Monday, December 17, 2012

Recap: Packers Defeat Bears and Win NFC North, Despite Mason Crosby

With the Green Bay Packers' win on Sunday, they've clinched their second consecutive NFC North title. Winning the division isn't going to matter in the playoffs, see last season, but they've still got to secure a playoff spot first and then worry about the postseason. At least now, they can legitimately look ahead and make some decisions with the playoffs in mind.
The first item of business has to be the special teams. Mike McCarthy said after the game that he's standing by his man, Mason Crosby. That might have been the right thing to say immediately after clinching the division title. Let's see if the Packers actually work out some kickers early this week. Many great teams have been undone in the postseason by a field goal kicker collapsing during the playoffs. He's had enough chances and they have to make a change.

This game may have also ended the coaches' urges for trick plays on special teams. While they made a couple of them work back in September, they haven't had any recent success. Since the end of October, P Tim Masthay has not been expected to throw another pass. On Sunday, the backward cross-field lateral from WR Randall Cobb didn't fool anyone and led to a turnover.

The Packers' defense dominated. The Bears were 0-9 on 3rd down (plus one failed 4th down attempt) and held the Bears to only 190 yards on offense. And that was after they had trouble stopping the Bears' ground game on their first drive. NT B.J. Raji had a great game, LB Brad Jones too, while CB Sam Shields did a fantastic job of drawing offensive pass interference calls. And of course, LB Clay Matthews was well worth the month long wait as he recorded 2 sacks, 4 tackles for a loss, 1 pass defense (tipped pass at the line) and 2 QB hits.

The Packers' offensive line wasn't great (3 sacks allowed, 3.5 ypc as a team) but they seemed to play better than the stats showed. RT Don Barclay wasn't perfect, but he looks settled in on the right side. The return of T.J. Lang to left guard gave QB Aaron Rodgers a better pocket to step up into then he's had in recent weeks. I wouldn't be surprised if the Packers did release TE Jermichael Finley in the offseason, TE D.J. Williams and TE Andrew Quarless (when they're both healthy next season) could replace most of what Finley has done over the past two seasons, but Finley is playing much better over the past few weeks and making catches to help move the chains. WR Greg Jennings might not be helping his chances of securing a mega-extension from the Packers this offseason, his No. 1 role is currently owned by Cobb, but he's been making a couple big catches and had best run after the catch on Sunday that I've seen from him this season.

I can also see why Mike McCarthy likes RB DuJuan Harris. He might be their best back at breaking a tackle.

Only two more games remain this season as the Packers wait to see how the playoff seeding dust settles.

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