Packers were Soldier Field soldiers
Stephen O'Brien, Packers contributor
Dec 29, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (27) leaps over Chicago Bears cornerback Tim Jennings (26) during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Photo: Image by Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
As I said last week, the game against the Bears was always going to be a Packers win. It was never in the script that the Packers would fall to the Bears.
My confidence was such that I wrote an article about how fate was somehow stronger than stats and bore the brunt on social media from readers that asked me if I had watched the defense this season. I have watched the defense this season. I have watched each and every snap and I have seen their potential.
Against the Cowboys, the defense showed that they can help stage a second half comeback despite looking set to suffer a huge defeat. Some said it didn’t count, as it was a defensive stance against a QB like Tony Romo, renowned for 2nd half meltdowns, but they caused interceptions through aggression and pressure so I credit the defense all the way.
The Packers face San Francisco for the 4th time in two seasons on Sunday having lost the previous 3 games against the 49ers with the worst division winning record for a playoff spot in the league's history at 8-7-1.
The defense started sprightly against the Bears, only to be dominated by one player all game; Matt Forte. By game’s end, Forte had notched up a ridiculous 5 yards per carry and 2 TD's.
As much as it pains Packers fans to admit, the Bears offense is a devastating one. Brandon Marshall is graded as the best WR in the league this season and his chemistry with Cutler is undeniable. Considering this, the Packers did a good job limiting him to 6 receptions for 74 yards and 1 TD.
The TD was also indefensible, a perfectly placed throw to the corner where Marshall corrected his run and dived to haul it in. Again, we find ourselves questioning the defense and fretting over their caliber coming into a tough game against a Niners offense that seems better than it really is.
Their 12-4 record hides the fact that they currently stand at 24th offensively and a dismal 30th in passing. Their danger comes in their rushing attack with Gore and Kaepernick standing at 3rd in the league.
It seems their gamble on Kaepernick being the complete QB has failed and he has his shortcomings in passing. Take the threat of scramble from him and he is reduced to an RG3 style threat of this season.
The Bears defense was what lost them the game. Languishing around the bottom of league rankings, they were bested by an offense on Sunday that made big plays to close out the game.
Rodgers, back after 7 weeks of injury, speculation, frustration and ridicule, was by no means on top of his game. This may sound odd or even blasphemous to some, but it is fact. Rodgers undoubtedly is the best QB in the league hands down, and it is up to his cool headedness and accuracy that the Packers defeated the Bears (along with Kuhn, Nelson and Cobb's skilful assistance of course).
That said, his passes seemed slightly off the mark and at times high. His interception in the endzone to Conte was down to a bad read and his 2nd interception off the hands of Nelson was due to a poor throw that was too far behind and too high for Nelson, a player that notched up 161 yards on 10 catches from 15 targets.
According to profootballfocus.com, Rodgers only received pressure on 7 dropbacks out of 43. Of these 7, Rodgers was sacked twice and intercepted once. At one stage, Rodgers' QB rating sat at 45.1.
All of this was blown out of the water by his sensational play later in the game and perhaps the most memorable and heroic final drive I have ever witnessed in the 4th quarter, one that featured three 4th down conversions with help from Kuhn, a diving Nelson and a wide open Cobb.
The Packers played clever on that final drive.
Kuhn, one of the best loved and talented fullbacks in a dying position, played incredibly. Perhaps the best blocker in the NFL at his position, Kuhn’s 4th-and-1 completion was nothing short of genius.
Let’s face it; the Packers completed this play when the entire Bears defense knew exactly what the play was, and after a delayed period, to allow them be completely certain it was going to be the play.
Throwing to Nelson on 4th down and short was a masterpiece as well when it seemed the Packers would utilize a RB to complete. Nelson’s diving catch on a poorly thrown ball was also indicative of his position as the 2nd best graded receiver this regular season.
Cobb’s game winning reception and TD was one of the best football moments I have ever witnessed. The confidence to run the route, gesture for the ball and then haul it in for a score is insanity. On a 4th down, where one mistake could end the Packers season, Cobb said that he ran the route knowing he would be in space behind a poor Conte.
To volunteer himself to be the hero or villain in this battle of old rivals was brave and the courageous Cobb ended the game with two receptions, two TD's and the win.
A notable mention has to go to the stable of RB's in James Starks and Eddie Lacy.
Lacy, nursing an ankle injury but remarking that the pain is always worth a W, notched up 66 yards and a TD that he skilfully punched in from the corner after readjusting a run up the middle, bootlegging into space to the left and breaking the left side plain of the end zone.
Starks was also sensational. Breaking off a 41 yard run, 20 yards of which were after contact with Bears safety Conte, Starks averaged 8 yards a carry on the night, helping the Packers to their 4th consecutive win over the Bears at Soldier Field.
Conte had a tough night on Sunday dealing with the Packers offensive weapons and one play to note was that involving TE Andrew Quarless. In a showing of unbridled skill, Quarless hauled in a pass that somehow arrowed its way through Conte’s open hands and after bouncing off the safeties chest.
Quarless made the play whilst completely vertical behind Conte and falling to the turf. This play was a typical indicator of the raw talent possessed by a tight end who has stepped up to replace the seemingly irreplaceable Finley after his early season neck injury shocker.
In all, this win was written in the stars.
A 4th consecutive win over a bitter rival on their home turf, the Packers engineered an astonishing, unlikely winning drive in the face of a brave defense.
If there was any doubt that the Packers are missing some ‘it’ factor, this game and this final drive should put that to bed. I said previously that this team have a little more than stats on their side and I was laughed at.
There is something about this team of soldiers that leads me to believe that they are not quite finished yet. Do you agree with me yet?