Both the best and the worst thing about watching football on Thanksgiving is that you get to watch it with family. Surrounded by almost 20 of the closest people in the world to me, many of whom grew up watching football with me, is one of the greatest pleasures I get all year. But concentrating completely on the game and taking notes was simply impossible. I might as well have been watching in the middle of a hurricane. So my notes on this wonderful Bears victory will be brief and to the point if for no other reason than I don’t have as much as usual to say.
- The Packers game plan was clear from the outset and they never deviated from it. Play three wide receivers, thus forcing the Bears into nickel, then obliterate them and wear them down with Eddie Lacy up the middle over and over and over again. Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, on the other hand, must be one of the most stubborn men on earth. As with Adrian Peterson two weeks before, he flat out refused to do anything special to stop Lacy. This was the battle of wills that was waged all night. Lacy had over a hundred yards rushing but it wasn’t enough.
- Give the defensive backs a lot of the credit for this win. Though Lacy continually took chunks of yardage up the middle, whenever Aaron Roger dropped back to pass, it was a tough exercise. Over and over again Rogers made time with his feet as he avoided the pass rush. And over and over again, right down to the last play, he still could not find open receivers. It was a wonderful display by a unit that, at least up until now, I didn’t consider to have much talent. Like a lot of things about this team, I’m now going to have to re-assess this.
- As most regular readers know, I’m not much of a Jay Cutler fan. Repeatedly over a period of ten years, Cutler has flat out quit in tough games, especially in Lambeau. He’s still the guy who quit on Denver so long ago. And he’s still the guy as late as last year who gave up against New Orleans to the point where he was actually benched for the now departed Jimmy Clausen.
But fair is fair. This is the game that I was pointing to all year as Cutler’s watershed. Based upon past history, it’s exactly the type of game he should have collapsed in. When the Packers came out swinging, confused him, put a lot of pressure on him, and forced him to throw a near interception early in the first quarter, I thought that’s what was going to happen. The offense started with repeated three and outs and I was convinced the Packers were going to wear the courageous Bears defense down to a nub.It didn’t happen. Cutler hung in there and the Bears re-grouped. It was ugly but they managed to possess the ball and keep the defense off the field. And it was largely due to Cutler and his mobility and the fact that he kept calm and adjusted.It’s going to be very hard to continue to trash Cutler from here on out. This was a big game for him.
- Give credit to some of the lesser known receivers who stepped up in this game. Marquess Wilson and Marc Mariani both had big catches throughout the game. Due largely to their efforts along with the return of Alshon Jeffery, the Packers had a great deal of trouble getting the Bears off of the field on third and long, especially late. Wonderful job.
- The Bears offensive line had a tough time handling the Packer defensive line. I credited a lot of the Packers success Sunday against the Vikings to the deplorable state of the Minnesota offensive line. But the Packer defensive line is pretty good and the battle in the trenches was enjoyable to watch. The Bears had just over 100 yards rushing. Not as good as you’d like but also not a complete shutdown.
- Want to know why Cris Collinsworth is the best color man in the game? Look no further than the wonderful job he did pointing out how the Packers defensive linemen were shooting inside to beat the Bears on stretch running plays. I’m convinced that there are few others that would have picked it up despite the obvious penetration that the Packers were getting.
- Special teams weren’t good enough. They allowed at least one huge run back that set the Packers up and the Bears 30 yard line. You can’t ordinarily get away with that against the Packers anywhere, especially in Lambeau.
- If you had told me that the Bears were going to win a game against the Packers where they had 12 penalties to their three, I would have refused to believe it. The officiating left a lot to be desired but to be fair, the poor calls were on both sides. The Bears aren’t going to get away with that often.
- As is their habit, the Packers had a lot of drops. They’re finding it harder to overcome them than usual this year. Jeremy Langford had a particularly tough time catching the ball in this game. If it was the rain, he’d better learn to adjust. He’s got a lot of wet football ahead of him.
- Not surprisingly, the two Packer turnovers were huge in this game. In contrast to last Sunday, the Bears didn’t have one. This is especially notable in regard to Cutler. Nice work, there.
- I’m in the state of shock and its not going to go away any time soon. Time after time I would watch Eddie Lacy carve out huge chunks of yardage and shake my head. But then I’d look up at the scoreboard and the Bears were still ahead. Honest to heaven, I still can’t figure out how it happened.
Up until this game, my assessment of the Bears has been one of a talent deficient but well-coached team, especially on defense. But how talent-deficient can they possibly be and still beat the Packers in Lambeau? It’s obvious that I’m going to have to spend some time re-assessing this team. I’d still like to see more but based upon the last two games against two of the better teams in the league, I might be under-estimating them.