The Packers Turn a Corner Behind Eddie Lacy

Rob Demovsky at ESPN describes a change in the Packers play calling that may be a turning point in more than one way.

“Even those who wanted – begged, really – the Green Bay Packers coach to take back the offensive play-calling duties couldn’t have fathomed this: 44 runs and 230 yards on the ground.

“This is Mike McCarthy 2.0.

“The same coach who too often proved reluctant to stick with the running game during his first nine seasons as the head coach/offensive playcaller did an about-face – first in his decision to strip Tom Clements of the job he handed him this offseason, and then in his approach to his first game back in control of the offense. In Sunday’s 28-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys, McCarthy showed a previously unseen commitment to the run.”

It’s not a coincidence that the Packers were at their worst Sunday when they stopped running the ball. After a hot start behind Eddie Lacy where they went up 14-0 in the first half, their offense stalled as they seemed to forget about him. It picked up again when Lacy did in the second half. Most Bears fans will remember that the Packers did an uncommonly good job of running the ball on Thanksgiving with Lacy. Had they stuck to it, they probably would have won that game, too.

Something tells me that the Packers turned a corner yesterday. Lacy is a load and he’s tough to stop behind an under-rated run blocking offensive line in Green Bay. It’s a little early to tell but it’s entirely possible that with good, spirited defensive play, the Packers could finally be on their way to another Super Bowl run.

Bears a Bad Team. But We Knew That.

Hub Arkush at lambasts the Bears as a bad football team:

“So what is left to play for in the final three weeks of the season?

“It is critical [head coach John] Fox gets this team a couple more wins to add confidence in his young players and retain the faith of his new fan base.

“Without a couple more wins, it will be difficult to continue to argue this team is better than last year’s, and a lost season is not something Bears Nation will take kindly to after the promise of just a few weeks ago.”

Though I agree with most (really all) of what Arkush said in this article, I’m going to mildly disagree with the final conclusion above.

The Bears don’t have to win any more games for the core of the fan base to be happy. What the fan base needs to see is the team play better and get back to maximizing its talent. A good indication that they are doing that is if they substantially reduce the very damaging fifteen penalties for 151 yards that they’ve had the last two weeks.  As John Mullin at CSN Chicago points out, more intensity, especially at the beginning of the game, would also be welcome.

“A lack of urgency was almost palpable in Soldier Field when a team that prided itself on being fighters and finishers was neither, twice now, with the season on the line. That perhaps was the most disturbing aspect of the Washington game, and really the San Francisco game as well. That the Bears weren’t “starters,” effectively spotting mediocre opponents advantages and then and only then deciding they’d better get going.

“’The bottom line is that we have to come out and match their intensity,’ said rookie nose tackle Eddie Goldman, one of the few Bears who played anything close to a consistently solid game. ‘Usually we do that. In practice we do that. I can’t pinpoint exactly what was wrong, but we’ve got to start fast and finish.’”

A better show of character would, indeed, be welcome at this point in the season.  Fans need to see what this coaching staff and the core talent on this team is capable of when it’s not shooting itself in the foot with dumb mistakes.

If the Bears do what they’re capable of, the wins will probably come. But fans don’t just live for wins. If they did, they wouldn’t be fans for long because only one team wins the Super Bowl every year. What fans live for is hope. And even if there are no more wins on the schedule, the end of this year is about hope for the future.

Lots of Work to Do “Up Front” for the Bears

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune attributes a good part of the Bears mediocrity to problems in the offensive line:

“The Bears didn’t hit them often enough and started way too slow in falling behind 14-0. [Right tackle KyleLong joked he would set his alarm clock an hour earlier next Sunday. There are some key parts here and Long has been pretty steady in a new role most of the season. Left tackle Charles Leno might well be a keeper. In between, the Bears could stand to get better.

“Besides making their field goals, getting better up front is the best way to help them prevail in close games.”

Matt Slauson didn’t do much wrong Sunday and he’s a pretty solid starter up front, as well. Hroniss Grasu will get a year in the weight room before the Bears give up on him and I’m guessing Will Montgomery will still be around to pick up the slack as a less than ideal replacement if Grasu doesn’t develop. But right guard is a serious issue and none of the options since the season started have been palatable. That should be the Bears primary target.  With lots of teams around the league needed offensive line help, not to mention most of the NFC North, I’d expect there will be a lot of competition finding help in that area, especially in the draft.

I might add that though he didn’t concentrate on it, Biggs carefully said that the Bears need to get better “up front”. That includes the defensive line where the Bears have Eddie Goldman and Jarvis Jenkins appears to be serviceable. But they don’t have much else and five technique defensive end looks to also be a major target for an upgrade this offseason. More pass rush up the middle in the nickel formation would also be welcome.

Football games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage. It appears that the Bears have a lot of work to do.