The Green Bay Packers lost their first game of the season last Monday night against the Chicago Bears, 20-17. This week they'll look to get on the right track as they play their division foe, the Detroit Lions.
On Monday night, the Packers lost to the Bears, which played well, but the Packers pretty much beat themselves. Jay Cutler may finally look like the quarterback that the Bears traded for from the Broncos. The Bears defense also played extremely well, and Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs look rejuvenated. Not to mention Julius Peppers, who played extremely well. The Bears defense did a nice job of taking away the Packers run game. The pass defense gave up 300 yards through the air to Aaron Rodgers, but looked alright as they came up with the necessary stops at the appropriate times.
Meanwhile, for the Packers, they lost their first game, and Aaron Rodgers even threw for over 300 yards. The Packers even had the ball for eleven more minutes than the Bears. How does that happen? Well, penalties, poor offensive line play, bad special teams, a nonexistent running game,A and shaky defensive play were a result of that.
Here are five observations I got from watching the game:
First off, 18 penalties is uncalled for. Most of them were good calls, and a fair share of their penalties cost them big plays. The Packers had four interceptions called back due to pass interference calls, or roughing the passer penalties. For example, the Frank Zombo roughing the passer was unacceptable. Along with the pass interference within the last two minutes when Nick Collins picked off Jay Cutler. That would of gave the Packers the ball back, and another shot at winning the game. Also, the offensive line had numerous holding penalties, especially a costly one when Mark Tauscher was called for one, which brought back a Rodgers to Jermicheal Finley touchdown catch.
Second, special teams were also a disaster for the Packers. They gave up a punt return to Devin Hester, missed several tackles in the return game chasing Hester, and had a field goal blocked by Julius Peppers that could of won the game for the Pack. If I was Tim Masthay, or the special teams coach, I think I would told Masthay to punt the ball out of bounds so Hester doesn't have that chance to return it because he is capable of returning it every time he gets the ball. One other thing is that the Packers never did really get good field position off their kickoff or punt returns. This was disappointing, and meant the offense had farther to drive.
Third, the offensive line protected Rodgers well enough so he could pass for 300 yards, and give the Pack a scoring opportunity every time they touched the ball. However, they couldn't get holes for the running back, and had too many false starts and holding penalties that could gave the Pack scoring opportunites, and really big plays.
Fourth, the running game was very weak on Monday night. Granted, the Bears do have a good run defense, the offensive line struggled to open holes for Brandon Jackson, and John Kuhn, and Jackson and Kuhn struggled to get big gains consistently. Kuhn broke off a few good runs, but otherwise, the run game was nonexistent. The Packers had 63 total rushing yards in game on fifteen attempts, and averaged 4.2 yards a carry. Aaron Rodgers had the lone rushing touchdown for the Pack. Kuhn had 31 yards, Rodgers had 20, and Jackson had 12 in the game.
Lastly, the defense played alright, but could of done better. The Packers have an aggressive defense, and thrive on big hits, trying to pry the ball loose for a fumble, getting to the quarterback in very little time, knocking down passes, and picking off quarterbacks. Against the Bears, they got an interception from safety Derrick Martin, and lost four because of penalties that called them back. They didn't force any fumbles, either. They sacked Jay Cutler three times, but hit him six times and few of them cost them big plays as they got several roughing the passer calls. Tramon Williams, Frank Zombo, and Cullen Jenkins got to the quarterback. Sackmaster Clay Matthews had a more quiet game compared to the last two games, as he had zero sacks, but still hit Cutler twice, and had three tackles. One other thing I saw was the Packers must do a better job covering the middle of the field as Cutler burned them several times going to his tight end Greg Olsen.
So now what do the Packers need to do to get back to their winning ways? Here is what I think the Packers can do to make sure they contend the rest of the season:
First, it starts with the Detroit Lions this week at home. After that, they play at Washington, Miami at home, and then rival Minnesota comes to town. Then they go to New York to play Jets, then at home against Dallas, then to Minnesota and Atlanta. Then they host San Francisco, and after that, go to at Detroit, and New England. Then they close out the season at home against the Giants, and the Bears, respectively. This is a tough schedule, but the Pack can get through it if they are disciplined on both sides of the ball, find a running game, strengthen the offensive line, constantly get pressure on quarterback from the defensive line, and other blitzers, like Clay Matthews, and make sure that the secondary covers all the field, left, middle, and right.
Second, the Packers cannot commit18 penalties in another game. Mike McCarthy must make this team more disciplined if they want to do big things in 2010. Defenders cannot be hitting the quarterback late, cornerbacks and safeties must try their best not to interfere with receivers, yet still stay physical, and knock down passes and try and get interceptions. The offensive line also must cut back on holding penalties, so the offense can create big plays down the field.
Third, the Packers must establish a run game. Obviously, the pass game is top notch, and the Packers know they can get big plays out of Rodgers and his receivers. For the running backs, the offensive line must step up, create holes for Jackson, and Kuhn without being called for holding.
Fourth, the Packers have to get better on special teams. Mason Crosby has improved, and the missed kick isn't his fault, but he has to be on every game. I know that this is punter Tim Masthay's first year, but he has to be aware of who he kicking the ball too, and the situation that the team is in. The special team's coach should do the same too. In the return game, the Packers need to get better field position, and block for Jordy Nelson, and whoever returns kicks and punts. Tackling is also important, and the team cannot miss tackles on special teams, and give other teams a short field to start their respective drives.
Finally, the defense must continue to play at high level. The line must get to the quarterback, and Clay Matthews must be a force every game. All the other linebackers, Nick Barnett, AJ Hawk, Brandon Chillar, Brad Jones, and Brady Poppinga also must help and be aware of the situations that arise on defense. The secondary cannot continue to have pass interference on them, but at the same time they need to stay physical, defend the pass, and try to get a turnover.
There you have my take on the Packers performance on the Bears, and what they need to do the rest of the season to be successful. Now go out and watch the Packers this season.