The offense got its groove back. If only the defense could find some kind of groove before the playoffs begin.
Those words were no doubt on the lips and in the hearts of Packers fans as they left Lambeau Field on Sunday night or turned off the TV to return to a fun family Christmas. Oh, Aaron. Oh, that defense.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw five touchdown passes in a 35-21 win over the Chicago Bears, and let it be known to the pro football world that the Packers’ loss in Kansas City the previous week was a fluke. The offense is back, baby.
Unfortunately, so is the defense, which continues to yield yardage in alarming chunks. Against the Bears, it was on the ground that the Packers got gashed. The Bears rushed for 199 yards and Kahlil Bell, Matt Forte’s backup, rushed for 121 of those yards. So dominant was the Bears’ rushing attack that it reduced the Packers to a mere 24 minutes and 12 seconds of possession time, which is a strategy playoff opponents will try to replicate.
The good news about the defense is that it continues to play to its identity: Bend, don’t break, stiffen in the red zone and force turnovers. The Packers defense did all of that against the Bears, with linebacker Clay Matthews’ and safety Charlie Peprah’s interceptions having been big plays in the game.
This, however, was a night for the Packers offense. The 363 yards the offense rung up was a Christmas gift to all Packers fans that allowed worry to be replaced by confidence.
“I think we were all disappointed with the way we played. It felt good to get going early. It’s been a while since we started the game with the ball,” Rodgers said.
As well as Rodgers played – 21 of 29 for 283 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions and a 142.7 passer rating – the real feel-good story of the game belonged to the offensive line. An injured and maligned unit following a loss in Kansas City that resulted in Rodgers being sacked four times and rookie tackle Derek Sherrod suffering a broken leg, the Packers offensive line built a wall around the property it protects and barely allowed the Bears to get within an arm’s length of that property.
“A lot of people were even questioning the starters. These guys played great. They’re the MVPs tonight. I barely got touched out there,” Rodgers said.
“I thought Aaron was extremely sharp. Thirty-five points on that defense, that’s a good night,” McCarthy said.
That comes to 1.5 points per minute, which is good against any defense.
“We need to catch the ball better and tonight we did that,” McCarthy added.
The Packers did everything better on offense. It’s the kind of peak performance a team wants to take into the postseason. If only some of that could be shared with the defense.
If it can’t, then the Packers will have to stay true to their identity, which isn’t such a bad thing when that identity has gotten you to 14-1 and the No. 1 seed for the NFC playoffs.
With one week of the regular season remaining, these are your Green Bay Packers, Packers fans: A team with a prolific passing attack, a complementary running game, a bend-but-don’t-break defense that finds ways to get it done at crunch time, underrated special teams, and a home-field advantage that will force all comers in the NFC to come to the one place in the league no team in the league wants to visit in January.
It’s not such a bad identity. Now, what about that defense? Additional coverage - Packers vs. Bears