Four-Point Stance: Packers Punish Bears

We provide our analysis and commentary after talking to the coaches about the Packers' 23-10 win over Chicago on Thursday night. What was especially good news about the pass rush? And just how good were Tramon Williams and Sam Shields?

Here is our weekly Four-Point Stance from the Green Bay Packers' 23-10 victory over the Chicago Bears on Thursday night.

Return of the pass rush

The Packers' defense partied like it was 2010.

The pass rush, which took the first flight out of town after Cullen Jenkins signed with Philadelphia, was back with a vengeance.

How's this: Jay Cutler dropped back to pass 35 times. Along with seven sacks, the Packers added four quarterback hits and 15 hurries, bringing their total pressure count to 26, based on ProFootballFocus.com's count. That's a pressure percentage of 74.3 percent.

The good news for the Packers is defensive coordinator Dom Capers didn't have to manufacture that pressure. Asked about his blitz percentage on Friday, Capers said: "The lowest percentage in a long time."

Clay Matthews collected 3.5 sacks but he wasn't a one-man wrecking crew, like he was last season. At outside linebacker, Erik Walden (one hit and one hurry in 14 pass-rushing snaps), Nick Perry (three hurries in 15 pass-rushing snaps) and Dezman Moses (two hurries and seven pass-rushing snaps) were productive. Rookie defensive linemen Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels each had one sack.

"To me, it's one of the real keys," Capers said about getting pressure with a four-man rush. "To be a good defensive team, you have to be able to rush four and get pressure because then you can mix a lot of different coverage combinations. But if you always have to commit five or six, you're going to be singled up and it makes it a lot easier for the quarterback if he can get the ball out quick especially. We pressured a lot more with the 49ers then we did last night but (Alex) Smith's a veteran guy and a smart guy and gets the ball out of his hands. And I thought we had good pressure on the 49ers, but we committed more to rush against the 49ers than we did last night."

Return of the coverage

With a hellacious pass rush, the secondary was outstanding.

Tramon Williams, healthy again after a disappointing 2011, might not have played a better game in his NFL career. When matched up against Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall, Williams was targeted just twice, resulting in no completions and one interceptions. Against Indianapolis last week, Marshall caught nine passes for 119 yards and a touchdown while being targeted 15 times.

"Oh, man, it's tough," said Williams, who finished with two interceptions. "I'm going to tell you, for one, it's tough to shut down a guy like that. It's a total defensive effort to shut down a guy like that. I think that's what it was more tonight. The front seven done their job, and it makes our job that much easier in the back, as we want to play aggressive. We play aggressive on guys. If that can happen all year, we'll be back to where we need to be."

The other revelation was the play of Sam Shields. Back in the starting lineup in no small part because of his third-and-2 stop of Frank Gore last week, Shields was Mr. Invisible against Chicago. Giving away about 5 inches to rookie Alshon Jeffery, Shields was targeted just once and didn't allow a completion in 36 snaps of pass coverage.

"I thought Sam had one of his best games since he's been here," Capers said. "Obviously, we matched up, we had Tramon going with Marshal, so Sam was on his own a lot of times on Jeffery. And I thought he really did a nice job.

"I think he's playing a more physical brand of football than what he has. I think he has put an emphasis on it and he knows we've emphasized it. And I think he's done a nice job."

By the numbers

— 5: The Packers have beaten the Bears on five consecutive occasions, the longest winning streak by either team in the series since Brett Favre and Mike Sherman led a seven-game streak from 2000 to 2003.

— 7: The Packers' seven sacks were their most since Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila had four of the team's nine against Chad Hutchinson at Chicago on Jan. 2, 2005.

— 8; The Packers' division winning streak matches the team's longest since the NFL went to a divisional format in 1967. The 1996-97 and 2001-02 teams also beat their division foes eight consecutive times.

— 8: Career touchdown passes thrown by Cutler against the Packers as a member of the Bears.

— 15: Career interceptions thrown by Cutler against the Packers as a member of the Bears.

— 27: The length, in yards, of Tim Masthay's touchdown pass to Tom Crabtree. Aaron Rodgers' longest completion was 22 yards.

— 55: Career interceptions by Charles Woodson, tying Aeneas Williams for 19th in NFL history. Nine Pro Football Hall of Famers are ahead of him. Only nine players have reached the 60-interception milestone.

Final thought

Overreaction runs amok almost every week in the NFL — but especially so after Week 1 — thanks to the seven-day format leaving plenty of time to hash and rehash anything and everything.

There was so much nonsense written and said last week that it's almost beyond belief. A lot of it was spewed by so-called reporters and experts who've never set foot in a locker room or talked to a coach to have one bit of perspective. Some of it was nonsense from reporters who have access to the team but are just too lazy to do any real work. Rodgers mocked them after the game by recalling the "Everybody panic!" line from the movie "Semi-Pro." It was funny and appropriate.

Were the Packers any good against San Francisco? No, but people who think Smith is a lousy quarterback are stuck in the past and haven't a clue of the quality of his supporting cast. The 49ers, with their physical running game getting a boost from an upgraded set of receivers, are a tough matchup at anytime, and especially in Week 1, when there wasn't a bit of meaningful film for the coaches and players to study their many new wrinkles.

With all of that said, Thursday's win over Chicago was just one game — just like the loss to the 49ers. As constructed, this Bears team has no chance to win the Super Bowl. Jay Cutler, with his penchant for throwing brain-dead stupid passes when rushed, needs to stand behind a modern-day Seven Blocks of Granite. Rather than granite, Clay Matthews and the rest of the defensive front seven treated the Bears' line like the Seven Layers of Tissue Paper. The ensuing pick parade was as predictable as death, taxes and road construction.

The bottom line: We'll learn infinitely more about the Packers in the next month (at Seattle, vs. New Orleans, at Indianapolis, at Houston) than from the first two games.


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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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