Vince Lombardi and George Halas would have been proud to witness the good old-fashioned defensive battle that took place at Lambeau Field Sunday where the Packers advanced into the 2010 playoffs with a thrilling 10 – 3 victory over the Chicago Bears. The handicappers made Green Bay a 10-point favorite figuring that the Bears would pull their better players because they had little to gain from a victory, having already secured a playoff position. That did not happen and Cheeseheads were thrilled to see that the Packers found a way to win against their ancient rival.
The Jekyll and Hyde Packer offense was out of synch most of the day. Dropped passes, penalties, lack of a running game, questionable play calling and a fumble kept the Packers off the scoreboard until the third quarter. With the offense sputtering, it was up to the defense and special teams to beat the Bears, and that they did.
The Packer defense was simply outstanding. This game marked the sixth time this season that Dom Capers’ unit held their opponents to single-digit scores. Capers mixes up his defense as well as any Defensive Coordinator in the league. On Sunday the Packers racked up 6 sacks and 2 interceptions including one by Nick Collins that sealed the victory in the waning seconds. Charles Woodson is an exceptionably good player when he lines up near the line of scrimmage which he did often on Sunday. Outside linebacker Erik Walden demonstrated some serious closing speed and took full advantage of the double-team blocking that Clay Matthews III was receiving on the opposite side. Walden was signed mid-season due to the multitude of injuries at outside linebacker and ended up starting this game and coming up with a ton of tackles and 2 sacks.
But the biggest surprise in this game was that of the play of the Packers’ special teams. Chicago’s Devin Hester is the best in the business at returning punts and kickoffs but the Packers corralled him well. Punter Tim Masthay had a great game, landing 4 punts inside the Bears’ 20-yard line. Packer punt returner Tramon Williams actually fared better than Hester did on the day. The special teams rose to the occasion when they were needed in this game and that is welcome relief for Cheeseheads who have seen their share of incompetence in this area.
So the Packers finish the regular season with a 10 – 6 record and advance to play the Philadelphia Eagles next week in the playoffs. The Eagles have been up and down this year, much like the Packers. If Aaron Rodgers and company can find their rhythm next week, the Packers should be able to put quite a few points on the board. Eagle quarterback Michael Vick will need a “spy” assigned to him to minimize his scrambling abilities. Vick, however, has trouble reacting quickly to pressure coming at him in schemes unfamiliar to him and he sometimes holds the ball too long. Look for the Packers to bring him lots of pressure from all sorts of angles.
Overall, I like how the Packers match up against the Eagles. Let’s see if the resourceful 2010 Packers can put together a nice playoff run.