Oh, what a win! Dramatic fashion! On a picturesque evening at Lambeau Field, it started off in awful fashion. But, once again, this Packers team showed its resiliency, mental mettle and will to win as they outfought the Lions over the course of 60 minutes. Nothing comes easy for this Packers team, but due to sheer determination and a fortuitous fumble return, the Packers can clinch the NFC North Championship at Soldier Field. But, before we dive into the Bears game, here's some vibes from the victory over the Lions:
* DaJuan Harris! Yes, that's right, I just kicked it off with DaJuan Harris! Amazing! After the game, Aaron Rodgers said "he has the chance to be special." That is enough to get me excited. Harris displayed great vision, quickness, and power. He seemed to have a turbo button inside of him and appeared to add a speed dimension to our offense. After watching his YouTube video, it's clear that he can catch the ball as well. I fancy he'll be more involved in the action this week. It wouldn't surprise me to see him utilized via the screen.
* Don Barclay! If he keeps this up, all Packers fans will be yelling: LET'S GOOOOO MOUNTAINEERS! LET'S GOOOOO DRINK SOME BEERS! The Dub-V grad has made an enormous impact on our running game and he's a battler in the passing game as well. He will be tested in grand fashion this weekend as I expect to see Peppers lined up across from him on Sunday. Sure, the Bears will use a rotation, but they'll expect Pappers to be dominant when he matches up with Barclay.
* Hopefully, after this year, Harris & Barclay will add to the legend that is Ted Thompson.
* Aaron Rodgers, the reigning MVP of the National Football League, delivers a belt and a Lambeau Leap post an epic 3rd down TD run.
* Thought Alex Green showed some power with the football.
* The game winning TD was a 7-play drive. All 7 plays were run plays. That's two games in a row in which the run game has produced crucial drives in the 4th Quarter.
* After the 7-play TD drive, the defense got the stop! It was time for an attempt at a "Championship Drive." Cobb had just ran elegantly down the sideline on the punt return for 13 yards. McCarthy came out in a wishbone formation with Greg Van Roten & John Kuhn as FB. It looked like a run play. McCarthy called play action and looked for the HR. In 2012, we haven't been able to hit the deep ball. Once again, we didn't, but the beauty is found in the fact that if we keep running the ball, defenses will have to trust the run and that play will be open. Further, we've shown the play action on film, so defenses may expect the bomb, which could open up the offense even further.
* On the big play of the "Championship Dive", Rodgers found Cobb for 38 big yards on 3rd down. Oddly, the Lions only rushed 3. The Lions pain was the Packers gain. Cobb is clearly the go-to guy for Rodgers.
* For those that are new to the blog, let me remind you of the CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE. Championship teams know how to deliver the dagger. The have an internal knockout punch. Such as having the ball early in the 4th Quarter with a 2-score lead and delivering the points required to make it a 3-score game and put it out of reach. Or when you have the lead and the ball with under 6 minutes in the 4th Quarter. A 2-score game clinches victory. Championship teams find those points. The last two weeks, the Packers sealed wins late like Championship teams do.
* Rumble On, Mike Daniels. He is our best DL right now. Not because he recovers a fumble that is blown out of a QB's hands by the ghosts of Lambeau and then returns that fumble for a momentum changing TD. Daniels gets a push nearly every time he's on the field. And, when you work hard, you create your own fortune.
* I believe in Mike McCarthy. It's not always pretty, but he wins. Often. Not to put the cart before the horse, but if the Packers finish 12-4, it'd be an absolutely remarkable achievement by McCarthy. All along, we've known that this team would both evolve and improve as they season grew old. We are playing an abundance of youngsters. Well, who knew, but we are establishing an identity that's based around a commitment to running the ball and we've displayed a character centered around intestinal fortitude. We've been punched in the gut. We've responded with authority and a never say die attitude.
* EDS as a pulling guard! Showing some agility. Might see him as a FB some this week. I expect Lang to be back at LG, which would make EDS the extra blocker instead of Van Roten.
* BJ Raji providing a push. Keep working, big man.
* Brad Jones knows where he should be. He's a hard working player. A smart player. He's in the right place, he's just not good enough to finish every play. Still, I admire his effort, intelligence and desire. Reminds me of Ron Cox from the '96 Packers team.
* Liked seeing a feisty AJ Hawk in the 2nd half.
* T-Mon gon' nose-to-nose and toes-to-toes with Calvin Johnson and playing extraordinary!
* Welcome back, Sammy Swagga! Play On, Playa!
* I will always remember Frank Zombo for his HUGE sack in the 3rd Quarter of the XLV victory. Sadly, he looks awful right now.
* Walden & Moses look exhausted. We need the Claymaker back. Immediately.
* Casey Hayward is a stud! Love his work in the slot. Now, hang onto the ball, mate.
* How is that a 15-yard penalty on Morgan Burnett?
* Good game Josh Sitton & Marshall Newhouse.
* When I watch Nick Fairley, I hope Jerel Worthy's career follows in similar footsteps. Worthy looks like he can't play at this level, but Fairley looked like an average playe last year. Both were beasts in college. Fairley has returned to beast status. Hopefully, the same happens for Worthy next year.
* Has Jerron McMillan hit the rookie wall? Sure seems like it.
