Sunday, September 25, 2011
Just as I thought, when the Packers meet the Bears with Jermichael Finley in uniform, and in the absence of a flurry of penalties, the Packers win the game, pretty convincingly. Finley was just about unstoppable, scoring all three Packer touchdowns, apparently the first Packer tight end 3 TD game since Keith Jackson (Whoa Nellie! I am referring to the player, not the announcer) scored three touchdowns in the season opener in 1996. Sunday's game was not as close as the 27-17 final score would suggest.
The Packers' passing offense was aided significantly by a 92 yard rushing day for Ryan Grant. After missing all three Bears games last year, I am sure it felt great for Grant to be such a contributor. The defense managed to hold Matt Forte to 2 yards rushing, and while Cutler got a lot of yards, the Packers sacked him 3 times and intercepted him twice. Woodson played a lot at safety in this game, returning to his cornerback position when the Packers were in nickel pass coverage. Neither Woodson nor Matthews had gaudy stats in this game, but both were steady contributors, and Matthews in particular was very disruptive, as the TV announcers mentioned.
Meanwhile, I cannot imagine the disappointment of the Bears' coaching staff and players over the result of their masterful trick punt return play. With a minute left in the game, and trailing by 10 points, the Bears uncorked a beauty of a play. The Packers had been punting away from Devin Hester all afternoon, and did so again, punting to the Packers' left sideline. But Hester, on the Packers' right side, sprinted further to the Packers' right side, acting as if he was waiting for the ball to come to him. Every Packer player, except punter Tim Masthay, bit on the fake, assumed that Masthay had mistakenly punted to the Packers' right side, and they all swarmed to Hester's side. Meanwhile, Johnny Knox fielded the ball on the Packers' left sideline, and headed up field, with one lead blocker taking out Masthay, the only guy who realized the ball was over on the left side. It would have been a touchdown, but for an absolutely meaningless holding infraction by Corey Graham, blocking one of the gunners early on in the play. He didn't need to hold anybody; whoever he held probably was 20 yards or more away from the play at the time. Now even if the Bears got the touchdown, they would have had to recover an onside kick and score a field goal to tie up the game. But it was a beautifully-designed play, one of the sweetest special-teams plays I have ever seen, and it was screwed up by a needless penalty. Even Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings were raving about this play.
So the Packers are 3-0, which, as we were told, means that there is a 76% chance they will make the playoffs. In the case of the 2011 Packers, I think the chances are a little higher than that.