Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs (55) jumps before tipping up a pass thrown by Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre (4).
I am half convinced that the very first thing that Brett Favre does when he gets up in the morning on the day of a game is throw a football to his wife…even if she’s still asleep.
The man lives to pass. And given his enormous talent and fighting spirit, this season must be a terrible, wrenching disappointment to him. Because even though he threw more than 100 passes in the two games against his arch rivals the Chicago Bears this year, none of those tosses ended up denting the end zone. To make matters worse, 6 of those passes were completed not to one of his wide receivers or running backs or his tight ends (whose compliment changed more often than members of the teen band Menudo) but rather fell into the eager hands of Bears defenders. In fact, Favre threw more touchdown passes to Bears players (2) than to his own teammates.
That said, Favre proved last night that the magic was still there. He moved the Pack up and down the field at will against a sloppy, under performing Bear’s defense. The problem, as it has been all year, is that Mr. Favre just doesn’t have enough arrows in his quiver to offset the fact that Green Bay lacks good players at the various skill positions. Injuries have much to do with that but one cannot escape the conclusion that even with Ahman Green (stellar running back), Javon Walker (outstanding WR), and excellent Tight End Bubba Franks – all on injured reserve – the Packers may have ended up being more competitive but would still have had a hard time winning games.
But Favre doesn’t seem to let any of this phase him in the slightest. He dropped back 51 times last night and completed 30 passes for 315 yards. His makeshift offensive line did an outstanding job in protecting him against the Bear’s vaunted front four. And later, when the Bear’s tried to slow Favre down by sending extra backers in several imaginative blitz packages, Favre’s experience allowed him to sniff out trouble before trouble found him, dumping the ball off effectively to his backs who gained huge chunks of yardage after the catch.
Between the 20’s. the Pack was nearly unstoppable. But, as with all teams having nightmare seasons like the Packers, things have a nasty habit of going south at the most inopportune times.
Two missed field goals here. A dropped pass there. A blown coverage, a penalty, a missed block – for teams with good records, it always seems as if these things can be overcome. But the Packers found these setbacks too much to surmount. And every time misfortune befell them, the Bear’s took advantage.
This is the way of things in all team sports. Call it luck, or karma, or destiny, but the difference between winning and losing is always balanced on a razor’s edge – and the Pack (like the Bears in years past) always seems to cut its own throat at the worst possible moments.
A good example was the final, frantic 55 seconds of the game. Following a long, 56 yard completion to Donald Driver (who almost ran away from the Bears backers for a score), the Green Bay offensive line that had done such a superlative job the entire game in keeping the Bear’s front four at bay inexplicably broke down and allowed Favre to be sacked on two successive plays. With no timeouts remaining, the clock ticked inexorably down until Favre was forced into a desperation heave on 4th and 27 that Bears safety Chris Harris picked off to end the game. In years gone by, you would have to believe that Favre would indeed have taken the Packers all the way down the field for the tying score. But not this year.
For the Bear’s part, they played well enough to win but were hardly impressive on either side of the ball. Rex “The Wonder Dog” Grossman proved that he is indeed an NFL quarterback with outstanding potential but suffered several drops by the usually reliable Mushin Mohammed. And at times, the rust from 15 months of virtual inactivity showed up markedly. But he was sacked only once and generally made good decisions. His stats – 11-23 for 166 yards – were deceiving. His play was a qualitative leap as opposed to former starter Kyle Orton.
Thomas Jones also played well gaining 105 yards on 25 carries. But the offense lacked consistency which will be absolutely vital if the Bears hope to win any playoff games at all. The time of possession in the first half when Wonder Dog was throwing the ball all over the lot was extremely troubling. Green Bay had the ball for an astonishing 21 minutes to the Bear’s 9. The fact that the Bears were leading 14-7 at the half is beside the point. No defense in the NFL would have been effective in the 4th quarter if those proportions had held up. Thankfully, my beloveds turned those numbers around in the second half when the club turned the ball over to the duo of Jones and Peterson, ending up with 26 minutes of possession to Green Bay’s 34. Still, it is worrisome nonetheless.
The play of the Special Teams was an embarrassment. Uninspired coverage on kickoffs led to Antonio Chapman’s 85 yard punt return TD - the first kick return of any kind against a Bears all year. I would not like to be a Special Teams player this week at practice. I’m sure coach Coiner will be having those guy’s tongues hanging out from some killer drills he’ll put them through. Expect much better play next week.
With the victory against Green Bay, the Bears clinched the North Division title as well as a first round bye in the playoffs. As much as they would probably like to hold out Rex Grossman and some key offensive players, I can’t see them doing such a thing. Grossman needs game time reps and his receivers have to work with him under game conditions in order for there to be an improvement. Expect an emphasis next week on the passing game as Coach Smith will probably want to give his young quarterback as much seasoning as he can before the playoffs start.
All in all, a satisfying win against a hated rival. And a sigh of relief at escaping Green Bay without the Gunslinger drawing down and taking out the Bears.