Bears Vs Packers: Bears Have Work To Do To Get Ready For The Playoffs
Lovie Smith decided to play his regulars the entire game, taking a huge chance that an injury to a critical player wouldn't occur and harm the Bears' ability to win in the playoffs.
Look, as a Bears fan, I dislike the Packers as much as anyone, but don't tell me that beating the Packers would have been worth an injury to Jay Cutler or Brian Urlacher.
As it turned out, the Packers were simply better on Sunday as they beat Chicago 10-3. Cutler finished with zero TDs, two interceptions and a QB rating of 43.5. Of his 21 completions (not counting the two to the wrong color jersey), there were only two receivers who caught passes, with Rashied Davis coming out of hiding with seven catches and one going to Devin Hester.
Well, that has to get better, or this Bears team will lose in the first round, no matter who they play. This offense was offensive today, with a dismal 31 percent third down conversion percentage.
Meanwhile, Green Bay wasn't that much better and couldn't run the ball at all. They had only 60 yards rushing, with 21 of those yards coming from Aaron Rodgers. They averaged only 2.6 yards per carry on the day.
As for the decision to play his starters the whole game, Smith was damn lucky that a key player didn't get hurt, although Chris Harris did leave the game with a shoulder injury, the extent of which is not yet known.
Prior to the start of the game, it was apparent that the number one seed was going to Atlanta, as the Falcons had a commanding lead. While some may commend Smith for going all out to try and beat the Packers, the risk was not equal to the reward in my opinion.
Despite taking that risk, the Packers are going to the playoffs. The Giants, who beat Washington, will stay home despite a 10-6 record. That may be a good thing for the Bears, as I still have nightmares about what they did to us in Week 4.
So let's take a look at the highlights (and lowlights) of the game.
Matt Forte Passes 1,000 Yard Mark
Matt Forte joined Walter Payton (you may have heard of him) as the only Bear to get 1,000 or more rushing yards and 500 or more receiving yards in the same season.
Forte rushed for 91 yards on 15 carries for a terrific 6.1 average, with his longest run going for 25 yards.
The rest of the running game was average, with Chester Taylor and Jay Cutler eking out another 19 yards on the day.
Not counting Cutler's two runs, Mike Martz called for 18 running plays versus 39 passing plays. That mix will need to be better balanced if the Bears are going to improve this offense in the playoffs.
Johnny Knox Fails To Catch a Pass
Knox came into the game needing only 40 receiving yards to become the first Bears wideout to pass 1,000 yards in a season since Marty Booker in 2002. But he ended the day with no catches, though he was targeted eight times.
It was the first time all season that Knox was held without a reception. The Bears will need to find a way to get him back into the offense if the team is going to be good enough to win the playoffs.
Bears receivers not named Rashied Davis caught just one ball on the day versus 13 catches for Greg Olsen and Matt Forte.
The team clearly missed Earl Bennett, who was inactive for the game due to injury.
What Do You Know, a Rashied Davis Sighting!
With the injury to Earl Bennett, Rashied Davis got an opportunity to start and made the most of it.
The seldom-used Davis came into the game having caught only two passes all year, yet caught seven balls and led the team with 63 yards on the day.
He and Hester were the only wideouts to catch a pass. That has to change.
Bears Run Defense Stellar Vs Packers
The Bears defense came to play on Sunday and showed a much improved ability to tackle as compared with recent efforts.
Especially against the run, the Bears were staunch as they held the Packers to just 60 yards rushing. This broke a string of five consecutive weeks that Bears defenders allowed at least 100 yards to an opposing team.
Granted, the Packers have had troubles running the ball at times this season. Still, the 2.6 yard average was the lowest they have had all season, so you have to tip your cap to the Bears.
Now, Aaron Rodgers is mobile, but he is not known as a running QB. So when he is your leading rusher, you know something is amiss.
Green Bay had just three rushing first downs. Despite the huge rushing discrepancy between the teams, the Packers actually had more rushing attempts than the Bears did on the day.
Harris, Roach and Wright Injured
In addition to the aforementioned shoulder hit to Chris Harris, the Bears suffered injuries to Nick Roach and Major Wright in the game.
