Not many people gave the Bears much of a chance to upset the Packers on Sunday night. Not with Chicago missing its first-string quarterback, starting a guy who was coaching high school football not so long ago, and playing a third- and fourth-string running back in place of Matt Forte.
But Chicago’s Josh McCown was more than solid, running back Kahlil Bell looked fantastic and Chicago played evenly with the Packers in the first half (and ultimately outgained Green Bay 441-364). But the Packers did what the Packers do and dominated the second half to finish off Chicago 35-21 and secure the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Before we anoint the Packers an automatic Super Bowl team, though, they still have issues they need to correct. Here are three that the Bears helped expose tonight.
Run defense: It’s easy to talk about how (statistically) poor the Packers pass defense is (though Green Bay has faced the second-most pass attempts in the league this season, so the statistics look a little worse than they should), but the run defense isn’t all that wonderful either.
Without Ryan Pickett, who was out with a head injury, in the lineup, the Packers showcased a major weakness through the entire first half. Bell -- the Bears third-string running back -- looked like an All-Pro, gaining 89 yards on 14 carries in the first half (he finished with 121 yards). Last year on their run to the Super Bowl, the Packers allowed 114.9 rushing yards per game, ranking 18th in the NFL. This year, after Sunday’s game, they give up 114.4 yards per contest, ranking 16th.
Listen, that’s not terrible. But against a Bears team that was one-dimensional, starting a third-string quarterback, the Packers knew Chicago would have to rely on its running game. Green Bay just couldn’t stop it. Against most teams, the Packers offense doesn’t allow that to matter, but in the playoffs, when Green Bay could be facing a top-notch defense like the 49ers, this could become a major hole.
|Week 16 recap|
Besides, without the starting tackles in there, Rodgers looks to make quick passes or get out in space on play-action. If Clifton, who’s been out since Week 5 with a bad hamstring, and Bulaga (a sprained knee last week who might not return until the postseason) can be back for the playoffs, that probably would make Rodgers -- who was sacked four times in last week’s loss to the Chiefs -- feel better.
Running game: Twice, in the span of one series, the Packers running back busted up a play and forced Aaron Rodgers to scramble a few yards and then fall down to avoid danger. Once, it was Ryan Grant, once it was James Starks and both times Rodgers couldn’t have been happy.
Starks and Grant were basically invisible anyway. They combined to record 57 yards on 14 carries, and overall, the Packers run game ranks 27th in the NFL. Even if the Packers become the most one-dimensional team in the league, it probably won’t matter with Rodgers running the team. But if he struggles in the playoffs or gets injured, Green Bay could be in trouble.
But Clay Matthews made a good point after the game in regards to how these issues could affect the team in the future.
“When you have a quarterback like that,” Matthews said on NBC, “you’re allowed to make a couple mistakes.”
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.