Green Bay – Dom Capers’ defense lives. The Green Bay Packers are alive and well, too.
Led by Clay Matthews, the irrepressible and almost unblockable linebacker, the Packers’ defense buried Jay Cutler under an avalanche of seven sacks in a badly needed 23-10 victory over the Chicago Bears on Thursday night at Lambeau Field.
Matthews sacked Cutler 3½ times in a virtuoso performance befitting one of the National Football League’s premier defensive players. The Bears couldn’t cope with the hard-charging Matthews despite giving considerable help to overmatched left tackle J’Marcus Webb.
Under heavy pressure right from the start, Cutler had his third nightmarish performance in as many appearances in Green Bay. The Bears finished with 168 yards (2.9 per play) and Cutler’s pass rating was 28.2.
“This was an old-school, Black and Blue division game,” Packers general manager Ted Thompson said. “Typical Green Bay-Chicago game.
“You never know what you’re going to get in this league. But you go back and look at the scores in the (series), there were a lot of 10-3, 13-6 games.”
Four days removed from a sobering defeat against San Francisco, the Packers clearly didn’t want to start 0-2. Seventeen times in the previous 91 seasons the Packers had lost their first two games, and none of those teams qualified for the playoffs.
Coach Mike McCarthy extended his hot streak against the Bears to 7-1, whereas Bears coach Lovie Smith fell to 8-10 overall in the series by losing for the eighth time in his last 10 games. It was Chicago’s fifth straight loss in Green Bay.
It wasn’t only pass rush, however.
Capers devised a coverage scheme to halt newcomer Brandon Marshall, billed as the finest wide receiver for the Bears in decades. Tramon Williams shadowed Marshall in most situations, and safety Morgan Burnett clouded over the top.
Marshall was a non-factor, catching two passes for 24 yards and dropping a certain touchdown pass.
“We’re known for offense but, frankly, I’d rather be known for defense,” said McCarthy. “We feel like we’re building something special with that defense.
“I thought Clay was off the charts, just the energy and production he brought. That defense really flew around.
“Like all of us, we got kicked in the ass four days ago, and we were motivated as a team.”
Defense was the watchword in the first half. The Bears were limited to 47 yards and four first downs, and Cutler compiled a passer rating of 16.7.
“Both teams were really getting really good pressure,” Thompson said. “We got off the field. We put pressure on the quarterback. We controlled the run.”
Matthews was all over the field in the first half with 1½ sacks, two quarterback hits and a batted pass. He beat Webb around the corner for one sack, then was credited with one-half after beating left guard Tim Spencer inside.
The first quarter was scoreless, and the only penetration by either team across the 50 was by Green Bay. The Packers had a first down at the Chicago 33, but rookie defensive end Shea McClellin beat Marshall Newhouse outside to set up a sack and then Aaron Rodgers had the ball slip from his hands on an aborted third-down pass.
Green Bay drove 50 yards early in the second quarter and broke the ice on Mason Crosby’s 48-yard field goal. The key play was a challenge by the Packers that the Bears had 12 defenders on a third-and-3 incompletion. Rodgers gestured, and McCarthy threw the red flag.
When the challenge was upheld, the Packers had their field goal. “Looked like it was Aaron’s call all the way,” Thompson said.
The Bears reached the Green Bay 37 in the second quarter before tackle Gabe Carimi was penalized for unnecessary roughness after he shoved A.J. Hawk and they had to punt.
Rodgers completed a pair of first-down passes. Then, on third and 3, he lateraled the ball alongside him to receiver Randall Cobb, who eluded safety Chris Conte and raced for 28 yards.
“It was a toss to the open side,” said Thompson. “Get him in space and see what happens. He made a nice move and the guy missed the tackle.”
Julius Peppers sacked Rodgers for minus-7 on first down after beating Newhouse wide. Then Bryan Bulaga failed to pick up defensive tackle Henry Melton on a stunt and Rodgers went down again.
After a third-down pass fell incomplete, Crosby lined up for a field-goal try of 45 yards. The snap went to Tim Masthay, and Crosby veered hard left. As he did so, Tom Crabtree moved across the formation from left to right.
From a kneeling position, Masthay made a back-handed flip to Crabtree, who surged into the clear off the right side and scored easily for a 10-0 lead.
“We got a ‘gotcha’ play there,” Thompson said. “That happens sometimes.”
Three plays later, Cutler matched Matt Forte against D.J. Smith and he beat him inside for 22. The only other substantial play by the Bears in the first half was a 24-yard pass-interference penalty on Smith as he tried to defend a seam route to tight end Kellen Davis.
Cutler then threw into traffic inside and Tramon Williams intercepted. It led to Crosby’s 35-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
The Bears drove 53 yards to open the third quarter, finally scoring on Robbie Gould’s 45-yard field goal to make it 13-3. On the previous play, Cutler threw for the first time to Marshall, who was open in the end-zone corner but dropped the ball.
Erik Walden cut Cutler’s legs out from underneath him just as he released a pass that was intercepted by Charles Woodson. But Bears cornerback Charles Tillman not only forced Jermichael Finley to fumble but also recovered it to end the threat.
When fullback John Kuhn followed Cedric Benson in failing to convert on third and 1, Crosby kicked a 54-yard field goal for a 16-3 lead. It broke by a yard the longest ever booted by a Packer at Lambeau Field.
Now obviously frustrated, Cutler fired deep even though it was obvious that Williams and Morgan Burnett had Marshall bracketed. The interception was made by Williams, who returned 38 yards.
On the next play, Rodgers looked off safety Major Wright and came back to a wide-open Donald Driver between the hash marks for a 26-yard touchdown and 23-3 advantage.
Davis beat Smith up the seam for a 21-yard touchdown pass for the final margin. It was preceded by Tim Jennings’ sideline interception on what looked like an indecisive route by James Jones.
By Bob McGinn, JSOnline.com – [source]