Roach, who has started ever since Pisa Tinoisamoa had arthroscopic knee surgery, left the game after the first play from scrimmage because of a shoulder injury. Roach had started the game despite Tinoisamoa suiting up.
This puts pressure on a lineman to play just six weeks after undergoing surgery. The Bears had hoped to play him sparingly until the playoffs in order to give him time to heal.
Meanwhile, rookie safety Major Wright departed with a leg injury suffered in the second quarter. He had been rotating with Danieal Manning and Harris. Harris' injury is particularly scary as he was coming off a great game against the Jets.
It could have been worse, of course, as the Bears dodged injuries to their key players. But any injuries suffered in what was essentially a meaningless game for Chicago is really a shame.
Packers Not Afraid of Devin Hester
The Packers defied logic by refusing to kick away from the Bears star return man, but the results were largely successful for Green Bay despite the questionable strategy.
They kicked to Hester three times in the first three quarters. He had a total of 35 yards on two of the punts and called for a fair catch on the other.
Packers punter Tim Masthay was able to kick to areas that limited Hester's return ability near the sidelines.
So a team got lucky this time, but I'll take that chance any time. If a team kicks to Hester in the playoffs, it could result in the main advantage for the Bears.
Bears Lose Momentum
One of the reasons the Bears gave as to why they were playing their starters was to maintain the momentum they had built. However, with the loss, they took a step backward and gave the Packers confidence that they can beat the Bears.
In the first matchup, the Bears won by a narrow margin, on a Robbie Gould field goal, despite the Packers committing 18 penalties in the game. Now, that is no excuse, as the Bears forced a lot of those mistakes, but that game, combined with this win, shows Green Bay they can beat the Bears.
Further, while the Bears run defense was great, they didn't pressure the QB much.
For the second game in a row, Julius Peppers did not put much pressure on the QB. Green Bay had six sacks and eight QB hits versus two sacks and only three hits for Chicago.
Israel Idonije has only one sack over his last five games.
So much for Lovie Smith wanting to go into the playoffs on a "high".
Bears Offense Takes a Step Backward
One of the keys to the Bears offensive improvement since the bye has been the adjustments made by Mike Martz and the offense. Today, however, they reverted back to the team that couldn't move the ball and was mistake-prone.
Cutler was forced to take too many long drops and threw two interceptions while the offense line regressed. Meanwhile, what happened to that balanced play calling?
The Bears threw the ball 39 times and called only 18 rushing plays (not counting the two runs by Cutler); this despite having success running the ball, as Forte averaged 6.1 yards per attempt on the day.
Martz and the Bears had better find a way to get that balance back and limit the mistakes by the offense. If the defense can play as well as they did today, all the offense needs to do is to protect the football and the Bears have a good chance to beat almost anyone.
Bears Need To Use Bye Week Like They Did Earlier In Season
The last time the Bears had a bye week, they made critical adjustments that led to a much improved team and they went on a five game winning streak.
Now, the Bears head into another bye week before the playoffs, which gives them time to fix what was broken and make the adjustments they need to do to get back on track, especially on offense.
The week will also be used to heal up and get guys like Earl Bennett and others healthy for the game.
Bears Thrive On Turnovers: What's Next for Bears
OK, that may be an obvious statement. In Lovie Smith's years of coaching the team, the Bears have taken the ball away more times than any other team. Still, today's game showed the difference turnovers make for this defense.
D.J. Moore forced a fumble and Charles Tillman recovered the ball. Tillman also had a pick in the third quarter.
The Bears didn't recover any turnovers in the loss to New England, and while they also lost this game to Green Bay, it is no coincidence that the Bears defense played so well. The difference is turnovers.
In their first playoff game, the Bears will face the highest seed of the remaining teams. If the Eagles win, that will mean it is Philly that the Bears have to face for a second time. Vick fumbled the ball four times and Chris Harris picked him off in that game.
On the season, Philly has only turned the ball over 21 times, yet Vick was intercepted for the first time on the season in the win by the Bears.
If the Packers beat the Eagles, the Bears will likely play the Saints, assuming that they win their round matchup against the Rams or Seahawks. The Saints have turned the ball over 28 times.
As great as Drew Brees is, he threw more INTs this season than ever. The future Hall of Fame QB can be beaten if the Bears force turnovers.