Sunday, December 16, 2012
Halftime adjustments: Packers 14, Bears 7
By Michael C. Wright
Brandon Marshall said he would play like it's his last game, and he followed through with a touchdown.
CHICAGO -- Despite all the criticism leveled at Bears coach Lovie Smith in recent days, it's apparent he's got the team prepared for Sunday's matchup against the Green Bay Packers, based on its performance in the first half.
With the score tied at 7, one miscommunications between Jay Cutler and a href="http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/_/id/9643/devin-hester">Devin Hester resulted in an interception by Casey Hayward that Green Bay turned into a 14-7 Packers advantage at halftime with Aaron Rodgers hitting James Jones for his second touchdown of the first half with just 28 seconds remaining.
That one mistake could prove costly for the Bears. After all, the club is 1-10 over the past two seasons when it trails at intermission.
Let's take a look at some adjustments the Bears might make in the locker room to avoid 1-11.
STOP SILLY MISTAKES After stopping the Packers on third down, the Bears gave them a fresh set of downs by putting 12 men on the field on fourth down. The Bears managed to stop Green Bay on the ensuing possession that resulted in a punt and Devin Hester's best return (24 yards) since Nov. 11. But Chicago can't continue to give the Packers opportunities without them eventually taking advantage and turning the mistakes into points.
Early in the game, a snap-infraction penalty by Roberto Garza killed a drive. Then late in the first quarter, a Gabe Carimi holding call negated a Matt Forte 7-yard run and forced the club into a second-and-20 situation that resulted in another punt.
Then Cutler threw an interception to Hayward on a pass intended for Hester, who appeared to run the wrong route on the play.
The Packers turned that miscommunications into an 8-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Jones.
In a game like this, silly mistakes become the difference between a win and a loss. So the Bears absolutely need to stop this or the Packers will eventually make them pay.
KEEP UP THE DISGUISES The Bears tossed in some wrinkles with their coverages that seemed to confuse Aaron Rodgers early on. Showing single-high looks with the safeties before the snap, the Bears shuffled back into Cover 2 as Rodgers carried out a play action fake. Once Rodgers finished the fake, he looked up and realized the Bears were playing Cover 2. Chicago's last-second shuffle into Cover 2 after showing a single-high look initially made Rodgers hesitate, tuck the ball, and scramble for the first down because he couldn't find an open receiver.
In another third-and-long situation, the Bears showed man-to-man before the snap, but actually played Cover 3.
Chicago's diversity on the back end and a strong effort from the pass rush has slowed down Green Bay's offense. Eventually, Rodgers and the
Packers will catch on. So the Bears need to continue to show Rodgers different looks.
USE THE RUN AS A TOOL By the 6:07 mark of the second quarter, the Bears had handed off to Matt Forte 11 times, while running the ball a total of 14 times. Forte averaged 5.5 yards per attempt over his first 11 carries, and that played a major role in keeping the Packers off balance on defense.
By running the ball successfully, the Bears open up more of the playbook because the Packers can't key in on any one element of Chicago's game. The ground game also takes pressure of quarterback Jay Cutler, who suffered a sack early on, but finished the opening half with a passer rating of 130.4 while hitting on 5 of 7 for 49 yards and a 15-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall.