GREEN BAY – The Packers went into Sunday’s game in Chicago expecting the Bears to try to limit their possessions.
That’s exactly what happened, which put a premium on efficiency, and the Packers didn’t waste many chances.
“We had to make every series count,” said Associate Head Coach/Offense Tom Clements. “We didn’t accomplish that, but we came close.”
Excluding two kneel-down drives, the Packers had the ball seven times and scored five times, four of them touchdowns. The two non-scoring drives were both three-and-outs, but 31 points in seven possessions is still tough to beat.
With the Bears playing their version of keep-away, the Packers gave them a taste of their own medicine in the second half, putting together a 16-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that consumed 9 minutes, 31 seconds.
The drive, which began with the Packers ahead 17-16, included three third-down conversions, plus one on fourth-and-1 by running back James Starks. He had only carried the ball once in the game prior to getting his number called on the second snap of the fourth quarter, but Starks picked up three yards to move the chains.
“James was in the game at that time,” Clements explained as to why Starks got the handoff and not Eddie Lacy, who rushed 19 times for 85 yards in the game. “We have confidence in both the backs. Eddie got more work than James did, but that series James was in there. We called the play, and I think he made a very good short-yardage run.”
Offensive Coordinator Edgar Bennett called it a great example of understanding and executing “situational football.”
The long march gave the Green Bay defense some rest, and players referred to it as demoralizing for Chicago. Most important, it boosted the Packers’ lead from one point to eight. Aaron Rodgers’ third TD pass of the game, a 5-yarder to Randall Cobb, capped it off.
“It doesn’t happen a ton, but it’s nice when it happens,” Clements said of such a methodical, time-consuming drive. “It shows you can execute without making mistakes for a long period of time and cash it in at the end.”
The Packers also needed their special teams at the end to recover an onside kick, and a play that was practiced repeatedly in the offseason and training camp – coming off the miscue in Seattle last January – was executed perfectly.
“I don’t know if you can ever practice it too much,” Special Teams Coordinator Ron Zook said. “Practicing it is one thing, and doing it when the game is on the line and executing it is a different thing, too.”
The Packers know that all too well. Zook credited JC Tretter and John Kuhn with solid blocks in front of receiver Davante Adams, who ran up and dove to snag the ball as it came down from a very high bounce.
Adams was playing the position Jordy Nelson was in Seattle, and he had a clear path to the ball, as designed. He had to think on his feet, too, not letting the ball bounce a second time.
“It was short, so he had to make a quick decision to go get it,” Zook said. “He’s got to go get it, no question. That’s why he’s there.”
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