Jensen: This isn’t the kind of reverse the Bears’ offense wanted to run
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org September 13, 2012 11:02PM
GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 13: Running back Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears runs against free safety Morgan Burnett #42 and cornerback Casey Hayward #29 of the Green Bay Packers in the second quarter at Lambeau Field on September 13, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Updated: November 13, 2012 1:15AM
GREEN BAY, Wis. — The NFL’s oldest rivalry opened with a play reminiscent of the rusty reels, when Bears cornerback Sherrick McManis flipped Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb over his head after a modest 21-yard kickoff return.
Yet the two old-school clubs remained in the past, with an insulting display of the modern pass. Jay Cutler finished the first quarter 1 of 3 for minus-two yards, while Aaron Rodgers completed
4 of 8 for 62 yards.
But in the second quarter, the Packers started to find their groove, while the Bears reverted to a similar M.O., one that isn’t so historic: counting on their defense and special teams to keep them in the game and generate the momentum.
Despite all the offseason additions and the fireworks against the lowly Indianapolis Colts in the opener, the Bears couldn’t escape its putrid past, losing 23-10 to the Packers, falling to 1-1 and missing a chance to bury the reigning NFC North champion in an early hole.
“Maybe we’re not as good as we thought we were,” Bears lineback Brian Urlacher said. “We’ve got a long ways to go.”
The usually reliable Bears’ special teams were also outplayed when the Packers perfectly executed a fake field goal as holder Tim Masthay shoveled the ball to receiver Tom Crabtree, who glided untouched into the end zone. Only one Bears player — safety Chris Conte — had a remote shot to make the tackle, but he was swallowed up by a lineman.
And even when the defense finally did create a turnover, when cornerback Charles Tillman forced and recovered a fumble in Bears territory in the third quarter, the offense sputtered and gained just three yards before punting after a three-and-out.
“They kicked our butt,” Urlacher said. “We didn’t get enough big plays, turnovers or anything.”
Rodgers didn’t look like the reigning MVP, completing 14 of 21 passes for 128 yards in the first half but — unlike Cutler — didn’t turn the ball over. He still managed to be efficient in the face of serious pressure by the Bears’ defensive line, more than the unit had shown recently in the series. In the previous three games, including the NFC title game at the end of the 2010 season, the Bears got just four sacks and seven pressures.
Rodgers, who was held under a 100 passer rating in five of the last six games, didn’t toss his first touchdown pass until the fourth quarter, on a 26-yarder to receiver Donald Driver.
For the game, Rodgers was 22 of 32 for 219 yards, all without his best receiver, Greg Jennings, who missed the game because of a groin injury suffered in the first game of this season.
The defensive line had four sacks by halftime, with Julius Peppers tallying two, one from the inside and one from the outside. Rookie Shea McClellin split one with Corey Wootton, and defensive tackle Henry Melton raced to Rodgers for a quick one, as well.
Tillman, despite being limited to only one practice after suffering a shin injury in the first quarter against the Colts, started the game, and Tim Jennings continued his strong play, intercepting a pass in the fourth quarter to set up the Bears’ touchdown drive.
Unlike the Bears, who started off trying to pass, the Packers established the run with running back Cedric Benson. The former Bears fourth overall pick ran just nine times in the season-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers, but he had 11 carries by halftime. Benson was effective enough, averaging just over four yards per carry, and Cobb contributed with a 28-yarder.
That opened up the passing lanes for Rodgers, who worked the middle of the field, where Urlacher usually roams.
Urlacher had five first-half tackles, but linebacker Lance Briggs made the splashier plays, nearly picking off one pass late in the first half.
But that’s as close as the Bears came to a turnover early, when the offense desperately needed a kick-star.
The defense allowed the vaunted Packers’ offense to score just six points in the first half.
“I though we would play better,” Urlacher said. “We were better than we showed tonight.”