Destiny Delivered: Green Bay Packers Clinch Wild Card Berth with Win Over Bears
To rest or not to rest? That was the question which awaited Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith ahead of Week 17.
After Sunday's trip to Lambeau Field however, Smith may be regretting choosing the latter option.
While no devastating Wes Welker-like injury was sustained during the cold night in Green Bay, both the Packers and Bears were oblivious to the defensive circumstances that would unfold on Sunday afternoon in a game that was entitled "Win and your're in" for Mike McCarthy's team.
That statement certainly was taken seriously.
Although the opening quarter seemed rather sluggish and drawn out, the second quarter oozed with new life for the Chicago Bears as Robbie Gould slotted 3 points for Jay Cutler's offense to finally pad the scoreboard.
But don't take the lack of scoring in this game too seriously.
As mentioned by many, the Packers faced a tough task against a strong Chicago Bears defensive line. Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers has recorded eight sacks this year, but his sticky hands and interception-prone skills tagged him as an obvious threat for a concussion-prone Aaron Rodgers.
Luckily for the Packers, barring Bryan Bulaga's tendency for penalties, Green Bay's offensive line stood up to the task quite nicely.
Last weekend against the New York Giants, Rodgers relied heavily on the deep threat of Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jordy Nelson—and this week was of course no exception as No. 12 was granted the smallest of pockets to find his talented wide receivers.
Did this pay off for the Packers?
As frustrating as Jennings' two catches were (neither resulted in touchdowns), they were successful in granting Green Bay a perfect goal line position at the one-yard line. Given that the first of these scenarios resulted in a Mason Crosby field goal to knot it up at 3-3, the Packers then found tight end Donald Lee for six points on the very next occasion.
Once again, don't overlook the Bears defensive efforts.
Chicago came into Lambeau Field with the 9th ranked overall defense in the NFL. They also have one of the best front sevens in the entire league. Yes, you guessed it, this spelled trouble for the Packers.
Looking at the stat sheet now, Rodgers only threw for 229 yards and one touchdown on the day. However, what is more worse for wear, is the fact that the Packers quarterback threw a questionable interception at an inopportune time to cornerback Charles Tillman that seemed costly in the third quarter.
Last but not least, the Bears efforts to contain Rodgers' quick-footed ways was by far the most impressive aspect of Chicago's defensive game. Limiting Rodgers to just 21 yards, the hits began to pile up on Green Bay's most prized possession, and it's no surprise that McCarthy quickly changed his train of thought as expected.
Yet if the defensive shoe fits for the Bears, a small gold star also needs to be awarded to Dom Capers, who remained extremely persistent with the blitz late in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Jay Cutler threw for 168 yards on the day, but the Bears went without a single touchdown during the game. Better yet, the confidence of Green Bay's secondary continues to reach threatening new heights as the interception tally rose by two more picks.
The first of the interceptions came from Charlie Peprah, Green Bay's fourth year strong safety who is likely to take over for Atari Bigby someday. The next, well let's just say St. Nick Collins did it again, sealing the game for the Packers with 20 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
It was a defensive stand like no other from both sides, and it's no wonder that the game wound up just 10-3. What is more promising though, is the simple fact that the Packers defense labels them as one of the most formidable teams heading into next week, where they will face the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
Speaking of the Eagles, for those Packer fans that are looking for keys to next week's affair out east, Week 17 has already highlighted the aspects of Green Bay's game that they must perfect.
First of all, there is once again the issue of penalties. It's been McCarthy's nemesis all season long, really, and although offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga is only a rookie, his four penalties on the day cost the Packers some serious real estate.
Next, there is still a major concern when it comes to blitzing. Commend Dom Capers after this weekend's efforts, but it's no secret that the Packers struggled to contain Jay Cutler in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Moreover though, Michael Vick is a serious threat either way you look at it. Blitz him and you risk testing his speed and accuracy, play man or zone coverage and you allow No. 7 room to move out of the pocket.
It could really be a lose-lose situation.
There are a ton to focus on after the Packer's victory over Chicago.
One to really focus on, however, is Green Bay's much improved special teams unit, that saw punter Tim Masthay more or less earn himself MVP honors, while avoiding Devin Hester completely in the kick return department.
Philadelphia awaits the Packers now next Sunday night, in a game that is shaping up to be reasonably 50/50 as far as "favorites" are concerned.
Green Bay's win on Sunday night over Chicago was far from bliss, nor was it convincing. But hey, the Packers were in this position last season, and we all know how deadly they were against Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals.
This time, it's a new season with a new look team. Be aware of the underrated green and gold.
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