The 178th meeting between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears will not go down in the record books as a classic of any kind, but at the end of the day it was the Packers who came away with a road-trip win. The score was 21 – 14. It was the fifth win in a row for the ascending Packers and gives them an overall record of 9 – 4. The Packers are now in the catbird’s seat to capture a wild card seeding in the NFL playoff scenario.
This game started out looking like it would be a rout as Ryan Grant scampered untouched on the Packers’ first play from scrimmage for a 62-yard touchdown run. Grant would continue to have a nice afternoon as he ran his season rushing totals to over 1,000 yards. He has labored this year behind an underwhelming (although somewhat improved since Mark Tauscher replaced Allen Barbre) offensive line. The Bears’ rushing defense came into this game as one of the worst in the league, so it was no surprise the Packers’ game plan featured Ryan, who ran for 137 yards on the day.
The Packer defense dominated much of the first half, but late in the second quarter the Packers got sloppy and the momentum shifted to the Bears. A couple of fumbles allowed the Bears to take a 14 – 13 lead and the favored Packers suddenly had a real challenge. With Aaron Rodgers and the passing game having an “off day” the Packer defense rose to the occasion. With 13 minutes left in the game, Nick Collins became the playmaker when he made a game-changing interception. Such quickly lead to a second Ryan Grant touchdown and the difference in the game.
The Packer defense has become something special this year. Charles Woodson had another lights-out game and is playing the best football of his 12-year NFL career. Collins likewise is an incredible athlete. Ted Thompson would be smart to extend Collins’ contract now to ensure his services for the future. Nick Barnett had another great game and Clay Mathews seems to get better every week. Mathews will get consideration for defensive Rookie of the Year and Woodson should get consideration for the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers deserves a good chunk of the credit for the resurgence of the defense. Several weeks ago Capers rolled out the innovative “Big Okie” set… replacing a safety with a fifth linebacker. This week Capers unveiled the “Psycho” set which utilizes a single defensive lineman, five linebackers and five defensive backs. I have never seen anything like “Psycho” and neither had the Bears. At first blush the new set looked like mass confusion with the Packers standing around looking confused, but it was the Bears who got fooled. The Packer defense won this game and they are quickly gaining respect around the NFL.
Next week the Pack travels to Pittsburgh to challenge last year’s Super Bowl champion Steelers. The 6 – 7 Steelers are in a bad funk now having lost five games in a row including an ugly loss to the lowly Cleveland Browns last week. They ought to be in a foul mood next week and the Packers better be ready for a rumble in Steel City.