Taming The Bears

CHICAGO – The Green Bay defense bent, bent, bent, bent and, in the end, never broke against the Chicago Bears Sunday at Solider Field.

After giving up 55 yards and a field goal on the Bears' first possession, the Packers regrouped and throttled Bears running back Anthony Thomas, allowed zero big plays, and made a last-minute stand to help Green Bay beat Chicago 20-12.

"Whenever you can play dominating defense on the road, it helps everyone on your team," said Packers defensive tackle Santana Dotson. "That was a tug of war out there, a real knock down, drag out fight that could have gone either way."

Thomas, who came into the game with 535 yards rushing, gained 27 yards on 7 carries and caught a pass for 14 yards on the first series.

"I think we just needed to settle down a little bit," said Packers safety Darren Sharper. "We had to control our gaps in the line, keep to our responsibilities, and not hang our heads." "He's an exceptional runner," Dotson said. "On that first drive he did a great job of picking and choosing where he was going. We had to adjust to that."

The Packers did, and Thomas didn't. Finding yards got tough after that first drive. The rookie finished with 45 yards on 22 carries. Meanwhile, the Packers kept Bears quarterback Jim Miller in check. Although they never sacked Miller, Green Bay gave up 201 yards passing, on 27-for-48 passing. His longest gain went for 25 yards, and the Bears never came closer to the end zone than the Packer 15. And that was with 35 seconds left.

"There will be times in a season when your offense struggles, especially on the road, and you need to keep a team out of the end zone," Dotson said. "We wanted to limit everything that they did. We wanted to make sure if they got a big play, that they earned it on us."

"We would love to have every game be the offense scoring a lot of points, and the defense shutting them down so we can sit in the fourth quarter with our legs crossed and chilling out," said linebacker Bernardo Harris, who recovered a fumble and had 3 tackles Sunday. "But sometimes you have to work mighty hard to keep a team down."

Back on track: Packers kicker Ryan Longwell is back in the groove. The fifth-year kicker made his two field goal attempts against the Bears Sunday, snapping a streak of four straight misses.

Longwell hit a 40-yarder with 9:33 left in the first half for the Packers' first points, and made a 31-yarder with 9:10 in the fourth quarter for Green Bay's final points in the 20-12 win. "I had a really good week of practice, I felt great before the game, and everything was flying straight through," said Longwell, who has already missed a career-high six kicks this season. "I wasn't nervous because of how everything felt so good all week."

Longwell said he made some adjustments during the week. "It's technical stuff," he said. "Because of that, I had a ton of confidence out there."

Longwell has made 9 of 15 kicks this season. Sharper focused: Packers safety Darren Sharper was razor sharp Sunday. Sharper, who led the NFL with nine interceptions last season and the All-Pro safety, was a major pain for the Bears, forcing a fumble and making several big plays.

Sharper played on the line of scrimmage many times to help hold Bears running back Anthony Thomas for 45 yards on 22 carries. In the second quarter, Sharper stripped fullback Daimon Shelton of the ball after he made a catch at the Bears 46. Linebacker Bernardo Harris recovered, and the Packers turned the turnover into their first points of the game.

In the third quarter Sharper blitzed Bears quarterback Jim Miller and forced him to throw incomplete to tight end Fred Baxter. In the fourth period, Sharper blitzed and tackled wide receiver Marty Booker for a 4-yard loss on a third-and-one running play from the Bears 50. That forced a punt, and Green Bay kicked a field goal on the ensuing possession.

Sharper finished with eight solo tackles. "We were trying to anticipate what they were doing," Sharper said. "I was at the line a lot, trying to read what they going to do. I watch a lot of film, and if I saw something that jumped out at me, I reacted. You have to pick and choose when you're at the line like that, but I guessed right a lot today."

Ground gains: Packers running back Ahman Green took another licking Sunday, but kept ticking as he helped Green Bay rush for 100 yards - the first team to do that against the Bears this season.

Green, who came into the game leading the NFC with 681 yards on 131 carries, gained 93 yards on 18 carries against the Bears. He had several double-digit runs, including a 17-yarder on his first carry, and helped get Green Bay's passing game on track. "We kept plugging away with the run," Green said. "Teams want to stop us early, at least they try to. But we kept with it. We have a great offensive line, and today they just did a great job."

Green fumbled in the second quarter at the Bears 14, five plays after ripping off a 24-yard run, his longest of the day. "That will happen. These days, coaches are telling guys to tackle the ball and not the runner," Green said. "Fumbles will happen, like dropped passes or interceptions. If I dwell on it, I can only hurt the team."

Dorsey Levens added 9 yards on 3 carries for the Packers, while quarterback Brett Favre lost two yards on two carries. The last team to gain 100 yards on the ground against the Bears were the Detriot Lions, which rushed for 100 yards on 26 carries on Dec. 24, 2000. Homecoming: Former Chicago Bear and current Packer defensive tackle Jim Flanigan relished playing before his old hometown crowd on Sunday.

Flanigan, who grew up in Wisconsin and played seven seasons for the Bears, made one solo tackle, and even returned a kickoff for 9 yards at the end of the first quarter. "I was extremely excited coming out here today," Flanigan said. "I played here for so long, and with a bunch of these guys. They are an outstanding football team, but I'm glad I was on the winning side today."

You're out: He didn't get a big interception, sack a quarterback or score a touchdown, but Packers safety Chris Akins was happy with one play he made Sunday.

The third-year safety unnerved Bears special teams ace Larry Whigham during a Chicago punt in the fourth quarter. Akins blocked Whigham as Green Bay returner Allen Rossum fielded the punt at the Packers 25. Akins brought down Whigham, squatted on him, and threw a few punches before letting him up. Whigham got up and poked Akins. Akins poked Whigham back. Then Whigham threw a punch.

Whigham was penalized for a personal foul and ejected from the game. "I did want to retaliate, but I told myself forget it," Akins said. "I knew I didn't get a flag because I let him up. But he crossed the line. He did something that's not allowed in a football game. It felt great. I felt just like scoring a touchdown."

All-star fill-in: Packers left tackle Barry Stokes earned high praise from his boss for filling in for starter Chad Clifton, who was inactive with an injured ankle.

"Chad wasn't even available to us as a backup, but we had Barry, a journeyman, and he stepped right in," said Packers head coach Mike Sherman. "I love him to death. He came in prepared and helped put us in a position to win a football game. In this game, you're only as good as your 53rd man, and we have a lot of good 53rd men."


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