You wouldn't have thought a game with a lot of rain, cold, and at night would be a riveting game, especially if you were told it would be Bears/Packers at Lambeau, which has been nothing short of a house of horrors for Jay Cutler and the Bears the last few years.
But, this isn't the Bears of years past. This year's edition has been playing tough, hard-fought games all year long and found a way to win another tough, hard-fought game in a tough situation.
They won a game in which they couldn't get out of their own way offensively, at one point committing three penalties on a single offensive series, and defensively completely unable to generate a pass rush. Enough credit for the win can't possibly go to the back four, headed up by Tracy Porter, who had a hell of a game, and Bryce Callahan, who's been getting some notice with his play at nickel back.
Oh, and Jay Cutler got his first win as a Bear in Lambeau, as he had himself a solid, efficient game in conditions that necessitated just that, and not doing too much.
Speaking of not doing too much, how about Aaron Rodgers doing his best Brett Favre impression on Brett Favre Retirement Night with special guest Brett Favre and the Bears and Packers? We'll get into broadcast complaints and other notes later, but for now, we have a game to get to.
Although you wouldn't know that it started on time, judging by the Bears' slow offensive start. The Bears' first two drives generated 10 yards on six plays. Meanwhile, the Packers got things started early with the running game, as their second play of the game went for 29 yards as Eddie Lacy is apparently very hard to tackle going downfield, shrugging off an Adrian Amos attempt. Later on in the drive, the Packers attempted to convert on 4th and 2 and handed it to Lacy, but Jonathan Anderson and Pernell McPhee blew up the play.
The Packers' third drive saw the Pack strike the first blow, as three plays after Tracy Porter had an interception taken away from him for an illegal contact penalty, Rodgers gave a little shovel pass to Lacy, who motored 25 yards for a touchdown.
Things stagnated into the second quarter, when Chris Prosinski punched the ball out of Lacy's hands and Lamarr Houston pounced on it at the Green Bay 34 yard line. The Bears took 9 plays to cover the distance, but Marc Mariani converted two third downs on the drive and Zach Miller hauled in the touchdown strike from 3 yards out on 3rd down, as he came free across the middle of the end zone.
On the next drive, the Packers got an immediate huge boost from Jeff Janis, as he slipped a couple tackles and sliced through the Bears' special teams unit for 64 yards, to the 33. From there, the Bears bent badly, but eventually stalled the Packers at the Bears' 5 yard line, thanks to an offensive pass interference call that may have been a bit charitable (we'll discuss the officiating later; it wasn't pretty). Mason Crosby knocked in the chip shot.
Deonte Thompson gave the Bears a spark of his own, taking the Bears to the 42 to start. Jeremy Langford contributed a 14-yard gain, then after an Alshon Jeffery 11-yard gain, Cutler found Marquess Wilson who slipped a tackle and dove for the goal line, coming up just short for 19 yards. Langford pounded it in, staying perfect on goal-line plunges. In the waning moments of the half, Crosby drilled a 50-yard field goal, and the half came to an end.
The second half started with a bit of a whimper, as the Bears received, but couldn't do anything with it; the Packers first drive of the half continued the trend against the Bears, as Lacy picked up 15 yards on three carries, but then the Packers put the ball entirely in Rodgers' hands, which normally is a good idea (I mean, this Rodgers guy is pretty good, if you didn't know), but when the run game is working generally pretty well, in a close game, why not keep feeding him?
The drive ended when on third and 15, JC Tretter launched the ball well past Rodgers and was recovered by Rodgers at the 45, out of field goal range. Rodgers took a Lamarr Houston helmet on the elbow and was looked at by trainers, but didn't miss an offensive snap.
This worked out well for the Bears, who took their next drive well into the fourth quarter over seven minutes and 29 seconds. However, at the goal line, Matt Forte couldn't punch it in twice and Cutler couldn't find Alshon Jeffery, and the Bears kicked a field goal. If you said you didn't have a bit of dread with Aaron Rodgers getting the ball down four points, you're a dirty liar.
However, the Bears' back four was having none of it. Porter had four passes defended last night, with Callahan and Jonathan Anderson picking up the other two. Lacy started off the drive running for 12 yards on 3 plays, then Rodgers couldn't hit his receivers and the drive ended on Willie Young's sack.
Marc Mariani picked up his third third down conversion, this time for 21 yards, to push the Bears into Green Bay territory, but a penalty on Kyle Long and a tackle for loss of five yards on Jeremy Langford, coupled with a botched shotgun snap of their own created 4th and 19, which led to a punt.
The Packers started off fast on their next drive, but then the unthinkable play happened. After 10-yard and 18-yard Rodgers scrambles and a 12-yard pass to Richard Rodgers and the ball on the move, Rodgers missed Davante Adams after he was nudged off his route and threw to Tracy Porter, Rodgers' first interception against the Bears since 2013.
