Packers overwhelm Bears’ inept O-line as McCarthy shines
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers’ 23-10 victory over Chicago last Thursday night at Lambeau Field should carry the warning label: Revisionist history can be dangerous to an NFL team’s health.
The Packers’ performance was gritty and timely, but it wasn’t the overpowering, start-to-finish dominance that some in the media have suggested in its aftermath.
The Packers did what good NFL teams do. They took advantage of the Bears’ weakest link – their offensive line – and backed it up with smart, hard-hitting football in all three phases.
To take Green Bay’s win and spin it into a “Packers’ defense is back” storyline is a fairy tale. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ unit displayed progress, and seven sacks and four interceptions can’t be taken lightly, but this isn’t Green Bay’s defense of 2010.
Not yet. Not by a long shot. Capers still is trying to find the right pieces to fill in the puzzle. Much work remains.
However, the outcome is an indication that Green Bay isn’t a one-trick pony. Victory is still attainable even when the offense is less than magical, and even when Aaron Rodgers is less than perfect.
That was the point Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy hammered home by trying a fake field goal. McCarthy wanted to jolt his team into the present by forcing it to stop waiting for the offense to carry the day. Specifically, he wanted his team to quit waiting for last year’s offense to gallop out of the tunnel and save the day.
The fact that McCarthy’s call resulted in an unlikely Tim Masthay-to-Tom Crabtree 27-yard touchdown pass was a bonus. The perfectly executed fake on fourth-and-26 with less than two minutes in the first half shook up the Bears.
More important, it woke up the Packers.
“I was trying to send our team a message when I did call it,” McCarthy said. “And, frankly, I would have been fine with the field position.”
To paraphrase the coach: Don’t ask what your offense can do for you. Ask what you can do for your offense.
McCarthy’s fake field goal wasn’t gutsy in and of itself. The risk was minimal thanks to the Bears’ inept offensive line. McCarthy suspected he had the luxury of “going for it” because the Bears’ offensive line showed no signs of slowing down Clay Matthews and the pass rush.
McCarthy’s decision was an example of his growth as a head coach.
Within the flow of a nationally televised game, and despite the pressure of being 0-1 coming in, he shrewdly seized upon a teaching moment.
Essentially, McCarthy traded three points for the chance to make a point.
Instead of being sidetracked and frustrated by his own offense’s ongoing struggles, and settling for a 44-yard field goal attempt, he disdained the “our offense will get ‘em next possession” mentality.
In a single play call, McCarthy displayed trust in his defense, belief in his special teams and patience with his offense.
The Packers must continue to profit from the lesson.
If the Packers feel any inclination to get fat and sassy after embarrassing the Bears, they should remember two things.
First, the Bears’ offensive line is a shambles. Matthews was unstoppable at times, to be sure, but Bears’ left tackle J’Marcus Webb and Co. was offering less resistance than a turnstile.
That fact, coupled with the Packers’ ability to know how to play with a lead, effectively doomed the Bears.
Second, the Seattle Seahawks’ offensive line isn’t to be confused with the Chicago Bears’ sieve. The Seahawks dismantled Dallas, 27-7, in Seattle on Sunday in a game that wasn’t that close.
Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch tore up the Cowboys’ defense to the tune of 122 yards in 26 carries. Russell Wilson chimed in by completing a highly efficient 15 of 20 passes for 151 yards, one touchdown and a 112.7 quarterback rating.
At this stage of the season, the Seahawks aren’t nearly as explosive as Green Bay, but they are a more complete team. That makes them dangerous, especially at home.
Meantime, McCarthy is working to get the Packers pulling together in all three phases. It is necessary if the Packers are going to truly challenge for the NFC title.
If Green Bay goes to Seattle and wins Monday night it will be McCarthy – as much as anyone – who deserves the game ball. Not for what he might do in Seattle, but because of what he did against the Bears.
Last week’s prediction: Packers 24, Bears 21 (Packers 23-10)
This week’s prediction: Packers 27, Seahawks 23
Chris Havel is a Packers News expert and national best-selling author. His latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’ Player Autograph Parties the evening before home games.