had only two defensive linemen in a stance, alternating positions with linebackers who were standing up. This confused the Bears' offensive line as to where the pass rush was going to come from, and who would be rushing.
Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy brought Capers in to do exactly that—increase the pass rush and force more turnovers. Capers has also increased the aggressiveness, speed and intensity of the defense that also held Matt Forte to 55 yards rushing.
Capers called several blitzes that forced Cutler to scamper out of the pocket and hurry his throws. With blitzers coming from all angles and performing different stunts, Cutler was ultimately lucky to make it out of the game with only four picks.
Cullen Jenkins is a beast
Transitioning from a pass-rushing defensive end in the 4-3 to a run-stuffing end in the 3-4 scheme is not an easy task for most. However, Jenkins seems to be doing just fine.
Jenkins flew by Frank Omiyale constantly, and even split Omiyale and Orlando Pace on occasion to blow up Forte in the backfield.
Not only does this mean Jenkins can occupy two linemen on a regular basis (his job in the 3-4), but he can beat them. On passing plays, this practically turns Jenkins into another pass rusher, causing even more havoc for opposing quarterbacks.
Jenkins began to succeed as a pass rusher two years ago as he pushed out Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and secured a starting end spot and four year contract.
Dear Ted Thompson: Make sure Jenkins stays a Packer. He's proved his worth wherever you put him on the field and deserves an extension next year. His hard work an attitude are an asset to the team now, and will affect upcoming rookies positively.
The offensive line is still unimpressive
Allen Barbre was touted as the most athletic lineman on the roster, but Adewale Ogunleye made him look like a deer in headlights. Ogunleye sacked Rodgers twice in the first half while speed rushing around Barbre at will.
While the Bears' defensive line is in the upper tier of the league, the team cannot rely on that excuse for the future. The Packers have to achieve stability on the line at some point. The team can't expect to improve on last year's offensive numbers with a rag-tag bunch of linemen that allows Rodgers to get dropped almost 10 times a game.
While Thompson loves to build from the draft and within, a veteran tackle could have helped keep Rodgers vertical instead of horizontal against Chicago.
Rodgers showed poise and maturity by making throws and hanging in there as long as possible, but those hits will take a toll not only on his body, but his stats as well.
Eventually, the pressure will cause Rodgers to throw ill-advised passes that become turnovers. It may also cause him to miss time if he leaves himself open to hits like the one Urlacher gave him in the first half.
Ryan Grant is healthy...let's keep it that way
Even though he didn't put up gaudy numbers (16 rushes for 61 yards), Grant showed some of the reason why the Packers' brass is so high on him. He only ran for 3.8 yards per carry, but pushed the pile when possible.
Late in the second half, when Green Bay began to take advantage of Urlacher's injury, Grant ran in between the tackles and moved the chains. He kept his legs pumping, and fought for extra yards—something he couldn't do last year.
Grant's hamstring hampered him throughout the season in 2008, slowing him down and not allowing him to use all of his strength when fighting blockers.
Last night, Grant was also able to kick a run off tackle for 17 yards which electrified the fans. If he can keep his legs pumping against a top-five rushing defense (and with the aforementioned rag-tag bunch of linemen), Grant is poised for a big year of hopefully picking on the little guys.
His health also directly affects the offense's ability to successfully execute play-action passes like the game-winner last night. Without running for five to six yards per carry prior to that play, the defense would not have had eight men in the box trying to protect against the run.
While the win was exciting, it by no means defines Rodgers or his poise. Some are saying that Rodgers now has the one win under his belt he couldn't get last year. Shut up—it was one win, at home, against an injured defense. Rodgers played well, but one game does not make a career or a reputation.
The offense needs to shore up its line and fix the holes that they admittedly have because the Packers face tougher defenses in the Ravens and Steelers later this season.
Capers needs to work hard on his game-plan this week, as Cincinnati faces the leagues best 3-4 defenses every year. They will be more acclimated to it than Chicago was, so turnovers may not come so easily.
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