* Well done, Mason Crosby. Find your stride, bro.
* J-Mike looking sure handed and fighting for yards. I likey!
* Ryan Grant. Good to see you again.
This week, it's Bear week. Once again, the Packers travel South to attempt to win a title at Soldier Field. Please, let me remind you:
Halas Trophy. Soldier Field. Visitors Locker Room. Trump Card. Forever!
As we look to write another chapter in the rich history of the NFL's most storied rivalry, the Packers aim to clinch the 2012 NFC North title. If the Packers are serious about making an XLVII run, this is the type of game that is a must win. In sports, teams can hold mental advantages over another team. Think about the Cowboys relationship with the Packers in the mid 90's. The same applies for the Packers and Bears right now. At present, the Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers own the Ray Nutler-led Chicago Bears.
Thus far, the 2012 Packers have done well when they've faced heavy adversity or difficult situations.They beat the Bears when they were in danger of going 0-2 to start the season. They beat the Saints when 1-3 was a possibility. Then, they manhandled the Texans as 2-4 was staring them dead in the face. They've found ways to win without a number of Superstars, such as Clay, Sir Charles, Greg Jennings, and Jordy Nelson. They've played all year without emotional leader, Desmond Bishop. The OL's depth has been decimated. Through it all, the Packers have found ways to win.
Contrary to the Packers, the Bears have struggled with adversity. They have not played well with injuries. They have not made the necessary in-game adjustments. They were once 7-1. Now, they're 8-5. Lovie Smith's job appears to be in jeopardy. This week, I worked in Chicago and three things were mentioned on multiple occasions:
1.) If you want Lovie Smith to be fired, you should root for the Green Bay Packers this week because if he wins the Division, he won't get fired.
2.) This defense looks old. Briggs, Peppers and Tillman look like they've aged over th last 4 weeks.
3.) Should the Bears move on without Ray Nutler? His contract is up after next year and he wants to be paid as though he's a top 5 QB. It was even hypothesized that the Bears could trade their first round pick and Nutler for a top 5-10 pick in the draft.
All real. I swear. Yes, that's how the Chicago media is painting the picture prior to the game with the NFC North title on the line. During the 5:00 rush hour traffic and over the lunch hour. Unbelievable. Seriously.
We can't let them out of this funk. Let's knock them further into their misery. With conviction. On the road. At Soldier Field. In the visitors locker room. Once again.
Since 1994, the Packers record is 15-4 in the state of IL. At Soldier Field, the record is 14-4 as the two teams played in Champaigne in 2002. While this is a road game, it's been friendly confines for the Packers.
In order for the Bears to win, they will have to run the ball. And, they will have to stay patient with it. I expect to see them try an abundance of ball control. Starting with Michael Bush. Sure, Forte will get his share of touches. Forte will also catch the ball out of the backfield. But, look for Bush to get a bunch of carries. It is a big game for Ryan Pickett this week. BJ Raji as well. It wouldn't surprise me if the Bears take a similar approach that last years Week 15 opponent took on the Packers. The Chiefs ran the ball between the tackles. Mixed in some play action. Then, defensively, they rushed 4. Dropped 7. Tested Rodgers' patience.
If the Bears try to spread us out and Clay plays, the Packers should win by 10 points. They'll get in Nutler's face. Nutler will throw picks. We'll be in position to stick it to them.
Double team, Marshall. Sammy Swagga & Hayward can handle Jeffery, Hester and Bennett (if he plays). Kellen Davis is a physical mismatch, but he has struggled to hold onto the ball. Beware of Forte out of the backfield. Then pounce when Nutler throws off his back foot. Make the most of your opportunities.
Offensively, start Lang at LG, Barclay at RT. Come out throwing the 12-15 yard post. If Tim Jennings plays, he'll be limited. Attack the side opposite Tillman. Just like the first drive in the '10 NFC Championship. Rodgers to Jennings. Good things happening. Moving sticks! Harris pounds away behind Barclay. We see Ryan Grant on the cutback. He Packers find an offensive rhythm.
In his career against the Green Bay Packers, Ray Nutler has combined stats that read: 8 games. 1-7 record. 8 TD's. 16 Interceptions. He also limped out of the NFC Championship Game with an injury that the media questioned and Bears fans burned his jersey in the parking lot following the game. He was labeled a quitter. Yes, the Packers have dominated Nutler in his career. We can only hope that it continues for another week.
My prediction: once again, Nutler struggles. He throws a TD with 2 interceptions. He can't find the end zone when he hits the Red Zone.
Neither team is playing great football right now. But, the Packers are winning close games and the Bears are not. The trend continues.
Packers 27. Bears 23.
Once again, let's dance on Soldier Field as Champions! The Bears still suck!
Oh, and after NE beats SF, we will be in position for the #2 seed. And, I'm not going to get crazy here, but Atlanta has 3 games left - all within the NFC. While the Packers have 4 losses, 1 is to an AFC Team. Presently, Atlanta has 2 losses - both of them to NFC teams. Should Atlanta lose 2 out of the last 3, the Packers would own the tie-breaker. Assuming, of course, that the Packers win out. The #1 seed is in reach. But, we have to beat the Bears this week. Party On!
Go Pack Go!