The Tale of Two Games.
Well, actually more like three.
There was the first half, dominated by the Packers defense. The Packers gave up a safety and forced three Jay Cutler interceptions that led to two easy scores for the offense, ending the half up 10-2.
Then there was the first 20 minutes of the second half, dominated by the Bears. They scored 10 points and kept the Packers from generating anything on offense.
Then one of the strangest plays I have seen in the four decades I have been watching this storied rivalry took place.
The Bears were facing a 4th-and-11 from their own 25, the long snapper thought the Bears could get a free play because Clay Matthews was still on the field. However, the upback did not see him signal the direct snap, and while he caught the ball, he was easily stopped after a short gain of five.
Lovie Smith challenged the play to see if Matthews had gotten off, but he had—this only left the Bears with one fewer timeout and no remaining challenges. More than that, it gave the Packers an easy field goal to regain the lead and the momentum.
The Bears were able to drive late thanks in part to a horrible call on Al Harris for illegal contact. As best as Cris Collinsworth was able to ascertain, the officials thought it was beyond five yards only because Devin Hester was a yard behind the line of scrimmage, which should have been a call on him for illegal formation.
(And may I say what a pleasure it was having a color commentator who can actually analyze the game instead of talking about linemen's sweat stains! Collinsworth also noted how Cutler's receivers were not completing routes and how that led to a missed touchdown the play before Johnny Jolly's artistic interception.)
Instead, the Bears got the go-ahead score with under three minutes to go. The Packers and their fans were left to worry about losing their eighth game by less than five points with Aaron Rodgers under center.
But Rodgers and company pulled it out with a 50-yard bomb to Greg Jennings with under two minutes to play, and Cutler's fourth interception on the ensuing possession, sealed a 21-15 win for the Pack.
Here are my unit-by-unit grades for Green Bay:
I was already hearing all the Brett Favre apologists—even after all he has done to disregard them in his endless quest for revenge because the team did not kick one of the league's best young quarterbacks to the curb for a washed up one who quit on the team—blaming this one on Aaron. And at least this time they might have had a point—he did miss two deep touchdowns, ostensibly because of the pressure he was under.
But as they constantly told me every time I reminded them of Rodgers' statistical superiority over almost all of Favre's seasons, he made plays when it counted. (Nevermind that he threw picks when it counted, too, like single-handedly giving the Rams that playoff win with six of them!)
Well, Rodgers hit Jennings in stride for the game-winner. His numbers were decent but unspectacular: 17-for-28, 184 yards, one TD and no picks; he ran the ball three times for seven yards.
Running Back: D+
Ryan Grant ran the ball 16 times for 61 yards (3.8 average) against a pretty stout defense, and had one catch for six yards. DeShawn Wynn showed why he should not have been kept, getting only eight yards on three carries and eight more on one catch. Korey Hall had one catch for 11 yards, and John Kuhn did a good job blocking.
Wide Receiver: C
Greg Jennings carried this unit, with six catches for 106 yards and the only score. But the rest of the unit generated four catches for 39 yards, all by Donald Driver. Jordy Nelson dropped at least one pass, and there were at least two other drops I can recall (they may not have been by wide receivers).
Tight End: F
Donald Lee had three catches for eight yards, and JerMichael Finley had one for six. That's an average of just 3.5 yards per catch, and from a twosome that did nothing to open holes in the running game. This remains one of the offense's Achilles Heels.
Offensive Line: F
Allen Barbre was absolutely atrocious as the first post-Mark Tauscher right tackle this decade. He yielded two sacks and countless pressures and knockdowns. The team's one supposed anchor, Chad Clifton, missed an assignment that led to a sack, and there was another sack allowed for a safety.
Jason Spitz got his first holding penalty in more than 1,000 snaps, and there were three other penalties on the line. What's more, the Bears defensive line penetrated the backfield on about half of the Packers run attempts, leading to the poor rushing totals. This may be the most troubling component of the Packers moving forward.
Defensive Line: A+
While the defense only generated two sacks, Cutler was under constant pressure. In a 3-4, the line ties up the blocking for everyone else to make the plays, but Cullen Jenkins still got a sack and disrupted play all night. Johnny Jolly was also a force, with an interception that made James Lofton's hands jealous. They can also largely be credited with containing Matt Forte, who had just 55 yards on 25 carries.
Brandon Chillar lept over a blocker to get a sack, and coverage was good. Former defensive end Aaron Kampman, who has been the most consistently cited player by haters suggesting the Packers were trying to fit square pegs into round holes because he would not be able to cover people. He successfully covered the slot receiver on one play.
Defensive Backs: B-
How does a unit that was the Packers' best coming into the season and that generated three interceptions rank only a B-? Simple, by giving up 238 yards on 17 catches against one of the worst receiving corps in the league.
Nick Collins missed his deep responsibility on Devin Hester for the Bears' first score. Two of the interceptions were thrown right at players, and Tramon Williams dropped two prospective picks on consecutive plays.
Special Teams: B
This was supposed to be the biggest advantage the Bears had coming in, but the Packers won this battle. Mason Crosby missed a 49-yard field goal, but made one from 52 and another from 39. Jermey Kapinos was unspectacular, but averaging almost a 35-yard net against one of the best punt returners in the history of the game is nothing to be ashamed of.
The coverage units did their job on kicks, too, yielding just 24.3 yards per return and none over 27 yards. The returns (all by Jordy Nelson) were mostly average—seven yards on two punt returns and a 26-yard average for three of the kick returns—outside of the one long one Nelson busted for 46 to start the game.
One troubling thing was injuries. Jolly, Collins, and Atari Bigby all went down with injuries. If this trend from last year continues, this promising season could be cut short like last season was.
The Packers host Cincinnati next Sunday.
I originally wrote this article for SportsScribes.net.