Admittedly, I'm one of the ones that had this down as a loss, no matter how it got sliced (if you listened to either of the pre-game segments we did). This was one of the things I didn't see happening.
- Losing a starting quarterback can be a great equalizer - superstars are superstars for a reason, and make no mistake about it, Aaron Rodgers is a superstar; when you don't have that superstar available, things can change in a hurry. The Packers' offense just isn't the same with Seneca Wallace at the helm.
- That being said, after Rodgers' injury, the Packers only had to have one offensive gear - hand the ball to Eddie Lacy and James Starks. Between the two, they had a combined yards-per-carry of 6.78, which is just insane. Lacy contributed a 6.8 - Starks contributed a 6.7. What contributed to them having such a night? Lots and lots of missed tackles, bad gap fits, more bad tackling, overpursuit, and not being able to square up Lacy for anything.
- So why the Packers decided in the third quarter and fourth quarter to continue to put the ball in Wallace's hands over and over again... Bears fans should probably be sending Mike McCarthy a thank-you card. Wallace is serviceable enough, but once Rodgers felt the season's worth of pent-up wrath of Shea McClellin, the only reason the Packers kept in the game was because of Lacy and Starks.
- It sounds like I might be making excuses for why the Bears won and the Packers lost. The thing is, if team depth didn't matter over the course of a season, the roster wouldn't be 53-deep, and with both sides completely beset by an NFC North Pro Bowl's worth of injuries (Jay Cutler, Lance Briggs, Clay Matthews, Jermichael Finley, D.J. Williams, Henry Melton, Aaron Rodgers, Nick Perry...), the Bears' 53 outlasted the Packers' 53. It showed that backups matter. I don't think we want to relive the Caleb Hanie - Tyler Palko extravaganza of the 2011 season ever again.
- I think we can also say the Bears have gotten used to playing without a defense, whereas the Packers aren't used to playing without a passing game.
- Josh McCown was really good, especially for a backup. Honestly, when Sam read the stats off yesterday, it did catch me off guard slightly that his numbers were that pedestrian - then again, like Cutler, I'm not sure he's had a better collection of weapons since he's been in the league. And a lot of plays yesterday were to not try to do too much himself, just let a guy get open, get the ball in his direction and let him make a play.
- And then McCown stays alive in the pocket, shakes off a would-be sacker, and makes a perfect throw to the open side for Brandon Marshall to go make a play on it and catch a touchdown. McCown's pocket presence was pretty solid all night long. As was his scrambling ability to pick up 20 yards for a first down.
- That doesn't mean McCown's the starter going forward. Of course not. McCown came in and did what he was supposed to do - be ready to play, play well, and keep the ship upright for the Bears to pull out a game. If the reports of Jay Cutler being ready to come back on Sunday are true, Cutler's the starter, but you have to feel good about the Bears' backup situation if something further were to happen to Cutler.
- If anything, it should also give a little confidence that Marc Trestman can get a quarterback ready to play and contribute to an offense. Especially when the offense last night was as balanced as it was between Matt Forte making plays and Josh McCown throwing for 272 yards. And that fourth down playcall was really gutsy - in your own territory ahead by less than one score, and on top of that, pulling the center when most teams might be expecting something up the middle - so you know they're coming up that way anyway. It makes that play just that much more dangerous, especially if somebody's just a step slow. Really though, going for it was a call the Bears weren't required to try, but it worked out.
- Especially because with that call, the Bears' offense (!) took nearly nine minutes off the clock (!!) in marching down the field (!!) and adding points in a clutch situation (!!!) to force the ball out of Eddie Lacy's hands in the final minute and into Seneca Wallace's (Exclamation points!). Let that sink in.
- Easily the best pass-rushing day of the Bears' defensive line's season, especially in the first and fourth quarters. They were still too easily blocked away in the running game, but at least in pass-rushing, they came through. Julius Peppers had a batted interception and a sack (and probably should have been credited with two, if not one and a half - the third sack of the game would probably fit in the Packers' version of "Sacks Happen") and looked as disruptive as he has all year, Corey Wootton picked up a beautiful sack on a great gap-shoot.
- You'll pardon me for taking a second to pound the Shea McClellin drum. Yes, I openly acknowledge he probably shouldn't have been credited for sack number two, though his disruption did force Wallace to move into Peppers' direction, and I thought Peppers got enough of him to pick up the sack even though Wallace just kind of fell over. On Shea's first sack, Rodgers may have tried to run in his direction, but McClellin still got off a block (!!) to get over and sit on him. McClellin's third sack was simply not trying to do too much, hit the tackle with a spin move, and get into the backfield and make a solid hit on the quarterback.
- Does it mean McClellin's arrived? Put simply - no. What it does mean is that McClellin does have some skills, especially in chasedown, and he could have had another sack had he kept his hands up and his feet under him (and didn't faceplant) on a free rush. It also means he took advantage of a favorable offensive tackle matchup - which is what a first-round defensive end should be doing. At the least, it's progress.
- McClellin still needs work on stopping the run, however. I don't want to dedicate three bullets to McClellin, but Jon Gruden got on Major Wright for going outside when James Starks cut inside to the massive gaping hole - McClellin was blocked in that direction, when McClellin should have been able to get over into that hole and try to seal it to force the run outside to Wright.
- I think we're ready to throw Major Wright off the team, however, because he missed plenty of tackles, still missed plenty of gaps, and missed plenty of plays without that one.
- Attention - if you have seen Jon Bostic, please return him to the Chicago Bears. Thank you.
- We should be talking about a James Anderson pick-six today. Instead, we're talking about "James Anderson why can't you catch a pass." Not sure he can face better balls than that one off a Juggs machine.
- The Bears' offensive line was solid yesterday in giving up one sack - McCown dodged a few bullets, but Matt Slauson and Jermon Bushrod showed why the Bears liked them as veteran pickups, and Kyle Long made a beautiful block on Forte's touchdown. The Bears' offense actually made the win possible - especially by holding edges in total plays run (75 to 55 - B.J. Raji was absolutely gassed in that final Bears' drive and the Bears just kept going at him) and time of possession (33:09 to 26:51).
- The Bears picked up the only four penalties of the game - and I can't have been the only one thinking that with the few playable defensive tackles currently on the Bears, that we can't have Stephen Paea committing a personal foul penalty on the first drive. It was a rough, physical game with a lot that could have been called but wasn't, and so be it.
- David Bass was flashing a little bit last night.
So with that win, the Bears advance to 5-3 on the season and tie up the entire NFC North in a three way tie - and if Rodgers will be out for any length of time (reports this morning are that the swelling is preventing a real diagnosis, though he does have an MRI today), that keeps the division wide open for the Bears and Lions. The Bears can negate the Lions' tiebreaker with a win next Sunday and flat out take the lead themselves now holding a tiebreaker over the Packers. Short turnaround against a team coming off their bye week.
What are your thoughts this Victory Tuesday?