Senior writer jclombardi highlights Packers big win over Bears.
Packers’ backups step up big on defense in victory: LB Erik Walden was unleashed on the unsuspecting Chicago Bears on Sunday. With a playoff berth on the line for the Packers, Walden might have been the best player on the field. He led the Packers with 11 tackles, sacked Bears quarterback Cutler twice and helped limit tight end Olsen to 29 receiving yards in Green Bay’s 10-3 victory at Lambeau Field. “He did a fantastic job,” said linebacker Matthews. “He played a magnificent game. It’s hard for a guy to come in halfway through the season, pick up the defense and make an impact. That’s what he’s doing.” Decimated by injuries and challenged by a revolving door at several positions, the defense somehow got better as the season progressed. Green Bay (10-6) now travels to Philadelphia (10-6) for an NFC wild-card game scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Sunday. “It’s a combination of the guys upstairs bringing in good players and just being a team,” said linebacker Bishop who also got his chance because of injuries to players ahead of him. “Whoever gets plugged in there, they wear the same ‘G’ on their helmets as the rest of us. We approach the game as one.” CB Woodson added, “That has had to happen with the amount of injuries we’ve had. Backups and practice squad guys who have been called up, they’ve had to play and play well in order for us to get into the playoffs.” The Packers finished the regular season with the No. 2 scoring defense in the NFL, behind only Pittsburgh. The Steelers allowed 232 points for a 14.5 per-game average; the Packers allowed 240 points for a 15.0 average. “We always feel like it’s on us,” Bishop said. “Even if the offense scores a lot of points, the only way to win is to stop them from scoring. That’s our job, and we take a lot of pride in it.”
Packers’ special teams turn tables on Bears: The Green Bay Packers have been dominated many times by the Chicago Bears’ special teams. On Sunday, the Packers did the dominating. “We know we got him this time,” Jarrett Bush, the Packers’ senior-most core player on special teams, said after the 10-3 victory at Lambeau Field. “We executed and played disciplined.” It had to be a tremendous moment for Shawn Slocum, the second-year coordinator of special teams whose units had been regarded as the Packers’ weakest link. In fact, the steely Slocum acknowledged it probably was his finest hour in Green Bay. “Because of what this game meant and the way we played,” Slocum said. “I thought we played a solid game. With that, it feels good to be in the playoffs.” The game turned in the third quarter on a punt return of 41 yards was by Tramon Williams, the Packers’ dynamic cornerback who unselfishly has handled the punt returns all season. It set up the tying field goal. Hester wasn’t really a factor was due to exceptional punting by Tim Masthay and the inspired coverage. “Absolutely, he’s our punter,” said Slocum. “He’s a good player.” Masthay was more than that Sunday. Of his eight punts, four finished inside the 20, and Hester was able to return just two. “Lambeau Field. January. Against the Chicago Bears,” said Masthay. “The best punt returner probably in the history of the game. That was a lot of fun. I’ll remember this forever.”
Packers 10 Bears 3–Nothing comes easy: It wasn’t easy, but then again, nothing has been for the Green Bay Packers this season. From their up-and-down play to an avalanche of injuries to some plain ol’ bad luck, in the end, the Packers (10-6) overcame it all and earned the sixth and final spot in the NFC playoffs, setting up next Sunday’s matchup against the NFC East-champion Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Instead, they’re headed to Philadelphia, and they’ll do so with a defense that saved the day while the offense managed just enough plays to win. From wide receiver Donald Driver’s first-quarter fumble, to right tackle Bryan Bulaga’s second-quarter holding penalty to wipe out a 32-yard gain, to wide receiver Greg Jennings’ drop of a potential 50-yard touchdown pass just before halftime, to quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ third-quarter interception, the same offense that put up a season-high 515 yards last week couldn’t get going Sunday. “I don’t know, maybe guys pressed a little bit or were a little uptight. I’m not sure. But we certainly didn’t execute very well,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “We didn’t have great rhythm, we didn’t have great tempo, we didn’t make a lot of plays. I don’t want to say we were dysfunctional, but we need to play better if we’re going to help this team. It was a little bit of a disjointed kind of day. We never really got in a good feel that we were executing up to our capabilities.” But punter Tim Masthay (eight punts, 43.5-yard gross average, 36.6-yard net average, four punts inside the 20-yard line against dangerous Devin Hester) and the aggressive, blitz-heavy defense kept the Packers in the game throughout.