Report card vs. Bears

Passing offense, rush defense below average against Chicago

Granted, QB Brett Favre had one of his more prolific games of the season with 31 completions and 277 yards through the air. However, he was put in a position of having to throw the ball 58 times (17 in the game-ending series), three short of his career high, and that opened him to the punishment inflicted by Chicago's merciless defense and led to him making a couple of painful mistakes. He wasn't remotely close to throwing the ball out of the end zone on a broken play deep in Bears territory, resulting in Charles Tillman's easy interception and 95-yard return that set up a go-ahead field goal for the Bears right before halftime. Then, as further testament of how off-kilter he's been of late, Favre threw inside of Donald Driver, and Nathan Vasher snuffed it out with a 45-yard interception return for a late touchdown that sealed the outcome.

The Packers' lax pass protection put Favre in harm's way, especially TE Donald Lee waving a blitzing Tillman on through off the right edge for a blindside shot of Favre that resulted in one of his two lost fumbles. Driver had a quiet game-high eight receptions that totaled all of 64 yards.

For the second straight week, rookie Samkon Gado and the running game took on a Jekyll-and-Hyde persona: a strong, promising first half followed by a nearly nonexistent second half. The Packers gashed Chicago's stout front seven for 67 yards in the opening 30 minutes, including 48 by Gado, who had a 2-yard touchdown run. Save for a 13-yard run early in the third quarter, Gado struggled to finish the game with 75 yards on 20 carries. Get the speedy Gado outside the tackles, and he's a young prospect to be reckoned with. Not so when he's running right up the cluttered middle. An 11-yard run by WR Antonio Chatman in the first half enabled the Packers to attain 100 yards on the ground against a defense that came in surrendering an average of only 92.6.

The Packers have benefited of late from not having to contend with a formidable quarterback who's going to drive an offense down the field with his howitzer arm -- see Pittsburgh's Charlie Batch, Minnesota's Brad Johnson, Philadelphia's Mike McMahon and Chicago's Kyle Orton. Yet, the common denominator in those four outings is a loss for Green Bay. The Packers limited Orton to 68 yards on 6-for-17 accuracy and, coupled with a Mark Roman interception in the first quarter, kept his passer rating to a laughable 23.7.

And while Al Harris shut out would-be playmaker Muhsin Muhammad in the catch department, the Packers gave up a couple of big pass plays. Ahmad Carroll was beaten badly for a 34-yard completion to Bernard Berrian, which set up a field goal in the second quarter. Orton connected with Berrian again for an 18-yard pickup on a fade pattern against nickel back Mike Hawkins early in the fourth quarter, leading to another field goal. Green Bay, though, flustered Orton with three sacks and didn't yield a third-down conversion in eight pass plays.

The second-half-of-the-season woes continued for a once-sturdy defensive front, which was hit for 100-plus yards on the ground for the fifth straight game. The Bears racked up 139 yards, averaging a healthy 4.5 yards per crack. While the Packers held RB Thomas Jones (19 carries, 93 yards) under the century mark for the first time in the teams' last four meetings, he exploited their recent tendency to overpursue and took a cutback run at the line of scrimmage 27 yards on the first play of the second quarter. Middle linebacker Nick Barnett also continued to be plagued by missed tackles, though he was Johnny-on-the-spot for recovering a bungled toss play to Jones in the first half.

Adrian Peterson was an effective change-of-pace back for the Bears, producing 48 yards on 11 carries.

Punter B.J. Sander, the pro equivalent of a redshirt freshman after being deactivated all of last season, couldn't withstand the heat of his first NFL game in frigid, blustery conditions. Sander was out of sorts at the outset of the game, mishandling the snap and getting off a kick that traveled 14 yards. He then shanked a punt out of bounds all of 21 yards in the second quarter. A 50-yard boot in the third quarter enhanced the average to 35.7 yards on the day, his second-worst of the season.

The maligned return units were just as dismal. Antonio Chatman mustered three yards on his only punt return and literally slipped in an expanded role on kickoff returns, averaging 12 yards on three runbacks before being removed from those duties late in the first half.

Carroll got a shot in the second half and was marginally better with two returns averaging 21.5 yards. Ryan Longwell didn't attempt a field goal for the second straight game.

The season now can be labeled an unequivocal failure. The Packers don't even own the city of Chicago or the state of Illinois anymore after their 11-game road winning streak over the Bears was dumped into Lake Michigan by an uninspired performance. Talk of playing the spoiler against the NFC North front-runners was just that. The defense did all right in not giving up a touchdown to an otherwise anemic Chicago offense, but Barnett and Roman showed a lack of focus with drops of would-be interceptions.

Familiar holding and false-start penalties on offensive linemen were drive killers, not to mention poorly executed blitz pickups that endangered Favre. Speaking of the quarterback, coach Mike Sherman again refrained from calling out the spotty decision-making of his offensive leader, suggesting not everyone is being held accountable for the collapse this year.

Packer Report Top Stories