RUSHING OFFENSE: D — So much for following through on a New Year's resolution of getting the running game finally up to speed in time for the postseason. Green Bay averaged only 2.6 yards, and the halfback trio of Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn and rookie James Starks combined for all of 39 yards in 16 carries. Starks, back on the field for the first time in three games, led the unproductive bunch with five rushes for 20 yards, though he had an 11-yard burst canceled by another Bulaga hold. That made Rodgers the top rusher with 22 yards in six attempts — not including a 1-yard loss as he took a knee to end the game. The Packers were miserable on back-to-back run plays on the goal line in the third quarter. Kuhn was stuffed for no gain on first down. Rodgers bungled a fake sneak into the line on the next play and made a bad lateral throw to Jackson on the outside for a 2-yard loss, and Green Bay ultimately held to settle for a score-tying field goal.
PASS DEFENSE: B-plus — To the surprise of many, the Bears went the distance with their starters, and that meant a whole lot of uncomfortable moments for quarterback Jay Cutler. The Packers were heavy with their pressure packages, which yielded a season-high-tying six sacks and two big interceptions by the defense. Unsung right-side linebacker Erik Walden dropped Cutler twice, including a blind-side hit on third-and-goal from the Green Bay 4-yard line in the second quarter that forced the Bears to kick a field goal for their only points. The Cutler picks came in the second half, thanks in part to slot cornerback Charles Woodson's liberal blitzing after halftime that caused happy feet and ill-advised downfield throws by the gambling quarterback. Charlie Peprah had an easy grab of Cutler's underthrown football to Johnny Knox in the end zone. Fellow safety Nick Collins snared a bad overthrow to Devin Hester inside the Packers' 15 to seal the victory. Although they held Cutler to woeful numbers of 21-of-39 for 168 yards and a 43.5 passer rating, the Packers weren't sharp in pass coverage. Halfback Matt Forte had eight catches for 60 yards, and Rashied Davis slipped free on slants and outs for seven receptions for 63 yards. Peprah got away with a tug of Knox's jersey on an incomplete pass in the end zone before Walden's clutch sack. The Packers also caught a huge break when Bears coach Lovie Smith called for timeout just as Cutler dropped back and hit Chester Taylor on a checkdown that picked up 16 yards on third-and-15 into Green Bay territory — Chicago failed to convert on the replay of the down.
A.J. Hawk grabs Matt Forte.
Tom Dahlin/Getty Images
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus — Punter Tim Masthay arguably was the MVP of the game, as he all but made dangerous return man Devin Hester insignificant. Hester returned only two of Masthay's career-high-tying eight punts and totaled but 35 yards with a long of 19. Masthay expertly placed most of his kicks near the sideline, though his last two punts were down the middle and the most critical of the bunch. Hester waved off both of the high kicks inside the 10, and gunner Jarrett Bush covered both of them to pin the Bears at their 3 and 2 for their final two possessions as they tried to erase the 10-3 deficit. In all, Masthay had four punts inside the 20 and averaged 36.6 net yards. Hester's counterpart, Tramon Williams, ripped off a 41-yard punt return as he broke two tackles to start the offense in Chicago territory for its third-quarter drive that resulted in Mason Crosby's 23-yard field goal to tie the score. Williams, however, compiled only 9 yards in his other four returns. A mix of pop-up and deep kickoffs from Crosby limited the Bears' explosive Danieal Manning to an abysmal average of 15.5 yards. Patrick Lee replaced Sam Shields on kickoff returns for the Packers and averaged just 23.5 yards.
COACHING: B — The Packers came through with the second of two straight wins they needed to end the regular season with a playoff berth. Yet, they will go into the postseason fresh off an ugly performance by the offense coordinated by coach Mike McCarthy. His play-calling again was open to debate, particularly in the doomed goal-line sequence, though the failed sneak and toss by Rodgers was more about execution (or lack thereof). Defensive coordinator Dom Capers welcomed the Bears' approach of keeping Cutler in the whole game and wasn't bashful about sending a host of defenders at him. Woodson blitzed on 16 pass plays, the majority in the second half, and on a handful of run plays. Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum earned a reprieve from the disenchanted fans with a well-orchestrated scheme to harness Hester.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.