Stills: Breaking it down

Ex-safety breaks down Packers-Bears game; looks ahead to Seattle

In the 171st game between the Packers and Bears football fans got exactly what they were looking for. Two old-school football teams battling it out in perfect football weather. There's nothing fancy about these two clubs offense and defense. Both teams lined up in a pro style offense, pounding the football on the ground and using play-action to throw the ball downfield. Both teams run a 4-3 defense and play smash-mouth football. This is how football is supposed to be played. Line up and let your players play.

Offensively
The Packers continue to prove that they can be a productive offensive unit, even against the league's No. 1 defense. The offensive line played one of its most productive games pertaining to the pass. Up until the final drive of the game they had held the Bears defense without a sack. That's too bad because the two sacks at the end of the game virtually took the Packers out of scoring range and eliminated the possibility of a comeback. The Packers' running game continues to struggle. With all the injuries to the Packers running backs, 65 yards on the ground was all the team could muster.

In the first half the Packers offense had 198 total yards, with a time of possession difference of 11 minutes, 30 seconds. Statistically in the first half the Packers dominated the Bears. The score was 14-7 at halftime with the Bears leading. The Packers had success moving the chains, getting first downs and controlling the clock. This in turn allowed the defense to rest between series. What is slowing this Packer offense down are the penalties, turnovers and the non-contribution from the special teams. The Packers were penalized 9 times for 69 yards and had four turnovers. The special teams started the game by dropping the opening kickoff and then missing a key field goal that would have put points on the board.

In the second half the offense went totally stagnant. Their first offensive series went three plays and punt. The next series the offense did a nice job of moving the football but the Bears No. 1 red zone defense kept the Packers out of the end zone. The Packers attempted a field goal on fourth down, but Ryan Longwell, who is working with a new holder, missed the short kick. On the next series Brett threw an interception for a touchdown to Bears linebacker Lance Briggs and at that point things started to unravel. Again the offense went three and out, plus another Favre interception. An 85-yard punt return for a touchdown by Antonio Chatman, the first one since 2001 and a fourth quarter field goal still had Green Bay in position to tie the game, but another interception by Favre ended the Packers' comeback.

It was good to see the offense after last week's performance come back and play with the emotion that's needed to compete at the NFL level. You could see the emotion in the players this week, and it really carried the team through the first half. What they need to do now is bottle that up for four quarters.

Again the things that have been a thorn in the Packers side throughout the season are the same things that hurt them this game, turnovers and penalties.

Defensively
The defense had to devise a game plan against a quarterback who hadn't started a game the entire season. Grossman's last game was Aug. 12 during a preseason game, so the Packers didn't have a lot to go on regarding a game plan. Grossman proved why the Bears drafted him No. 1 in 2003. He was the difference-maker in the Bears offense on Sunday. Grossman finished the game 11 of 23 for 166 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The offensive line did a great job of protecting him throughout the game, only giving up one sack. They were very productive in the fourth quarter controlling the clock. The Bears went back to their running game, which allowed Thomas Jones to rush for another 100-yard game.

In the first game against Chicago the Packers defense played great on third down, holding the Bears offense to 0 for 9 on third-down conversions. In Sunday's game the Bears were 5 of 13 on third down, and this was only the second time all season that the Bears scored on their opening drive. In the first half Grossman was 7-13 for 120 yards and a passer rating of 146. His addition to the Bears offense had an immediate impact on their offensive output.

With that being said the Packers defense still kept Chicago's offense out of the end zone in the second half and had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.

Defensively they've been playing good enough to win games. There were two series in the Chicago game that the Packers will look back on and hopefully learn something from. The opening drive of the game and the long 54-yard pass completion on the Bears' third possession. As a defensive unit the Packers need to learn how to start a game. They need to come out and make a statement. You want the offense to know that today's game is going to be a battle, a slobber-knocker. The defense did record a sack and an interception and stopped the Bears offense numerous times. What they need to do if they're going to take positive steps toward improving week to week and next season is eliminate the constant mistakes and big plays. Learn how to come out and make teams fear you. By improving in these areas and continuing to work together as a unit, nothing but positive things are in this group's future.

Sunday's Game
The Seattle Seahawks come to Lambeau Field with a 13-2 record, home field advantage and a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. Coach Mike Holmgren is coming back to Green Bay riding on a high. The one-time Packers coach could have stayed here in Green Bay, but the organization felt it had to go in a different direction. No hard feelings I'm sure, but as you can see Holmgren is still one the best coaches in the NFL.

What makes a coach successful is having good players and keeping them healthy throughout the season. Holmgren has been blessed this season because his star players have stayed relatively healthy. Sherman on the other hand has been playing with second- and third-string players. Change teams and situations and I guarantee Holmgren has the same problem. It's a bad scenario, but Coach Mike Sherman has done a great job of keeping this team focused, competing and trying to win games.

Holmgren wants to win this game. He has a chance to give the Seahawks one of the best records in franchise history. He will probably sit most of his starters, but he calls the offensive plays and plans on doing whatever it takes to win this game, especially at Lambeau Field. Coaches, like players, always feel they have something to prove. Holmgren still wants to prove to Green Bay, you let the wrong coach get away.

As far as the Packers are concerned, Favre will continue his playing streak and try to win another game for the loyal fans at Lambeau Field. I expect the offense to have an outstanding passing performance against Seattle. Defensively the Seahawks are giving up more than 220 yards a game passing. They are a pretty solid team against the run, only giving up 96 yards a game. If the offensive line can protect Brett like it did last week and eliminate the turnovers this could be a productive day for the offense.

The defense will be facing the No. 1 offense in the NFC. They have the NFC's top quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck and Pro Bowl running back Shaun Alexander. This will be another big challenge for the Packers defense. The key to this game will be how long Seattle plays its starters. For the Packers sake, hopefully not long. If the Seahawks rest their starters and Green Bay can play their second-team players against Seattle's second team guys then maybe this will be a competitive game.


Former safety Ken Stills played for the Green Bay Packers from 1985-89. He is currently an assistant coach with the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe.


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