By Tom Pollin
Cold, Hard Football Facts Black & Blues Brother (@tjpollin)
No team is as good as they look when they win and no team is as bad as they look when they lose.
The Packers accepted that fact last week after being beaten convincingly at home by the San Francisco 49ers.
I’s a lesson the Bears will have 10 days to accept before they take the field in Week 3 against the St. Louis Rams.
The Packers continued their recent domination of the rivalry by flattening the Bears into the Lambeau Field turf 23-10. Green Bay is now 30-11 in the last 41 meetings against their ancient rivals. The Bears still leads the all-time series, 92-87-6.
The Chicago offense that looked ready to storm its way through the schedule after their performance against the Colts did a pratfall in front of a national audience.
Neither quarterback distinguished themselves but Aaron Rodgers did enough to keep the game firmly in the Packers’ control all night. Rodgers completed 22 of 32 passes (68.8%) for 219 yards, 6.84 YPA, 1 TD 1 INT and an 85.3 passer rating.
He's been WELL below his record-setting 2011 efficiency (122.5 rating) in both games this year.
Jay Cutler’s evening deteriorated into a near Weeden-ian nightmare (5.1 passer rating in Week 1). Thursday night was the second worst game he has ever played at quarterback in his professional career: 11 of 27, 40.7%, 126 yards, 4.67 YPA, 1 TD, 4 INT and a 28.2 passer rating.
In a way, the night was nearly a throwback to old style “black and blue” division football with smothering defense played by both teams and the first side that could come up with a big play, either on offense, defense or special teams, would be able to take control of the game.
Here are five things we learned:
1. Clay Matthews dominated Chicago and its offensive line.
Clay Matthews is back in championship form. With the 2.5 sacks he recorded against the 49ers and the 3.5 sacks he picked up against the Bears, Matthews has matched his total from all of 2011. He chalked up 13.5 sacks in Green Bay's Super Bowl-winning 2010 campaign.
Matthews turned J’Marcus Webb into a turnstile again, after the Chicago left tackle played a strong game against the Colts last week.
Matthews was dominant the entire game, not just with sacks, but in disrupting the Bears' entire passing game. He was in Cutler’s head and Webb wasn’t helping with his inability to get in Matthews’ way.
While Webb had a terrible game, as he continued to struggle the Bears’ offensive coaches did nothing to make an adjustment, in blocking or play calling, to slow the relentless pass rush Webb and the rest of the line were facing.
The Packers’ defense ended the game with seven sacks. With the four interceptions that Cutler threw, added together it makes 11 Negative Pass Plays their defense created in 34 drop backs. That's a Negative Pass Play rate of 32.4 percent, for those of you keeping score at home.
The Chicago offense was dead last in Negative Pass Play percentage in 2011 (13.22%). After Thursday night's performance, it looks headed for the basement again.
2. Cutler distintegrated before our very eyes.
As the game fell apart around Cutler, his frustration level grew visibly. It reached a point where, even when he did have time and lanes to throw the ball, his mechanics had degraded to the point where he was unable to do anything with the opportunity.
Jay Cutler’s weakness is when he feels that he’s lost control of the game in some way, especially if he’s receiving consistent pass rush pressure, he loses control of his emotions and his quarterback fundamentals.
If things continue to fall apart during a game his frustrations take the shape of him lashing out at teammates.
There isn’t much to defend in the play of his teammates against the Packers but glaring at them, or throwing a shoulder into Webb, isn’t going to improve the situation.
Performances of the type that Cutler produced during the Bears win streak in 2011 make it look like he is definitely a quality, franchise quarterback with the capability to lead the Bears to a Super Bowl.
Performances like the one against the Packers make you wonder if he’ll ever figure out how to develop a consistent, winning attitude.
3. Chicago's offense hasn't looked this bad in 37 years.
The Packers surrendered 5.81 YPA on the ground against the 49ers in Week 1. But the Bears made no focused effort to establish the run when they still had the chance to take the lead and take control of the game.
