New Bears head coach Lovie Smith was big news all week as his January statement that beating Green Bay was the primary goal was rehashed again and again. The Packers were sick of the talk but they did nothing to make Smith eat his words.
"I've never been in a fight where some guy told me he was going to beat me up and he beat me up," Packers linebacker Nick Barnett said.
The Packers, indeed, were beat up. Running back Thomas Jones ran wild, carrying the ball 23 times for 152 yards. Grossman, the young quarterback, was hardly great, but he made enough plays to keep the Packers honest.
The story of the game, however, was Jones. A week after the Packers allowed just 38 rushing yards at Carolina, Jones led a Bears run game that piled up 182 yards. The big blow came after halftime, with the Bears ahead 14-3. On third-and-1, Jones ran up the middle practically untouched for 54 yards. That set up Jones' 1-yard plunge that gave Chicago an insurmountable 21-3 lead.
"When we came out at halftime we wanted to get a three-and-out and shut them down," Packers safety Darren Sharper said. "Thomas Jones hit that big run and that kinda kept (the Bears) going."
The speedy Jones had most of his success exploiting the middle of the Packers' defense, which was missing 370-pound run-stuffer Grady Jackson. While Jackson missed most of the Carolina game, the Packers had the element of surprise on their side with regard to their blitzes. The Packers had no such element of surprise against the Bears, and Jackson wasn't there to hold the point.
"I don't actually know how much (we miss Jackson), but I know what Grady brings to the table," Sharper said. "Whenever you lose one of your guys up front who kinda controls the running game it slows (the defense) down."
The Packers will be without Jackson for at least another week, meaning they had better fix Sunday's problems in a hurry. The Bears silenced the Packers' blitzes with a barrage of play-action fakes, bootlegs, cutback runs, end-arounds and fake reverses. All of the above took the edge off the Packers' aggressiveness.
"We knew they were a good offense. But no way in hell did we expect them to run on that us for that many yards," Barnett said.
When the Bears weren't fooling the Packers, they simply were overpowering them. On the critical offensive play of the game, Jones burst for 54 yards on a third-and-one to reach Green Bay's 16-yard line. Chicago's offensive line manhandled the Packers' front four, and linebackers Barnett and Na'il Diggs were shoved aside to give Jones a huge hole. On the next play, both defensive tackles were handled on one-on-one blocks as Jones ripped off 11 more yards to the 5. One play later, Jones scored easily from the 1 as defensive end Aaron Kampman was pushed several yards inside by a tight end.
"No one else is getting 170 on us for the rest of the year," Barnett said of the run defense. "You can write that down if you need to. We're going to make some corrections and we're doing to go and fix it."
They had better, because no matter what the defensive scheme, if you can't stop the run, you can't win.