Re-Focused – Packers @ Bears, Week 3

| September 28, 2011

In a rematch of the 2010 NFC Championship Game, the Green Bay Packers traveled to Soldier Field once again in the latest installment of ‘the rivalry’. Once again the Packers were able to get out of Chicago with a win and maintain their place at or near the top of power rankings everywhere as the Super Bowl Champions look to repeat.
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This game went more or less as you might expect, though Chicago was able to keep it closer than perhaps it should have been by virtue of turnovers –  something the Bears seem always to be able to manage.
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In the end the gulf in talent on the two rosters was able to tell and the Packers simply had too much for the Bears, coming away with a 10-point margin of victory, 27-17.
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Green Bay – Three Performances of Note
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1) What happened to James Starks?
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When James Starks got his shot at the tail end of last season, it was his purposeful and powerful running in no small amount that gave Green Bay an extra dimension they had been without for much of the season. He gave them what Ryan Grant gave them when he first burst on the scene from a similarly obscure background. That guy was AWOL in this game. While Grant (+1.8) was running with direction and purpose, cutting into holes and getting down hill in a hurry, Starks (-3.3) seemed confused and unable to commit to a hole, often dancing between them behind the line of scrimmage and allowing defenders to swarm and engulf the run.
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2) Jermichael Finley with an excellent game … run blocking.
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Jermichael Finley’s score of +4.6 was extremely impressive, but what was perhaps more impressive is that he was a +1.6 in the run game, where you usually don’t find him excelling. That’s not a slight on the guy, since he has the kind of receiving weaponry that makes people forget about blocking entirely. Seeing him block with this kind of purpose and success in a game against a defense that isn’t lightweight was extremely encouraging.
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3) Who cares about sacks?
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It has been suggested that Clay Matthews isn’t playing that well. I mean look, he couldn’t get a sack against the Bears – known the world over for awful pass protection. While it’s true that he didn’t notch one, he was able to record a pair of hits and another pair of pressures, and was even more disruptive against the run. In that part of the game, he was constantly looping around the offensive tackles and chasing plays down from behind before they could develop. Matthews’ +4.3 PFF grade represents a very good day at the office, and though expectations may be raised when you’re playing a team like the Bears, with that offensive line, if he plays to this level the next time they meet, he will have done a fine job as well.
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Chicago – Three Performances of Note
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1) The O-line is still broken.
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OK so the Packers’ defensive front isn’t a particularly easy encounter for any set of blockers, but the Bears’ line showed an all-too-familiar face, grading poorly in multiple positions. Chris Williams (-3.1), Roberto Garza (-2.5) and Frank Omiyale (-2.1) were the main culprits, and though J’Marcus Webb wasn’t exposed the way he usually is, you could hardly say he played well. That leaves just Chris Spencer, the only member of the four that wasn’t with the Bears last season, as the only one to grade in the green with a +1.4 for his performance. The Bears simply can’t hope to challenge in any meaningful way if they can’t improve up front. Neither Cutler nor the running game can overcome their blocking for long.
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2) Where for art thou Julius?
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Back in Carolina, Julius Peppers had a reputation (and one well earned) as a player that could be dominant one game and anonymous the next. It seemed that if you poked the bees nest you would see a game for the ages from him, but all too often he seemed disinterested, just going through the motions. For a player of his physical talents that is pretty inexcusable, but he seemed like that in this game, rarely doing much to prompt his name being called, and though he did get himself a sack, and one more pressure, it came from 39 pass rushes. He was also far from a force against the run, something he is well capable of. Hopefully this was just a poor game, and not a return to the Peppers that only seems to show up for half the games in a season.
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3) Old reliable.
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There’s something comforting about the reliability of the Bears two stalwarts, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Like the poem, “when all around you are losing their heads …,” Briggs and Urlacher just seem to perform at a steady level and make plays. Briggs was dominant against the run, cutting down blockers and making stops for fun during this game, and Urlacher was able to come up with one of his trademark interceptions. Urlacher dropped away from the line and undercut a pass intended for Jermichael Finley, diving for the interception as he has done many times before. The only issue for Chicago is that they were almost alone in terms of impressive showings on D.
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Game Notes
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●  Corey Graham saw a snap on defense, presumably earned purely by his special teams play.

●  Aaron Rodgers completed 81.1% of his aimed passes in this game. Cutler just 67.6%

●  James Starks had an Elusive Rating of just 9.3 this week. To put that into perspective Buffalo’s Fred Jackson currently leads the league with an ER of 119.5
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PFF Game Ball

Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers

Three touchdowns and a fine blocking performance seals it.
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