Jclombardi highlights Packers headlines day after loss to Bears.
Guest senior writer jclombardi @ http://lombardiave.com
Packers couldn’t handle their own hype: This was an epic collapse for a team that has its sights set on the Super Bowl. The Packers set a team record with 18 penalties, wiping out Finley’s touchdown as well as two fourth-quarter turnovers. Their special teams gave up two long kick returns, including Hester’s 62-yarder for touchdown. Receiver Jones’ fumble both scuttled Packers’ potential game-winning drive and set up Bears’ winning field goal. “We lost our composure,” receiver Jennings said. “Anytime you have that many penalties and mistakes, you’ve lost your composure.” They were an undisciplined mess. It’s true that rookies committed both penalties that overturned both turnovers. Linebacker Zombo’s hit to Bears quarterback Cutler’s chin nullified Barnett’s interception. A pass interference call against safety Burnett put the Bears in position for Gould’s game-winning 19-yard field goal. Rodgers contributed to the mess. His intentional-grounding penalty pushed the Packers back 10 yards on the play prior to Jones’ fumble.
Bears 20 Packers 17–Mistakes by the lake: Generally, after games like Monday night, when the Packers outgained the Bears (379-276), had a huge edge in time of possession (35 minutes, 49 seconds to 24 minutes, 11 seconds) and essentially gave away the game on wide receiver James Jones’ fumble with 2:18 left to play, the losers go through the motions of giving the winners credit. But after Monday night, those clichés were in short supply. “We can’t shoot ourselves in both feet and win a 100-yard race,” said linebacker Nick Barnett, whose potential victory-clinching interception with 6:38 left in the game was wiped out by a roughing-the-passer personal foul penalty on rookie linebacker Frank Zombo. Or, as wide receiver Greg Jennings put it, “You only have so many shots to kill yourself, and we did everything in our power to beat ourselves as far as penalties, fundamentals.”
Long night of oops and downs for Packers: The combination of ends Peppers and Anderson driving blockers into the backfield and coach Mike McCarthy eschewing the running game for a spread offense spelled disaster for the Packers. What started out as a good night offensively proved to be temporary as the Packers slid down a slippery slope and ended up playing right into the Bears’ hands. Despite outgaining the Bears, the Packers scored just once in the second half. The offensive line played a huge part in the loss as Peppers, Anderson and Idonije continually pushed tackles Tauscher and Clifton into the backfield and within a hair of quarterback Rodgers. McCarthy went to a spread game against the Bears and dared them to blitz. Instead, the Bears played heavy zone coverage and mostly rushed four. Rodgers didn’t complete a single pass to a wide receiver longer than 18 yards. The offensive line had eight penalties–three of them holding and four of them false starts. It appeared the group wasn’t up for the challenge.
Packers special teams play especially awful game: One mistake after another by the Green Bay special teams unit made a difficult NFC division game on the road even tougher on the Packers Monday night at Soldier Field. In the end, Chicago won, 20-17. Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said it wasn’t a matter of dedicating more practice hours to special teams. “I don’t think it’s about focus, it’s about execution,” he said, “and we’ve got to execute week to week.” This unit collapsed in Week 3 after decent outings in the first two games. The worst play may have been at the start of the fourth quarter, when Packers punter Masthay boomed what would have been an impressive 57-yard punt out of his own end zone to give the Packers some room on defense. But tackling was a problem, and Chicago’s Devin Hester returned to his form of a few years ago, bringing the return back for a 62-yard touchdown.
Penalties erase defensive effort: Instead of capitalizing on some great defensive play in the first half, when they sacked Bears quarterback Jay Cutler three times and picked him off once, the Packers managed to shoot themselves in the foot one toe at a time when it counted most, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They had Cutler seemingly where they wanted him and then the game simply got away from Green Bay. “That’s a lack of focus, a lack of discipline that we displayed out there,” said a dejected linebacker Nick Barnett in the Packers’ locker room.”
Post game report: Why did the Packers lose?–The Packers blew a 10-0 lead because penalties and special teams miscues at the worst possible times killed them. Things to feel good about–1. Rodgers was superb. With a non-existent running game, Rodgers gave the Packers the appearance of one by taking what the Bears’ Cover-2 defense gave him. He completed 34 of 45 passes for 316 yards and one score. Rodgers completed 75% of his passes as he ran West Coast offense. Three things to worry about–1. Penalties: A franchise-record 18. 2. Special teams: Tim Masthay had a net average of 19. A field goal got blocked. They gave up a punt return for a TD. Mason Crosby kicked a ball out of bounds. Tramon Williams had a nice punt return called back. 3. Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher: Not only did they have six penalties combined, but even if Rodgers wasn’t sacked, both had a rough time in pass protection. Add in that they don’t give you a whole lot in run blocking in this zone scheme. They need to play better. They’re getting paid a lot of money.
Packers at a loss to explain team record 18 penalties against Bears: It wasn’t so much that the Chicago Bears won 20-17 Monday night, it was more how the Green Bay Packers essentially handed their opponents the victory in a nicely wrapped package. Green Bay unintentionally picked a national Monday Night Football stage to set a rather dubious team record that gave the Bears a win, with the Packers committing an unconscionable 18 penalties for 152 yards, breaking the former team mark of 17 penalties against the Boston Yanks (the who?). Maybe it was the 180th renewal of the bitter rivalry between the two NFC North teams. Maybe the Packers took the Bears too lightly. Or maybe it was just the domino effect where Green Bay became more flustered with each subsequent yellow penalty flag thrown. Rather than rattling the Bears, who remained calm, cool and collected, the Packers seemed to grow increasingly desperate with each call whistled against them. Take your pick.