NFC North: Bears-Packers

Run-first approach

November, 17, 2008
11/17/08
10:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

The play calling of pass-happy Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy is a source of consistent discussion in Wisconsin and elsewhere, but on Sunday McCarthy stayed true to his commitment to run the ball more as the season progresses.

McCarthy's offense ran on 62.2 percent of its first- and second-down plays in a 37-3 victory over Chicago. It helped that the Packers never trailed in the game. But the percentage is nevertheless a blueprint for the Packers to pursue as the weather turns less predictable in the second half of the season.

Courtesy ESPN Stats & Information, here is down-by-down breakdown of McCarthy's play calling Sunday:

Packers Play Selection By Down
DownRushPassRun%Avg. Gain
1st 18 12 60.0 6.5
2nd 15 8 65.2 6.9
3rd 4 10 28.6 5.1

A beatdown at Lambeau

November, 16, 2008
11/16/08
7:55
PM ET
 
 Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
 Ryan Grant paced the Packers' ground attack with 145 yards.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Tailback Ryan Grant turned the corner and was rumbling toward a mess of players near the goal line Sunday. The pile kept moving backward, and upon closer inspection there was a clear reason: Jordy Nelson, the Packers' rookie receiver, was driving Chicago cornerback Corey Graham backward with a block that would have made the great Packers lineman Jerry Kramer proud.

Graham wound up on his back at the 1-yard line -- a full 22 yards downfield from the line of scrimmage. If there was one visual that demonstrated how Green Bay overpowered the Bears in a 37-3 victory, it was the sight of a 217-pound receiver pancaking a cornerback known for his run support.

"Just part of our job as receivers," Nelson said afterward. Veteran Donald Driver, however, knew better.

"Our coaches told us we needed to have a swagger about ourselves today," Driver said. "We had to come in this week and prove it. Our job as receivers was to come in and block more than we had in previous games. I think we went out and did that."

The Packers didn't just beat the Bears, they beat them up. Nelson's block was only one in a series of physical mismatches Sunday. Green Bay's lines outmuscled the Bears, leading to a 117-yard differential in rushing production (200 to 83), and the its defense limited Chicago to nine first downs and 22 minutes, 32 seconds of possession.

The Bears played into Green Bay's hands by inexplicably pulling back on their run defense. But in the end "we just stunk it up," quarterback Kyle Orton said.

"When you get beat by 30 points," Orton added, "you don't have to look too far."

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Packers 37, Bears 3

November, 16, 2008
11/16/08
4:01
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- You don't often see this kind of blowout in the usually competitive, if not exemplary, NFC North. But the Green Bay Packers stuck it to the Chicago Bears in every way Sunday at Lambeau Field, resurrecting their season while thrusting the Bears into disarray.

The Bears were never able to stop the Packers' running game, which finished the afternoon with 200 yards. And their offense went into a standstill in quarterback Kyle Orton's return from a one-week absence, held without a touchdown for the first time all season.

The Bears' challenge will be to keep from panicking in a division they could still hold a partial lead in by the time you read this. Assuming Tampa Bay holds on to defeat Minnesota, the NFC North's top three teams will all be 5-5. The Bears' 3-1 division record would match the Packers.

Meanwhile, this is the kind of game many people expected from the Packers when the season began: A notable transition to a power-running game after the departure of quarterback Brett Favre, along with an active defense that harasses the quarterback and makes a few big plays.

Bottom line: We have even less clarity in the NFC North now than we had Sunday morning.

We're into the record books

November, 16, 2008
11/16/08
3:43
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers just set a team record by scoring their seventh defensive touchdown of the season, a 54-yard fumble return by linebacker Jason Hunter.

Hunter picked up the ball after Bears quarterback Kyle Orton dropped a shotgun snap, extending a miserable day in which he has been totally out of sorts.

It's 34-3 here midway through the fourth quarter. We'll be back with you after we have a final and then a few hours later.

Packers not letting up

November, 16, 2008
11/16/08
3:17
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Green Bay is continuing to pour it on here at Lambeau Field and the Packers now have more rushing yards (163) than the Bears have total yards (144) with 2:57 remaining in the third quarter.

