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Into The Playoff Hunt We Go

By: John Linn

The Packers (9-4) followed up an ugly win against the Ravens last week with a nail biting, semi-ugly win this week over the archrival Bears (5-8). In a game that saw Ryan Grant control the offense, rather than Aaron Rodgers, the Packers came from behind to win 21-14. The Packers went to Chicago riding high on a four game winning streak but it was almost for naught as the Packers lost an early 13-point lead, but stellar defense came through in the clutch to give the Pack their 5th straight win.

Game Review: Aaron Rodgers, struggled early on and got only marginally better as the game went on. He finished 16-24 for only 180 yards and a long of merely 25 yards. He looked poor early on but he was saved by the outstanding play of Ryan Grant. Grant took the offense’s first play for a run of 62 yards and a TD. He followed up after with a total of 137 yards, a 6.9 average, two TD’s and going over 1000 yards on the season. The offense stuttered after that first run however, as they could not finish drives and had to settle for field goals on two drives.

The defense held strong early on, holding Forte and getting pressure on Cutler, forcing an early interception. Ryan Pickett was out but the line held well. Capers used numerous exotic blitz packages, having only one down lineman at one point and having none when Cullen Jenkins stood up at one point. Cutler was running for is life early on as Clay Matthews got his 8th sack. However, late in the 1st half the defense faltered as Cutler hit fill-in receiver Devin Aromashodu on numerous occasions as the Bears drove down the field to cut the lead to 13-7 on a TD throw to Johnny Knox. The momentum carried over into the second half as Cutler hit Aromashodu for a TD early in the 3rd quarter.

However, the Packer’s D (which lost its number one rating recently, but is still incredibly dominant) came up with a late turnover (an INT by Nick Collins that he took down the sidelines) that set up Ryan Grant’s second TD that gave the team a 21-14 lead after Aaron Rodgers hit Greg Jennings for a two point conversion. The defense held strong late as the Bears had no time outs and attempted to drive, but a sack from Tramon Williams forced the Bears back and they failed to convert on fourth down giving the ball back and ending the game.

What I Saw:
-Aaron Rodgers was not his usual self at all
-Ryan Grant went over the 1000 yard mark for the season
-Grant’s 62 yard rush was amazing, he broke tackles, and had great speed
-Rodgers not only did not pass the way he usually does, he was not able to break away on runs at all
-The team did not struggle much with the loss of Ryan Pickett, but it definitely would have been better with him involved
-Tramon Williams made up for his horrible performance last week with a good performance this week and almost had an interception
-Atari Bigby, who has been relatively quiet this season, quietly led the team in tackles, and came through the line on a key third down to help stop Khalil Bell for no gain
-Clay Matthews tied the rookie record for sacks with 8, and has a good shot at breaking it
-Charles Woodson continued to make a case for defensive MVP as he tied his career high for interceptions in a season with eight
-The team looks set for a playoff run as they have the lead in the wild card, but the team is not without fault
-Mason Crosby missed a field goal for the third straight game and has not looked sharp at all, but for some reason no measures seem to have been taken to correct this, by Crosby or the coaching staff
-Rodgers fumbled twice on one play in a move that looked like something Brett Favre would do
-Way too many turnovers, fumbles mainly this week, but turnovers are killer and they have been plaguing the team of late

Ratings (out of 5):
QB: 3. Rodgers did not play well at all but he did come through when needed. He was serviceable throughout the game, but came on when he threw to Jennings for a two-point conversion. That helped him get a higher rating. The sacks seemed to be his fault as well

Recievers: 2. None of the receivers looked outstanding at all. They were not able to break away well and did not help Rodgers much.

Running Backs: 4. Ryan Grant was amazing; he was nearly unstoppable through the entire game. However, Ahman Green was nothing special and neither was Brandon Jackson. Rodgers also could not rush at all.

O-Line: 4. I personally saw the line as playing very well. They helped Grant to a great game and for the most part protected Rodgers. However, they broke down a few times on pass and run protection.

D-Line: 4. The line performed incredibly well without Ryan Pickett and helped get pressure on Cutler and stop Forte.

Linebackers: 3. At times they got good pressure on Cutler and got Matthews his 8th sack, however at times they were completely useless.

Secondary: 3. Woodson had a pick and Collins had a pick. They blitzed well when needed. However they completely fell apart in coverage on Chicago’s scoring drives, letting Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu run all over them.

Special Teams: 2.5 Crosby can’t seem to make a kick lately. Kapinos had an average day punting. However, they finally did not give up any huge returns for the first time in a long time. Nothing special, nothing great.

Coaching: 2.5 There weren’t any major lapses on penalties or any other lapses and I realize that this is a rival team that will play harder against a rival, but the team looked lost against the struggling Bears, the coaching staff had no answer at times.

Team as a whole: 3. Nothing special. The team won, but it was nail biting. Nothing really wowed me besides Ryan Grant’s performance. It was a win, and that’s what counts.
MVP: Ryan Grant. This was a no-brainer. Grant had a superb day and has another 1,000 yard rushing season. He has been playing well of late.

Final Thoughts: With this win the team has pushed themselves into the playoff picture and most likely for good. However, I have a sense of unease when it comes to this team in the playoffs. There are so many little errors that amount to a big problem (special teams, run game inconsistency, sloppy line play). I worry about how well they will play if they make it that far.

Packers Mix blog featured writers John Linn, Zach Letter
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