Week 16 Game Recap: Chicago Bears 24, Green Bay Packers 17
What you need to know
With a win on Christmas Day over their biggest rival at Lambeau Field, the Bears wrapped up the NFC North and a bye in the first round of the playoffs. In his first start of the season, Rex Grossman played relatively error free, and showed good velocity and accuracy on a number of third down slants which extended drives deep in the game. In the win, Grossman completed 11 of 23 passes for 166 yards, with one touchdown and an interception. Muhsin Muhammad was the recipient of that touchdown pass early in the game, and finished the day with five catches for 58 yards. Providing a deep threat, Bernard Berrian caught three balls for 93 yards. Justin Gage was used to go over the middle, and pulled in two receptions for fourteen yards. Grossman didnít utilize his backs or tight ends very much in this game, with Thomas Jones just picking up one short catch for a single yard.
In the rushing game, Thomas Jones topped the one hundred yard mark for the first time in two months, picking up 105 yards on 25 carries. Jones benefited from the passing threat, and the opportunity to try to put the game away once the Bears extended their lead. Adrian Peterson subbed in and picked up thirty yards on eight carries.
Brett Favre put up a gritty effort, but did not have enough weapons to overcome the tough Bears defense, throwing four interceptions. The Packers found they couldnít run very well against the Bears, and threw 51 passes in attempt to come from behind. Favre completed 30 passes for 317 yards, though none for touchdowns. Donald Driver was the most targeted receiver, and topped the one hundred yard mark with six catches for 107 yards. Antonio Chatman was thrown to nearly as often, pulling in five balls for 45 yards. With Robert Ferguson inactive in the game, recent additions Andre Thurman and Rod Gardner were called into action, with Thurman catching three passes for 52 yards and Gardner two balls for 23 yards. Donald Lee was thrown to quite a bit in this game, but pulled in just three receptions for ten yards. Out of the backfield, Tony Fisher was utilized often, catching eight passes for 61 yards.
The Packers flip flopped in naming their starting running back this week after losing Samkon Gado to injury last week, and ultimately went with Tony Fisher in their starting lineup. Fisherís received the first few carries, but was used more so in the passing game as the game went on. Fisher finished with just six carries for 22 yards, with rookie Noah Herron out of Northwestern receiving the majority of the carries, though with little more success. Herron picked up 33 yards on fourteen carries, with a one yard plunge for a touchdown following a defensive pass interference in the end zone.
What you ought to know
In completing 48% of his passes for an average of 7.2 yards per passing attempt, Grossman finished with a 68.4 passer rating in his first start. His numbers werenít much different than his counterpart, Kyle Orton, but Grossman showed greater velocity on his passes and the ability to complete the big pass on third down with slants across the middle. Grossman had speedster Bernard Berrian open deep on a number of occasions, but came up with just one big connection, overthrowing him and under throwing him on other occasions.
|RB Thomas Jones, Rush: 25 - 105 - 1, Rec: 1 - 1 - 0 (3 targets)|
Jones averaged 4.2 yards per carry, but did not have a number of big holes open, and had to create his own space for much of the afternoon. Jonesí targets came wrapped around the halftime break, all on dump passes out of the backfield, one of which he never even saw coming as linebacker Nick Barnett was bearing down on him.
Peterson spelled Jones in the running game, and showed more power and greater ability to break tackles with his fresh legs and the opposing defense worn down.
While Muhammad caught a touchdown, he watched a second one slip through his hands on a surprise pass over the top on fourth down late in the game, and dropped three passes on the afternoon despite making a number of nice grabs earlier.
Berrian found himself wide open behind the defense on multiple occasions throughout the game, though he came down with just one big play. In offering a deep threat, Berrian helps to open up the short and medium passing game, as well as the rushing game.
Gage was targeted primarily on slants over the middle in third down sets.
Clark did not receive a target on the afternoon but was used extensively in the rush and pass blocking in this game.
Though he had struggled from over 40 yards out this season, Gould knocked a 45 yard attempt directly through the uprights, and was perfect on three extra points.
The Bears limited the Packers to just 65 yards on the ground on 21 attempts, and did not give up more than an eight yard gain to either of the Packers running backs.
Though they gave up 317 yards through the air to Favre, the Bears secondary came up with four interceptions and two sacks, and kept Favre out of the end zone. The defense benefited from a pair of missed field goals and the fact that one of the touchdowns came on a kick return, skewing the performance more so in the favor of the defense.
Favre completed 59% of his passes, with an average gain of 6.2 yards per passing attempt. With no touchdowns and four interceptions, Favre finished with just a 44.3 passer rating, and continued to struggle in the second half of the season. On each of his interceptions, Favre was desperately trying to make a play, and simply doesnít have the quality or depth at wide receiver for his intended targets to come up with the play on their own.
|RB Tony Fisher, Rush: 6 - 22 - 0, Rec: 8 - 61 - 0 (10 targets)|
Fisher was used primarily in the passing game as an outlet for Brett Favre, and pulled in everything catchable in the game, with a few passes thrown at his feet when Favre had Bears defenders in his face.
The rookie Herron was used exclusively in the running game, with limited success versus the Bears defense, though he crossed into the end zone on a one yard plunge following a defensive pass interference.
Chatman was extremely active in this game, but no more so than in the return game, when he took a punt that most would have called a fair catch upon, and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown to close the score to 24-14 in the fourth quarter. In the receiving game, Chatman was used across the middle and on deep outs.
Driver nearly tied the game up in the final minutes on a crossing pattern where he beat the first few defenders before being taken down deep in Bears territory. Unfortunately, Favre never got a pass into the end zone to give the Packers another chance to tie the game up. Driver finished with over one hundred yards, but failed to find the end zone against the Bears secondary.
Coach Mike Sherman reminded Favre this week that he had to trust Thurman, and the two seemed to build some rapport as the game went on. Thurman provided a spark, but like his counterparts, was unable to put six on the board.
Acquired after the Panthers cut him, Gardner stepped into three and four wide receiver sets for the depleted Packers. Gardner contributed with two catches and was frequently able to create space in the seam of the secondary.
Lee was targeted often as Favre was trying to get rid of the ball against the Bears pass rush, but added just ten yards on the afternoon.
Longwell struggled, and ultimately, may have cost the Packers a shot to win this game. Longwell connected from 26 yards out in the closing minutes, but earlier in the game, had pushed kicks from 38 and 39 yards wide right. The announcing crew stated Longwell was somewhat upset with the constant change of holders, but then later pointed out an error in his technique on the second miss.
The Packers did a decent job of shutting down the Bears rushing game, but the persistence of the Bears resulted in them giving up 33 carries for 135 yards and a touchdown. The Packers stuffed Thomas Jones up the middle, but couldnít slow him down on the outside, while they had difficulty tackling a fresh Adrian Peterson.
While they gave up just 166 yards through the air, this day could have been much worse had the Bears receivers been able to pull in passes on target or Rex Grossman been able to put the ball in the hands of Bernard Berrian on a number of plays where he had worked his way behind the secondary. The secondary came up with one interception, with one sack from the pass rush.