The Bears have been using a three-man defensive line at times, keeping linebacker Nick Roach near the line of scrimmage for most of those instances. While that might help the Bears' ailing passing defense, you would have to think it's hurting their ability to stop the run.

I plan to write more about this topic later, but if any of you saw Packers receiver Jordy Nelson pancake Bears cornerback Corey Graham at the end of Ryan Grant's 22-yard run, you know which team has been the most physical here at Lambeau Field.

Halftime: Packers in charge

November, 16, 2008
11/16/08
2:35
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A pile of halftime observations from Lambeau Field, where Green Bay leads Chicago, 17-3:

  • We noted Green Bay's early pass efficiency, but as the half progressed the story quickly became how well the Packers were able to run. The Packers' offensive line is pounding the Bears, who have done a good job this season in run defense, and tailback Ryan Grant has 105 yards in the half. Overall, the Packers have grossed 138 rushing yards in the first half -- almost twice total the Bears have been giving up per game this season. For the most part, Grant and backup Brandon Jackson are getting three or four yards downfield before they're even being touched. Surprising.
  • Bears quarterback Kyle Orton is not himself. Twice he has come up limping after relatively mild shots to his right ankle. He has completed only five of 10 passes, and many of them have floated.
  • I haven't noticed a big drop-off at middle linebacker for the Packers after A.J. Hawk replaced the injured Nick Barnett. Chicago tailback Matt Forte has 60 yards on 15 carries, but it's not like you've seen receivers running open down the middle of the field.
  • The Packers missed a sure touchdown when Aaron Rodgers underthrew Donald Driver in the middle of the field during the second quarter. Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, who was chasing Driver on the play, turned around to find the ball in his chest for an interception.
  • We had a James Jones sighting -- briefly. The oft-injured Packers receiver caught an 18-yard pass to convert a third down in the second quarter, but he came up from that play limping. Jones has struggled for most of the season with a knee ailment.
  • Packers placekicker Mason Crosby converted a 53-yard field goal near the end of the half. I'm sure a few Green Bay fans are wondering where that accuracy was at the end of last week's game at the Metrodome.
  • Unless I missed something, which is always possible, Orton has not looked for receiver Brandon Lloyd.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- After a week of consternation about their passing defense, the Chicago Bears have allowed Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers to complete his first seven passes Sunday at Lambeau Field. The final two were slant passes in the red zone; Greg Jennings' 3-yard catch went for the first touchdown of the game.

The Bears have tweaked their pass defense, using Danieal Manning at nickel instead of Corey Graham, but nothing has changed in the big picture.

Orton's ankle a factor

November, 16, 2008
11/16/08
1:22
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Orton

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Chicago quarterback Kyle Orton is already limping.

Orton, who has returned from a sprained right ankle, seemed to tweak the ankle on the Bears' third official play Sunday at Lambeau Field. Packers defensive end Aaron Kampman grabbed Orton's right ankle after an 18-yard pass to tight end Greg Olsen. Orton did not fall, but he yanked his leg away from Kampman and was limping noticeably afterwards.

Kampman really didn't hit Orton very hard, so it's fair to say the ankle Orton's ankle is still pretty tender.

Orton, Lloyd active for Bears

November, 16, 2008
11/16/08
11:53
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- To no one's surprise, Chicago quarterback Kyle Orton is active and will start Sunday against Green Bay.

There were a few Sunday morning surprises for the Bears, however.

Running back Kevin Jones is inactive, leaving Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson and Garrett Wolfe to handle the tailback position on a day when you would assume the Bears will run a lot.

Receiver Brandon Lloyd is active for the first time since Sept. 28.

Although linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer is active, the Bears have made Nick Roach their starting strongside linebacker.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- We're still awaiting official word on Chicago quarterback Kyle Orton, who is warming up on the field and looks fine. But we can report to you that Green Bay defensive tackle Justin Harrell is active and will play Sunday against the Bears.

Harrell sprained his knee in practice Thursday and was listed as questionable.

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