The Bears couldn't do anything with the ball as they sought to ice the game, and with 4th and 1 (yes, another fourth down play) at the Green Bay 46, they chose to punt it. Both choices are defensible, while the stat robots prefer the conversion attempt, I was okay with the call to punt. The Packers burned all their timeouts on the drive and, while the Bears could win with a first down, the defense had been clicking and the Packers must get into the end zone to win - adding extra yardage (though you'd prefer it angled out of bounds inside the 10, something Pat O'Donnell hasn't gotten yet) isn't the worst idea ever.
The Packers tried to make it the worst idea ever. Right on cue, Rodgers hit James Starks on a leak screen for 18 yards, then later found Randall Cobb matched up on Callahan and hit him for 32 yards to get inside the 20. After forcing 3rd and 7, Rodgers found Davante Adams for 8 yards for the first down. And after two forced incompletions, Tracy Porter batted away the third down attempt and Adams let the fourth down attempt fly through his hands, and the Bears had their win.
I'll just say here - the officiating was all around bad. Both teams had the benefit of bad calls and both teams were the victims of bad calls. The story of the game is when the Bears had to make plays, especially defensively, they made their plays, and the Packers didn't.
- All this of course on the day Brett Favre's number was retired, and from the broadcast, you would almost swear the game was a background event to the ceremony of retiring Brett Favre's number. Favre was even in the broadcast booth in the fourth quarter, which did nothing but take attention off of what was a really close game at the time. It's one thing if it's a blowout, and maybe that's what the network had counted on, but Favreapalooza really took away from the game. The sentiment in the locker room after the game seemed to be that they took offense at being invited over for the Packers' "Homecoming."
- I hope somebody sent Mike McCarthy a gift basket after the game, because rushing for 177 yards and 6.3 yards per carry, and going away from it when you need to regain tempo and offensive control in a one-score game, is usually not a good idea. Rodgers and the Packers' receiving corps didn't have it last night, and the Bears were having a hard time handling anything on the ground all game. Christian Jones had six tackles, but it wasn't a good game for him.
- It really can't be understated how good a job the back four did in this game, oftentimes having to hold perfect coverage for longer than four or five seconds while the pass rush was apparently huddling with offensive linemen to keep warm, for how quickly they were getting off blocks (hint: not very). The Bears were credited with two sacks, neither of which was particularly quick and largely driven by very solid coverage, and six quarterback hits, including one hard body slam on Rodgers.
- Marc Mariani may not be much good on returns, but he was a very useful option around the first down sticks. And speaking of occasionally useful options, Mitch Unrein was again the lead blocker on a Jeremy Langford touchdown; it really seems to agree with him.
- Alshon Jeffery caught 7 balls for 90 yards, but I'm not sure how healthy he looked; seemed like he could benefit from another 10 days of rest. Same with Matt Forte.
- Jeremy Langford could use ten days to find his hands - he nearly cost Cutler an interception knocking the ball high in the air.
- I really like the look of Marquess Wilson running after the catch. Very smooth, good speed.
- The Bears found a way to hold the Packers scoreless in the second half and for the fourth week in a row held their opponent to below 20 points. Every week they look vulnerable, get gashed on the ground badly, and yet for the last two months they've largely found ways to play well enough to win.
- The offensive line wasn't "one sack allowed" great, but Cutler did a great job of moving within the pocket, finding a spot to step up into, and at least getting the ball out. He had a couple screens blown up and missed a few throws, sure, but he got the ball out and made very few dangerous throws. Even a throw into triple coverage in the end zone was nearly hauled in by Zach Miller high-pointing it, and that throw was to a spot where Miller was the only guy who could make a play on it.
- Early in the game, Kyle Long was struggling in protection, but started to solidify as the game went on, even if he got a little too familiar with the yellow flag. Charles Leno, on the other hand, played well but still got schooled by a Clay Matthews spin move to force an early throw. Dom Capers sent several multiple-man blitzes to one side, especially the left, which gave Cutler fits early. But the offense played better as the game went on and handled the pressure more easily.
- The Packers and Rodgers got the Bears, particularly an eager Pernell McPhee, to jump offsides numerous times for free plays. Gotta wait, Pernell.
- Bonus points to Deonte Thompson for realizing he could take a knee even after Marc Mariani let the ball slip through his hands on a kickoff.
- The Bears controlled the ball for 31:12 and converted 5 of their 12 3rd down attempts, which went a long way towards salting out much of the second half. Not bad for a team that ran the ball at a 3.3 YPC clip and only picked up 17 first downs, compared to the Packers' 23.
Let's summarize things. On a cold, rainy night where the Packers were retiring Brett Favre's number, with sloppy officiating in general in sloppy conditions, in the Bears' and Jay Cutler's house of horrors, the Bears overcome their own penalties, their own lack of pass rush, and play a tenacious, efficient game to stun the Packers.
What are your thoughts on last night's win?