Week 7 saw another matchup between two of the league’s most storied franchises in the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. As has been the case during much of the last 20 years, the Packers were able to emerge victorious in a much-needed win 26-10. The win was much more dominant than the score implies, though the Packers were not without their struggles. But we’ll get into both of those things later.
The win moved the Packers to 4-2 on the season while dropping Chicago to 1-6, and brought the Packers to within one game of tying the all-time record (regular season and postseason) between the two teams; one that currently stands in Chicago’s favor at 94-93-6. It also brought the Packers to within one game of the NFC North lead as the Vikings lost over the weekend in Philadelphia.
But enough with the future implications this game may or not have. Let’s break down what actually happened in this week’s Thoughts from a Cheesehead.
1) That First Drive
That first drive was far too impressive of a drive to have ended in a 32-yard field goal for Mason Crosby. This was the type of drive that needed to – and deserved to – end in a touchdown for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers hit four different receivers en route to marching down the field, converting on one 3rd down and one 4th down before getting into the red zone. Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, and Ty Montgomery each notched a catch while Davante Adams had two.
After converting on 4th & 3 from the Bears 31-yard line, Rodgers missed Jordy Nelson and then hit Ty Montgomery for a 6-yard out before quickly getting back into the huddle and throwing a laser to Randall Cobb in the end zone, which he was unable to hang onto. Bears rookie cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc made a great play forcing the ball out of Cobb’s hands but it was still one he should have held on to.
2) Red Zone Efficiency
From the standpoint of building momentum, there is nothing better in football than getting into the end zone, and on Thursday night, the Packers did a great job at killing some of their own momentum by kicking field goals instead of scoring touchdowns.
Now obviously, momentum can’t be measured. But what can be measured is red zone efficiency; an area where a should-be-elite offense like the Green Bay Packers should excel. But they have struggled mightily converting touchdowns in the red zone this season.
Through Week 7, the Packers are a sub-par 17th in scoring touchdowns while in the red zone, while in just their last three games, they are a measly 27th, according to TeamRankings.com.
This type of efficiency, or lack thereof, has gotten them to a respectable 4-2 record thus far. But if the Packers want to continue winning and make a deep playoff push, they will need to get better at turning those field goals into touchdowns when they get near the end zone.
3) Emergence of Ty Montgomery & Davante Adams
Here are some interesting receiving stats from the last two weeks:
- Ty Montgomery: 20 receptions, 164 yards, 0 TDs
- Davante Adams: 15 receptions, 166 yards, 2 TDs
- Jordy Nelson: 6 receptions, 77 yards, 0 TDs
Now, take that for what it’s worth, but I’m willing to bet that there isn’t a single one of you reading this right now that would have thought Ty Montgomery or Davante Adams would have out-produced Jordy Nelson over ANY two-game stretch this entire season. I sure as hell didn’t.
Watching these two the past few weeks has been great to watch, especially for Davante Adams who had such a disappointing year in 2015. Teams like the Bears have really keyed in on and double-teamed Jordy Nelson after his hot start to the season, which has allowed Adams and Montgomery to find gaps in coverage and get open. The same was true against the Bears.
The Packers did a great job mixing up their offensive packages to confuse the Bears defense on Thursday, lining up Cobb and Montgomery in the backfield and moving receivers all over the place. Montgomery and Cobb carrying the ball straight out of the backfield a significant amount of the time caused the Bears defense to stay true to the running game while also being attacked through the air. Ty Montgomery and Davante Adams were beneficiaries of this gameplan against the Bears.
4) The Secondary
It’s been a rough start for the Packers secondary so far this season, and it was no different on Thursday night as the Packers played without each of their top three cornerbacks against the Bears. Though they held their own against a bad Bears offense, injuries and a lack of depth have plagued this unit this season and it appears that won’t change anytime soon.
Per Rob Demovsky of ESPN, Damarious Randall had surgery over the weekend and is expected to miss between 4 and 6 weeks after re-injuring his groin against the Cowboys. In addition, Sam Shields was placed on IR the week before and will be out at least 8 weeks from the time he was placed there. This means, best-case scenario, Damarious Randall will be back November 20th when the Packers play against Washington, and Sam Shields would be back for the rematch against the Bears at Soldier Field on December 18th.
The good news here is that, while Quentin Rollins was out for Thursday’s game with a groin injury, his was not nearly as serious as Randall’s and he should be back for Sunday’s game against the Falcons.
And that really is great news as the Packers face midseason MVP Matt Ryan and the red-hot Falcons this weekend. If the Packers were to have to play against Ryan, Julio Jones and a dangerous receiving tandem out of the backfield in Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman without extra help, they would be in serious trouble.
Expect LaDarius Gunter to keep his starting role across from Rollins as long as he is good to go, and expect Micah Hyde to be playing lots of slot corner when they come out in nickel coverage. Demetri Goodson will likely see a significant decrease in snaps, as A) Rollins is returning, and B) he was awful against the Bears.
In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see how the Packers respond to the long-term loss of both Shields and Rollins, and if the rest of the defense can step up to help them out. They did bring in a number of defensive backs for workouts on Tuesday, and signed one to the practice squad, according to Rob Demovsky.
5) Run Game
The Packers run game, or again, lack thereof, is all sorts of messed up with Eddie Lacy and James Starks being out. With only four days in between finding out the extent of Lacy’s injury and their matchup against the Bears and not having another running back on the active roster, the Packers promoted rookie running back Don Jackson from the practice squad and traded a conditional seventh round pick to the Chiefs in exchange for veteran Knile Davis. The plan for the Bears game then was to split carries between Jackson and Ty Montgomery, with Davis as a 3rd string backup behind the two.
For Jackson, he saw six total snaps and had two carries for six yards before leaving the game in the second quarter with an injury, which meant Montgomery had to step up and carry the load – and he did.
On top of the excellent game he had receiving the ball, Montgomery had a very respectable day running the ball as well with nine carries for 60 yards. For the Packers, this is exactly what they need from their run game with Lacy and Starks out. They don’t need a running back that’s going to run for 100 yards every game – though I’m not going to lie that would be nice.
If the Packers can get more games like this from whomever is going to run the ball each week, that will take a great deal of pressure off of Aaron Rodgers and will ultimately contribute to their continued success.