I write with joy.
Three of our last four head coaches were named Mike. Mike Holmgren was a master at getting his team to peak come December. As much as we all despised Mike Sherman's January decision making & in-game coaching skills, he had his team to play Packer football each year in December. Mike McCarthy is following suit. In 2006, he won his last four games. In 2007, he won 3 of his last four. 2008 was a circus rather than a football season.
Presently, we're playing our best football of the 2009 season. Sure, we are penalized an excessive amount. Sure, Mason Crosby continues to be putrid. And our special teams unit fail to ever make a big play. Regardless, the Packers are a possessed football team. Playing with aggression. It's a treat to watch.
McCarthy has been creative with his play calling. He's become less predictable. And I loved when he inserted a fresh Ahman Green in the 4th Quarter to punish a winded Ravens defense. Green's presence also inspired Ryan Grant to run harder.
I was thankful that we FINALLY went to the fade pass to J-Mike in the corner of the end zone. It was interesting how they originally lined him up in the backfield in an effort to find a mismatch. I wish it would have been a back shoulder throw. Next time -> it should be. It's a safer pass.
Clay Matthews III continues to be a stallion. In fact, for the first time in his NFL career, he commanded a double team. Consistently. The Ravens had to keep a RB in the backfield to chip him in order to slow him down. It was a treat to watch. Never say die, Clay.
Brad Jones had his most impressive performance of the year. He appeared quicker. Still not fast on the field. But, he plays with great awareness. I wish he would have made the open field tackle on Ray Rice for a loss, but nonetheless, he played well. Congrats on your 1st sack, Brad.
BJ Raji. 3 weeks in a row with a play in the backfield.
Pickett, Jenkins & Jolly playing mean. True difference makers.
Hawk with the dagger! The clincher.
Barnett continuing to improve in the 3-4 defense each week.
T-Mon & Nintendo Nick making big plays to change momentum.
Aaron Rodgers is an MVP candidate. He won't win it. That's for Brees or Manning. But, Rodgers deserves votes. He's becoming a man in front of our eyes. He's seeing the field better. Utilizing the check-down. Relying on the TE. Just as his predecessor did.
In fact, I ran an office poll today in which I asked 10 die-hard football fans to name their top 7 candidates for the NFL's MVP. The final tally included Charles Woodson and Aaron Rodgers in the top-6. It went Manning, Brees, Favre, Rodgers, Rivers, Woodson.
J-Mike has Pro-Bowl potential.
Donald Driver is making a case to be a Hall of Famer. He might need to have four more seasons in which he averages 60 catches and 750 yards. If so, he'd finish his career with over 900 catches and 12,000 yards. Those are Hall of Fame numbers.
How can a Sunday in December be any better than what is on tap this weekend? At 1 EST, it's the Packers traveling to Soldier Field to take on the hated Bears. At 4 EST, it's San Diego visiting Dallas in a crucial battle as both teams jostle for playoff positioning. And the nightcapper is a terrific NFC battle between the Giants & the Eagles. When we go to bed on Sunday night, we'll have a clearer picture of the clustered NFC playoff race.
The Packers cannot overlook this game. We must be ready. We must come out early and make a statement. If so, the Bears could hibernate. Both teams are banged up with crucial players nursing injuries. This will be a survival of the fittest. When these two teams play in December, you can throw the records in the garbage.
Both teams OL's have struggled this year. While the Packers OL has improved, the Bears OL has become worse. The Bears will have to keep a back in to help Orlando Pace or else the only thing that will stop CM3 on the pass rush would be himself loosing his footing.
I foresee the Bears trying to establish the run early. I believe the Bears will try to use a mixture of Kahlil Bell and Forte to slow down the pace of the game. They'll utilize Olsen in a variety of places on the field. They'll hide him as an H-Back. They'll line him outside. They'll place him on both sides of the line of scrimmages. Trying to create a mismatch. And then expect the Bears to try and find one-on-one coverage on the outside. The Bears will think they can expose our CB's with their speedy WR's, Devin Hester & Johnny Knox. They also will try to exploit the pass interference calls that have become commonplace in the Packers defensive backfield.
Defensively, the Bears will play us straight up. They'll try to beat us with their front 4. Using their DE's to speed rush against our aging OT's. LB's Hunter Hillenmeyer & Lance Briggs are banged up. They're expected to play, but they won't be 100% (much like Raji, Jenkins & Pickett for us).
In 12 games, Jay Cutler has thrown 20 interceptions. In 12 games, the Packers defense has picked off 21 passes. I like our chances. Unless, of course, the Bears play the way they did last week in which Cutler only threw the ball 17 times. He only completed 8 passes and he looked like he lacked confidence. Regardless, Cutler is a gunslinger with a terrific arm and the ability to make any throw. Therefore, he's dangerous on every play.
The Bears take the opening kickoff into Packers territory. The Bears have a great special teams return unit. We have an awful coverage team. This match-up scares me. The Bears take the short field. The Packers are on their heels. Forte for 7 yards. Cutler to Olsen. Forte punches it at us. Knox on a slant. Forte runs in for a short TD.
The Bears defense forces the punt. Again, the Bears have a good special teams play to bring the ball near mid-field. It has the makings of a frustrating game. Those stupid Bear claws/Bear Hats - that are a copy of the Cheesehead - romp with excitement.
Again, the Bears move the football. Cutler to Bennett. More Forte. The Bears are winning the line of scrimmage. T-Mon breaks up a third down pass. Robbie Gould - the most underrated kicker in football - drills one from 45 yards. 10-0 Bears.
The Packers come out flat. But, the weather calls for mid 30's and light snow flurries. Little wind. This is Packer football. McCarthy gathers the troops. And the next step in the evolution of the McCarthy/Rodgers combo arrives against our hated Rival. We show that we have the grit to make a HUGE comeback on the road in a Division game, in December.
Rodgers to Grant on a screen. Rodgers to Driver. Rodgers to Jennings (who continues to struggle in cold weather games). Rodgers to Jones over the middle for a 1st down. Rodgers to Driver for 6 points.
Clay flies around Orlando Pace. The future HOF'er is stuck in his tracks. Jay Cutler meets CM3. The Packers are off the field.
Rodgers goes back to work. Using all of his tools in his shed. Sharp precision. It's Donald Lee. It's J-Mike between the safeties for 22 yards. Grant on a delayed draw punches through the middle for a nice gain. It's Rodgers to Havner for a 14-10 Packers lead.
Cutler finds Ras-A-tari. He's due to make a play. It'll happen this week.
Rodgers dumps to B-Jack on a check down. B-Jack has played really well this year; not worth a 2nd round pick, but playing well. He's been reliable.
Rodgers to Jordy. Rodgers finds Jennings deep for 6 points.
But, the Bears don't quit. Another good kickoff return gives the Bears field position. Cutler finds Knox on a deep one.
Late in the game, the Packers lead by 7. The Bears get the ball. Under 2 minutes. Clay Matthews III makes his presence felt. Outracing Pace to the corner. He collects his 9th sack of the year. A desperation 4th down pass by Cutler lands in the lap of Nintendo Nick.
Rodgers name enters all national circles of MVP talk. He's not the winner, but he's a candidate and deserves some nomination.
Packers 31. Bears 24.
May the good Lord shine a light on you. Make every song you sing, your favorite tune. Let it start with GO PACK GO!
Say it with me: THE BEARS STILL SUCK.