Packers-Bears Report Card

Where did the Packers receive high marks in Sunday night's key 21-15 victory over the Chicago Bears? Just about every phase of the game.

PASSING OFFENSE: C — Aaron Rodgers saved the best on an otherwise subpar night for last, hitting a wide-open Greg Jennings in stride on a nifty third-and-1 play-action call that loused up the Bears for a 50-yard touchdown with 71 seconds to play to decide the outcome. Take away that big strike, and Rodgers' passing output would have been at a meager 134 yards. Rodgers was a shell of his brilliant preseason self, thanks mostly to an offensive line that routinely put him in danger against immense pressure from Chicago's defensive front. Rodgers, who stayed clean in the four exhibition games, was sacked four times. Allen Barbre had an inauspicious first pro start at right tackle, failing to hold up against the speed rushes of left end Adewale Ogunleye, who had five quarterback hits with two sacks. Barbre unofficially was guilty of seven pressures, six in a horrendous first half. The Packers also allowed an uncontested run-in by blitzing safety Danieal Manning off the corner when tight end Jermichael Finley released, resulting in a takedown of Rodgers in the end zone for a safety. Rodgers, who completed just 17 of 28 passes, was victimized by at least five drops but also was out of sorts with three overthrows and another bad pass into double coverage. Still, he was interception-free for the game.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus — The Packers' per-rush average of 3.5 yards wasn't anything to write home about, but Ryan Grant from time to time regenerated the explosiveness that was missing for most of his bad hamstring-plagued 2008 season. Grant had tremendous burst in getting to the outside and turning the corner for a 17-yarder, his long gain of the game, in the second quarter — fullback John Kuhn sprung Grant with a lead block and Barbre sealed the edge. Grant then ripped off a 25-yard run to the same side on the next play, but the advancement to the Bears' 8-yard line was erased by a holding penalty on center Jason Spitz. Tight end Donald Lee sealed a defender on a 15-yard run by Grant in the third quarter. Grant finished with 61 yards in 16 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown right after a long interception return in the first half — it was one of eight runs by him for less than 3 yards. A lax Barbre caused a 3-yard loss for Grant on a stuff in the backfield by defensive end Mark Anderson in the final quarter. Green Bay had only two halfbacks, and DeShawn Wynn offered little (three carries for 8 yards) as a third-down and change-of-pace back.


Johnny Jolly tackles Devin Hester.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
PASS DEFENSE: B — As wild as Jay Cutler was in his first start as the Bears' quarterback and the corresponding argument that can be made that he handed all four of his career-high interceptions on a silver platter to the Packers, the fact remains that the recipients of those erratic, ill-advised throws made the plays. Nickel back Tramon Williams made amends for dropping two earlier would-be picks by tracking a badly hurled deep ball down the middle and racing 67 yards the other way to the Bears' 1, setting up the Grant scoring plunge late in the first half. On Chicago's previous series, defensive lineman Johnny Jolly had the best interception of the Cutler quartet, reaching out with his left hand to snag an attempted middle screen to Matt Forte on third-and-goal at the 8. Cornerback Al Harris sealed the win with an easy grab of a poorly timed pass thrown to the inside of Johnny Knox. The Packers also were active with myriad blitzes playing predominantly nickel in their new 3-4 scheme, getting sacks from linebacker Brandon Chillar and defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins. Chillar's takedown came after he impressively hurdled blocking back Garrett Wolfe on a blitz off the left side. On the downside, though, were Knox zipping behind cornerback Charles Woodson by a wide margin for a 68-yard reception in the first half and the combination of Woodson and a cramping Nick Collins lagging in zone coverage on a 36-yard touchdown reception by Devin Hester, who had four catches for 90 yards.

RUSH DEFENSE: A — The Bears didn't bother establishing the run with Forte, one of the premier backs in the game. When they did belatedly try to pound the ball with him to minimize Cutler's mistakes, the Green Bay defensive front had the upper hand. Forte was held to 55 yards in 25 carries for a minuscule average of 2.2 yards per carry. He was knocked back for losses on five runs and had three more that resulted in no gain. The play of the short-handed defensive line, without injured top draft pick B.J. Raji, was stout and mobile. Jolly and Jenkins had eight and six tackles, respectively, while nose tackle Ryan Pickett registered four. Chillar also was a catalyst in the ample playing time he received as a fill-in in the nickel package, producing seven unassisted tackles and a total of eight. Three keepers by Cutler for 16 yards boosted the output for the Bears, who averaged only 2.8 yards per rush.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus — The Packers showed marked improvement in another facet that was a thorn in their side throughout last season. Strong kicking by Jeremy Kapinos on punts and Mason Crosby on kickoffs, coupled with solid coverage units, prevented the respective duo of Hester (average of 7.5 yards) and Manning (26.7 yards) from being factors on returns. Kapinos averaged 44.5 yards (35.5 net) in six tries with one placed inside the 20 — Jeremy Thompson failed to keep another directional kick from getting into the end zone. Jordy Nelson did a satisfactory job as the injury replacement for Will Blackmon on returns, running back the opening kickoff 46 yards with help along the way from Jarrett Bush's seal block. Nelson averaged 31 yards on kickoff returns but just 7 yards on punt returns, as Brad Maynard was stubborn in punting the football to the sideline. Crosby hooked a 49-yard field-goal try wide left in the game-opening series but recovered with a 52-yard make in the second quarter and a 39-yard conversion in the fourth period. The most alluring special-teams play came 2 1/2 minutes before Crosby's last field goal. The Bears incredulously ran an impromptu fake in punt formation at their 26 with the football snapped to upback Wolfe. Brett Swain was in perfect position in the run up the middle to tackle Wolfe for a 4-yard gain on the fourth-and-11 play.

COACHING: B — With things going haywire for much of the game, head coach/offensive play caller Mike McCarthy made the right call after the Packers had to take time out just before the game-winning touchdown pass from Rodgers to Jennings. McCarthy backed out of a shotgun formation with three wides and a single back to an I formation with Jennings as the lone wideout, aligned to the left. The designed play-action on the third-and-1 call was to be a throw to the right side to tight end Donald Lee, who turned out to be a decoy for Rodgers as he drew the back end of the defense that way before quickly going over the top to Jennings open on the other side. Since the Bears were insistent on showcasing Cutler in the passing game, first-year defensive coordinator Dom Capers made excessive use of the nickel package in the 3-4, employing it an unofficial 41 times in 69 plays. That resulted in a liberal substitutions from series to series with three of the four linebacker spots. The Packers will need to shore up the pass coverage by their defensive backs in zone coverage, however. First-year special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum had the formation called right when he kept Swain in the box and not rushing with the rest of the gang on the fake punt.


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