With Matt Forte breaking tackles and Jay Cutler slinging touchdown passes, eyes had turned to a Christmas Day encounter that promised as much excitement for football fans, as opening that first present from Santa Claus does for kids of all ages.
Unfortunately injuries meant that there was no Forte or Cutler, with their backups trying admirably to make a contest of things against the juggernaut that are the Green Bay Packers. Instead we got to see the Packers get back on track even if they had to wear down a stubborn NFC North divisional rival.
It means that there will be no playoffs in Chicago as they’re left to rue what may have been, but for injuries. Green Bay instead will turn their attention to the playoffs, with homefield advantage secured you have to wonder if, after the wakeup call that was Kansas City, can anyone stop them? Let’s take a look at some of the key performances.
Chicago – Three Performances of Note
Too little too late?
With Caleb Hanie finally benched after some atrocious performances, in came Josh McCown (+0.0), and while the results were hardly earth shattering, you can’t say the Bears lost this one because of him. He handled the blitz particularly well, completed 12-of-16 on the 17 occasions the Packers blitzed him (with one scramble), with his struggles tending to come when he had time. Indeed both of his interceptions came when the Packers didn’t get any pressure on him. It was the kind of display that a month ago that would, you feel, have been good enough to get the Bears an extra win or two without Jay Cutler. But perhaps that’s just me being mischievous.
Back to the bench?
It’s never easy to go up against the Green Bay receivers, but in his first game back as a starter Zackary Bowman (-2.7) didn’t have the best of times. 10 times he was targeted with the end result being six receptions for 52 yards. Not terrible until you consider three of those were touchdowns. And he committed two penalties. You wonder what Tim Jennings will make of this, who after a solid season had a terrible day against Seattle and got benched? Can we expect something similar for Bowman?
When we write about the Bears you can normally be sure of one thing; that the offensive line will come in for some criticism. So it’s nice to say that they had one of their better days of the year, combining for a positive grade overall. Sure, Chris Spencer (-1.6) gave up four pressures, but the run blocking provided enough room for their backs to work, and McCown can’t say he wasn’t given enough time to make throws. The line got some big assists on the edges with both Matt Spaeth (+1.9) and Kellen Davis (+3.8) impressing.
Green Bay – Three Performances of Note
Back to his best
A good day for Jordy Nelson (+2.7) after his bad day against the Chiefs, catching six of the seven balls thrown his way for 115 yards and two touchdowns. His emergence this year as a consistent threat has been as big a reason as any for the Packers finding a way to step up on their SuperBowl year, with Nelson dropping less balls and giving defenses fits with his ability to get in behind them.
Same old problem
It’s incredible to think that as good as the Packers are, they could be better. When I say this I’m looking at their linebacker grouping, particularly Erik Walden (-3.3) and A.J. Hawk (-1.4). While it will be interesting to see what happens with Hawk if D.J. Smith continues to develop the way he has, there’s less speculating going on at the ROLB spot. With Walden generally a non entity, there is a need to upgrade, but looking at the performances of Brad Jones (-2.3) and Vic So’oto (-2.3) doing nothing to suggest they’d act as such. Fortunately when Clay Matthews (+3.0) plays like he did, you can overcome such issues.
Still got it
I’m among a number who don’t think Charles Woodson (+2.1) not only isn’t a Pro Bowl type player, but he isn’t even the best cornerback on his team. That said (and while Cris Collingsworth went overboard in making everything he did seem like the super-best thing ever) Woodson looked excellent against the Bears. Three times he was thrown at, allowing nothing and breaking up a pass, while doing a good job when he found himself in the box defending the run. The 2009 DPOY is an interesting study, because as a cornerback he clearly isn’t the player some of his peers are when it comes to covering receivers. But his instincts and all round game, combined with a timing for making plays, make him pivotal to the Packers team, and that was on full display on Christmas day.
– Aaron Rodgers stat for the week. He completed 5-of-10 on balls outside the numbers on the left, and 16-of-19 inside those them.
– Rookie free agent Dom DeCicco played his first two snaps in the NFL. Granted they were with the Packers kneeling down but it all counts the same.
– The Packers missed twice as many tackles (eight) as the Bears (four)
His first five touchdown game? Well go on then let’s give it to Aaron Rodgers with an assist to Jordy Nelson.