Dec 26, 2011, 5:37 PM EDT
STARS NEED TO PLAY LIKE STARS:
The Bears needed to win on Sunday night. Riding a four-game losing streak, Chicago had no other options but to beat Green Bay if they wanted their slim playoff hopes to stay alive.
The Packers wanted to win on Sunday Night. The number one seed in the NFC was in their grasp, and they wanted to clinch it Christmas night.
Before the game Bears head coach Lovie Smith said his defense, was “intact.” He felt especially good about his defensive line, which he expected to take advantage of a make-shift Packers offensive line.
Smith also pointed out that some of his best defenders — Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Charles Tillman — needed to stand out.
“They haven’t played bad football,” said Smith,”but we need our stars to be stars. They can’t blend in. All those stars have to show up.”
There were some stretches where the Chicago defense as a whole looked stout. They forced Aaron Rodgers and company into some rare three-and-outs in the first half.
But ultimately, Rodgers didn’t get sacked once. His patchwork O-line kept him upright enough for the MVP frontrunner to throw five touchdown passes — a career-first.
So it was the Packers tattered O-line who shone on Sunday night. And the Bears defensive stars… well, they blended in.
Maybe it was Urlacher who said it best when he told us before the game, “As long as Rodgers is their QB they’re gonna be good on offense”
PACKERS DEFENSE HAS ROOM TO IMPROVE
It seems like an impossible statistic: The Packers defense has allowed more yards (6,010) this season than the Packers offense has gained (5,932).
Still, Green Bay’s most important record is 14-1.
But one has to wonder if the Packers can win a Super Bowl with that “bend but don’t break” defense.
Before the game, LB Clay Matthews told us, “We need to continue to improve. We need to perform well Sunday so we can feel good about ourselves.”
Matthews was calling out the entire defense as he added, “We all need to play better. We can’t be a liability to our offense. We need to hold our own. We need to get off the field before we get into the red zone.”
The weaknesses were revealed again Sunday Night as the Pack allowed 199 yards rushing by the Bears, led by Kahlil Bell’s impressive 121 yards.
In the post-game interview Matthews told me, “When you have a quarterback like (Rodgers), you can afford a couple of mistakes.”
McCarthy is looking forward to the return of run-stopper Ryan Pickett, who missed his second straight game.
After suffering his second concussion of the season, Pickett has not yet been cleared to practice or play. The good news is that he was allowed to return to meetings last Thursday.
With the NFL’s growing concern over head injuries, it’s difficult to predict when Pickett will be available to play.
The Bears were able to run the ball effectively Sunday night using Bell and Armando Allen, who made his NFL debut.
That running success, however, came against a suspect run-defense.
But the Bears have yet to decide if Forte will remain in Chicago.
I caught up with the injured back on the field before Sunday night’s contest.
Forte told me there were no on-going discussions between his agent and the Bears. “I guess we’ll talk when the season ends.”
The four year veteran back recognizes the Bears could put the “Franchise” tag on him, but he’s not a fan of that notion.
“I don’t think (the franchise tag) is a solution,” the Tulane product told me. “It’s a one-year-deal. Yes, there’s a pay-raise, but it’s a one-year deal.”
Clearly, Forte wants more. “As a running back,” he said, “you want four or five years.”
I asked if his agent had heard from other teams who might be interested in Forte’s services.
“I’m pretty sure another team would be interested,” he confidently told me.
Forte had hoped his contract would be settled by now. “I did everything right,” he told me. “I did not hold out. I came to camp. Unfortunately, I’m injured now.”
STINGY, BUT NOT A GRINCH
Aaron Rodgers has thrown just six interceptions this season. He does not like to share the football with his opponents. He’s not a giver that way.
But when it comes to his teammates, he’s beyond generous.
And we’re not just talking about the 45 TD passes he’s thrown to Jordy Nelson (12), Greg Jennings (9), Jermichael Finley (7), James Jones (7), Donald Driver (5), John Khun (2), Randall Cobb (1), Ryan Taylor (1) and Tom Crabtree (1).
Rodgers enjoys gifting his offensive linemen during the holidays. This year the “normal” starting five linemen received what Rodgers described as “sweet” watches, which were engraved.
Evan Deitrich-Smith and Marshall Newhouse received Mac laptops.
And the remaining three young linemen were given Samsung televisions.
Even before Rodgers was the starter he enjoyed doling out Christmas cheer. Back in the day when he ran the scout team, he gave all the scout team members laptops.
It’s good to be Rodgers’ teammate. Especially in December.
“LET ‘ER RIP!”
The expectations for the Bears number three quarterback Josh McCown weren’t sky high coming into Sunday night’s game at Green Bay.
Smith and his offensive coordinator Mike Martz told us they were “pleased” with McCown’s work ethic.
Not a ringing endorsement.
In fact, after McCown’s first practice with the Bears the coaching staff “didn’t leave the field talking about how good he threw the football,” Smith said.
But this week, the journeyman made the throws the staff asked of him.
McCown told us he was excited for this opportunity.
He found out Monday that he’d be the starter. “I was at the museum downtown with my wife and kids,” he told us. “I got a text to come up to (Halas Hall), so I knew something was up.”
Martz and quarterbacks coach Shane Day told him, “We’re gonna give you a shot.”
McCown was asked what message he would give himself before taking the field.
“I will say a little prayer, then go out and get after it,” he replied.
His gratitude was evident as he added, “I’m very thankful. It stinks to be out of work. There’s a richness and fullness to this for me. Every minute will be special for me. So I’ll just tell myself, ‘Let it rip,’ and enjoy it.”
McCown had a respectable night, completing 19-of-28 pass attempts for 242 yards, one touchdown and 2 INTs.
And belated happy birthday wishes to McCown’s wife, Natalie.
Sunday Night Football TwitterView all »
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Sunday Night Football Headlines
- Cowboys reach deal with third-rounder Wilcox
- Jaguars announce stadium enhancements
- Titans down to one unsigned pick
- PFT on NBCSN: Don Shula, Dolphins/Bills Mt. Rushmores
- Titans sign Barry Richardson
- Adam Jones: I just want to enlighten the rookies
- Suit against Hernandez being re-filed today
- PFT Live: Trouble for Pats’ star tight ends
- Bernard Pollard says Titans’ mission to “Kill!!!”
- PFT Live: Wycheck talks TE to WR conversion
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