Published by Jerz on 10/3/2014
There are very few contests between the BEARS and Packers that have lived up to the “billing”, as of late. Chicago still seems to be a team in search of who they REALLY are and Green Bay continues to show how dominant they can really be (after being left for dead after the first 3 weeks of the season). This game started out as an NFL “Instant Classic” but would end in a “thud” loud enough to be heard throughout the Chicagoland Area. Aaron Rodgers continued his absolute dominance of this team with a passing performance that was as close to perfect as one can get. He ended his day’s work completing 22 of 28 passes for 302 yards and 4 touchdowns. He repeatedly torched a BEARS pass defense that was without the services of veteran “rush men” Jared Allen (pneumonia) and Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion) and was 2 steps ahead of defensive coordinator Mel Tucker the entire game. The ONLY good thing the BEARS did defensively, all day, was contain bruising running back Eddie Lacy (holding him to only 48 yards on 17 carries). They couldn’t get off the field on 3rd downs (as the Packers didn’t even punt the entire game) and couldn’t generate a takeaway. This put even more pressure on Jay Cutler and the offense to try and keep pace but 2 late picks by Cutler were converted into touchdowns and put the game out of reach.
This was an incredibly strange game to digest simply because I can’t remember a Jay Cutler led BEARS offense having the type of success they had moving the ball against this Packers team. Let’s try never. Cutler wasn’t nearly under as much duress to throw the ball as he’s been in matchups past and showed the ability to improvise on 2 botched snaps that he turned into big plays (one a scramble and a completion downfield on the other). The officiating was quirky (at best) and added a weird element to the contest but the BEARS were able to amass almost 500 yards in total offense (496) with 235 of those yards gained on the ground. Matt Forte (23 carries for 122 yards) and rookie Ka’Deem Carey (14 carries for 72 yards) shouldered the load of a very effective rushing attack that gouged Green Bay up the middle repeatedly. There were some questionable occurrences on the BEARS side of things that left many scratching their heads. The first being managing the clock at the end of the 1st half which took the BEARS out of position to put points on the board (where the half ended on a catch by Martellus Bennett that was just short of the goal line). There was an attempt at an onside kick that was there for the taking but recovered by Green Bay which gave an already scorching hot Aaron Rodgers a short field to work with. The other being a bad spot on a 3rd down where Packers receiver Jordy Nelson was clearly short the line to gain (on the BEARS sideline, no less) and head coach Marc Trestman kept his red “hanky” in his pocket. Lost in the 21 point debacle was a MONSTER game by tight end Martellus Bennett (9 catches for 134 yards) who continues to prove himself as a playmaker for Cutler and the BEARS offense. Cutler, for all the grief he’s received over the 2 second half picks that led to 14 points for the Packers, didn’t have a terrible game (22 of 34 for 256 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions) for the 2nd straight outing versus the rivals from the North. Not to be lost in all of the yards gained is the fact the BEARS are still without a rushing touchdown (after 4 weeks) and were held scoreless in the 2nd half.
I’ll tell you “what now”… The (2-2) BEARS gear up for their 2nd quarter of the season with 3 of their next 4 games on the road. Their opponent this Sunday, the Carolina Panthers, are (2-2) as well and coming off a tough 2 week stretch that has seen their defense put to the test and their depth at running back stretched incredibly thin. Their quarterback Cam Newton is playing at less than 100% (dealing with a surgically repaired ankle and sore ribs) but veteran tight end Greg Olsen and rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin provide a playmaking combination that can give the BEARS fits downfield. This will definitely be the case if the BEARS can’t “rediscover” their pass rush. Jared Allen coming back from a bout with pneumonia is an unknown and Jeremiah Ratliff has yet to be cleared from a concussion sustained in week 2 versus the Niners. The BEARS can use a boost in the pass rush department from off season acquisitions Lamarr Houston and Willie Young to get after Cam Newton and a realigned Panther’s offensive line. The mood in Carolina isn’t a good one (as described by Panther’s insider and Sportzfam’s own Vincent Pride). The BEARS should give them a full dose of Matt Forte and Ka’Deem Carey in the rushing attack and with Brandon Marshall a full participant in practice this week, the passing attack should be prepared to strike.
This is a winnable ball game for the BEARS who come into this contest (2-0) on the road. I expect the offense to attack Carolina’s defense with the run as Matt Forte has had some BIG games versus this defense. The status of starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod (knee/ankle) is still up in the air, after a fluke injury in practice this week, but the BEARS have done a great job of plugging guys in and getting solid production. The return of starting left guard Matt Slauson and possibly starting center Roberto Garza from ankle injuries of their own should provide a boost to this unit. The Carolina defense hasn’t played like the unit from a year ago but should not be taken lightly. The BEARS defense, coming off an embarrassing performance of their own, need to continue to fit the run as well as they have the past few weeks and rally to the ball carrier. Putting Carolina in obvious passing down and distances will be critical and when they get to Newton they must put him on the ground. At 6’5″, 250 pounds, Newton is one of the most physical quarterbacks to get down (despite his injuries) and has given the BEARS fits in the past with his elusiveness and ability to make plays on the move. I expect the offense to be efficient, yet explosive, and protect the ball and the defense to be opportunistic in a 24-17 BEARS win…