Game Review: All-Around Effort Keys Big Win

Facing a near must-win situation as they looked to maintain hope of defending their NFC North crown, the Green Bay Packers produced their most dominant performance of the season with a 37-3 victory over the division rival Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on Sunday. - More Packers-Bears Game Center


Facing a near must-win situation as they looked to maintain hope of defending their NFC North crown, the Green Bay Packers produced their most dominant performance of the season with a 37-3 victory over the division rival Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

The Packers improved to 5-5 on the season with the win, and with the Minnesota's loss at Tampa Bay on Sunday, moved into a three-way tie atop the NFC North with six games remaining. The victory also improved Green Bay's record in the division to 3-1.

The 34-point win over the Bears was the largest margin of victory in the series since Green Bay topped Chicago 40-3 on Dec. 11, 1994, at Lambeau Field, and the Packers' first win against Chicago at home since 2003.

Sunday's win featured a punishing rushing game that controlled the time of possession, a balanced passing attack and strong play from the defense.

"We've really played some very good football throughout the season and today we were able to put it all together for four quarters," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's a credit to the staff and to the players. They stayed the course.

"I thought we had an excellent week of practice and we've really been practicing extremely well the last couple weeks, and it carries over to Sundays. We believe in that and that's how we operate. We played at a high level and I was proud of the guys."

The Bears entered Sunday's contest with the No. 4-ranked rushing defense in the league and were coming off their finest performance off the season as they limited the Tennessee Titans to just 20 yards on the ground on 29 carries last Sunday.

The Packers topped that total on the second play of the game on their way to 200 yards on 38 carries against the Bears on Sunday, a season-high 145 coming from running back Ryan Grant. It was the first team's first 200-plus yard game in the regular season on the ground since the '07 season finale vs. Detroit, and the Packers' rushing success enabled them to win the time of possession by almost a full quarter as they held the ball for 37:28 compared to Chicago's 22:32.

"This is November football and this is how you have to do it," McCarthy said. "There's no doubt about it. I thought we played very well up front on both sides of the ball. I thought the run-blocking unit, in particular the offensive line, time and time again, we were able to get the movement up front and get the back to the second level. That was big."

Green Bay was able to establish its running game immediately with a 35-yard gain from Grant on the second play from scrimmage, his longest run since a 57-yarder in the season opener vs. Minnesota. Even though the Packers didn't score on their first possession, the 48 yards from Grant on the series set the tone for the afternoon.

The Packers got on the board first with an eight-play, 73-yard drive that was capped off with a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to wide receiver Greg Jennings. Rodgers completed three passes for 39 yards to Donald Driver as well as a 19-yarder to rookie wideout Jordy Nelson.

After Bears kicker Robbie Gould's 35-yard field goal narrowed the lead to 7-3, the Packers extended their lead with a drive that once again featured a heavy dose of Grant as he gained 36 on six carries, including an 18-yard run down to the Chicago 4. He scored on the next play to put the Packers up 14-3.

"When we are running the ball like that, it's fun to watch," Rodgers said. "The line dominated the line of scrimmage. Our tempo was good in and out of the huddle. I felt like we started to wear on them a little bit.

"I saw we had like 18 minutes of possession in the first half. It not only gives you confidence as an offense, but it gives our defense time to rest on the sideline."

Green Bay increased their lead with another long drive in the third quarter, with most of the production this series coming from their passing game. Rodgers hit four different receivers, including Jennings and Driver for 29- and 21-yard gains respectively, and finished off the drive with a play-action pass to tight end Donald Lee for a 5-yard score to put Green Bay up 21-3.

Rodgers, coming off perhaps his worst performance of the season last week at Minnesota, completed 23-of-30 passes for 227 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a 105.8 rating. He was not sacked all afternoon and the press box stats did not credit the Bears with even a quarterback hurry.

After converting a season-worst 1-of-11 on third down last Sunday in Minnesota, Green Bay's offense bounced back to pick up third downs at a 50 percent clip (7-of-14) against the Bears.

"The importance of third down is really first and second down, and we had third-and-manageable today," Rodgers said. "I don't think we had a third and over 11 yards, and that's due to the fact that we ran the ball very effectively.

"You're going to convert a lot more of those third downs and keep drives going and finish them off if you have third-and-manageable, and that's what we did today."

Equally impressive on Sunday was the play of the Packers defense as it limited Chicago to just nine first downs, a season-best for the Packers, and 234 total yards, the second-lowest total allowed this season. The Bears converted only 3-of-12 (25 percent) third downs and moved inside Green Bay's 20-yard line just once on Sunday.

Quarterback Kyle Orton was limited to just 133 yards passing, and outside of a 36-yard pass to wide receiver Rashied Davis in the fourth quarter with the game well in hand, the defense did not give up any explosive plays of 20-plus yards.

{sportsad300}The Packers were playing without starting middle linebacker Nick Barnett, lost for the season with a knee injury last Sunday at Minnesota. A.J. Hawk started the first game of his career at middle linebacker with Brandon Chillar opening up on the weak side.

"I thought our defensive staff did an excellent job with the plan," McCarthy said. "A.J. Hawk managed it very well for the first week at middle linebacker. The communication and the sideline operation was very smooth, so I was very, very pleased with the way the defense played."

After falling short in disappointing losses on the road against Tennessee and Minnesota the last two weeks in the closing seconds, Sunday's effort by the Packers came at the right time for a team looking to build confidence for a stretch run.

"We were disappointed because we felt like we definitely could have won the last two games," Rodgers said. "We didn't execute, a play here and a play there, and that's tough to deal with. It makes for a long week when you've got to watch that film and listen to the things that are said.

"We realized how important this game was. We didn't want to fall two games behind Chicago. We know it's going to be a tight race down the stretch and we knew we needed this game."

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