Instead, the Bears produced one of the weakest offensive efforts in the history of the old Bears-Packers rivalry: Chicago's 168 yards of offense was its fewest against Green Bay since the depths of the Dead Ball Era in 1975 (132 yards), according to the ProFootballReference play index.
The historically dismal effort was offensive: 74 net yards passing, 94 yards rushing and 2.9 yards per play.
Tice appeared to make no changes to attack the Green Bay defense, which has been porous at best in recent games dating back to last year; Cutler himself also failed to affect the situation.
Before the season and throughout training camp a big emphasis out of Chicago was that Cutler would have a freer hand in the offense with Mike Martz gone and Tice in charge. But it appeared he failed to take charge.
After last week’s game against the Colts Cutler estimated that he had made changes to 50 to 60 percent of plays that Tice had called on the sidelines. Cutler knew what the Packers were doing but apparently never audibled out of the play he was given.
Was it a matter of Cutler not knowing what to do against the defense the Packers were showing him, a method of sending a subtle message to Tice or some other reason no one has considered yet? Anything is possible considering how the game played out. We’ll see what is said in the next few days.
4. The Packers prepared better during the short week.
Nothing the Bears did during the game seemed to catch the Packers off guard.
The only unit on the team where the Bears could say they were prepared as well as the Packers was on defense. Dom Capers of the Packers and Rod Marinelli of the Bears both played cover-2 schemes with safeties deep nearly the entire game.
Capers did it to keep Brandon Marshall from getting free behind the Packers’ defense; Marinelli did it to keep Jordy Nelson contained. While Nelson managed to catch 6 passes, he was never able to impact the game by stretching the field like he's capable of.
The big play that put the Packers firmly in control of the game came from special teams coach Shawn Slocum who caught the Bears’ Dave Toub napping, which is a very rare occurrence.
“We’ve been working on that play, it’s got to be two or three years,” head coach Mike McCarthy said after the game. “We were looking for a certain look from the Bears. They gave it to us.”
What the perfect look allowed was, with the Packers lined up for a 34-yard field goal attempt by Mason Crosby, holder Tim Masthay took the snap and flipped the ball to Tom Crabtree as he came down the line of scrimmage. Crabtree dashed untouched 27-yards for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead. What was more important, it gave the Packers confidence and momentum that they never gave up
5. Yes, Chicago, it really was that bad. But don't let Twitter get you down.
The Bears, not to mention fans across the ChicagoLand, wake up this morning with the realization that Thursday night's ugly performance revealed all the old offense-less weaknesses that have haunted this team now for decades.
But there is a bright side: the Bears didn’t hit their stride until five games into the season last year. They got too high after beating a bad team last week; the worst thing anyone can do is get too low after the performance against the Packers.
One dynamic that seems to feed the extreme emotional swings that take place during the season is the explosion in use of social media, especially Twitter.
Many moons ago, when computers took up entire rooms and if you wanted one on a desktop you needed one ginormous desk, game discussions took place throughout offices and other workplaces about each game but these conversations were all self-contained.
If you lived in a big city there may have been an opportunity to discuss sports issues during a daily sports radio show. Some common themes would begin to get established but before any thoughts got too far it was time to play the next game.
Those same thoughts, ideas and theories are spread immediately now, practically between plays of a game with the technology available to everyone. A subject can be raised, developed, discarded, raised in a different form, reshaped and the process never ends. It makes preventing yourself from getting too emotionally high if you're a Packers fan or stepping back from the edge of the cliff if you're a Bears fan a difficult thing to do.
The Bears will get a couple of days off before beginning preparations against the St. Louis Rams. The Packers will begin preparing for a trip to Seattle to face the Seahawks in Week 3. After those games, an entire new set of perceptions about both teams will take shape.
And those perceptions can't get any worse for the Bears than they were last night.