Wayne Larrivee's pregame notes for Packers-Bears
Jordy Nelson. Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Defense better than it ranks
The Green Bay Packers defense is ranked 11th overall in yardage 331.1 yards per game, 20th in yards per play 5.5 and 16th in points allowed 158.
Actually the defense has surrendered 151 points, as seven points came via a kickoff return to start the Minnesota game a week ago.
While the Packers defense is ranked in the upper end of the middle of the pack overall, a significant amount of yardage against the defense has come in garbage time, when the game is over, after the “dagger” has been thrown.
The Packers have played three blowout type games, Washington, Cleveland and at Minnesota.
In week two the Packers led Washington 31-0 with 10:09 to go in the third quarter.
The Skins went on to score three touchdowns, 208 yards in 26 plays.
Week seven, the Cleveland game was over when Jarrett Boykin scored on a 20 yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers with 8:30 to go in the fourth quarter.
The Browns compiled 60 yards on 18 plays scoring seven points.
A week later at Minnesota the Packers, for all intents and purposes, put the game out of reach at 38-17 on the second play of the fourth quarter.
The Vikings proceeded to score 14 points, going 130 yards in 13 plays.
In “garbage’ time” the Packers defense has been on the field in for 57 plays, giving up 398 yards, 6.9 per play and 42 points.
In the fourth quarter this season Green Bay has been outscored 80 to 43. In the first three quarters of their games the Packers have outscored their opponents 169 to 78.
Stats are nice but why is this happening?
Part of it may be the type of defenses the Packers call in those situations, namely contain rather than attack.
With the clock on their side, the Packers’ objective is to take away the big play and force time consuming possessions by their opponents.
With safeties back deep and soft “contain coverage” on the corners, the Packers are fine with a little pitch and catch if it takes time off the clock.
Stats or not, when the game has been on the line, the Packers defense, more often than not, has been pretty darn good.
The Packers should be able to run the football effectively against this Chicago defense without DT Henry Melton, MLB Brian Urlacher (retired) and Lance Briggs.
The Bears appear to be small up front and they get “glued” to blocks. Chicago is giving up 117 yards rushing per game, 25th in the NFL.
Turnovers are always a key when facing a Chicago Bears defense--the Bears rank 5th in the NFL with 18 takeaways.
But they’ve forced just four turnovers, all interceptions, in their last three games.
The Packers have given-up the football just nine times in the first seven games, but they are minus two on the turnover table with only seven takeaways, three interceptions and four fumble recoveries.
Take advantage of third downs
The Packers have converted 64.5% of their third down opportunities in the past two weeks, 46.4% for the season ranking third in the NFL.
The Bears defensively are 28th in stopping third down conversions at 44.3%.
These are two of the top three scoring teams in the NFL both averaging over 30 points a game. Are we in for a shootout?
Probably not if the wind continues to blow hard as it has so far today here in Wisconsin.
Remember these pro teams can throw the ball effectively in any weather — with the exception of wind. Wind impacts the passing and kicking games.
Believe me, the Bears, even with backup Josh McCown at quarterback, want to take advantage of a Green Bay pass defense ranked 21st in the league and 20th in yards per pass attempt (7.64) but weather conditions may dictate a ground game for both sides.
Both teams have capable runners: Matt Forte who is third all time in Chicago rushing annals, and the tandem of Eddie Lacy and James Starks for the Packers who are 3rd in the NFL averaging 141.4 rushing yards per game.
Special teams coverage must be sharp tonight for the Packers who are dead last in the league, giving up 32 yards per kickoff return and 16th in punt return coverage.
Devin Hester. the NFL’s all time kick and punt return touchdown leader. is once again flipping the field as he averages 29 yards per kickoff return, 5th in the NFL and he’s fourth in punt returning 13.3 with an 81 yard punt return touchdown at Washington.
Kick and punt placement in sync with coverage is a must tonight for Green Bay.
I’d be remiss if I did not mention the Bears must deal with the league’s leading punt returner — Micah Hyde is first in the NFL averaging 18.6 yards per return, bolstered by a 93 yard return for a touchdown at Minnesota.
Enjoy the 187th meeting of the Packers and Bears tonight from Lambeau Field!