Green Bay fans may have panicked a little too soon after the Packers lost last week’s season opener to the San Francisco 49ers. Their beloved Pack was 0-1 after all, and had already matched their losing total from all of 2011, when they went 15-1. And even though the Packers struggled at times last night, they showed us why they are still one of the NFL’s best teams; as they went on to beat their rival Chicago, 23-10. Green Bay is now like the Bears, 1-1 on the season and amid a few concerns, they still looked like a winning squad, so fans and bettors in favor of the Packers can breathe a little sigh of relief today.
Some of the concerns involve how the Packers won the game. Last season Green Bay tended to dominate teams with its powerful offense, a group that seemed flawless at times, but in last night’s victory, Aaron Rodgers and Co. were anything but perfect. However, they found a way to win against a tough defense and in untypical Green Bay fashion, employed a few tricks to get the job done.
Both offenses were sputtering in the first half and the score was Green Bay 3, Chicago late in the first half. So, the Pack decided a little trickery was in order to spark some scoring. Green Bay lined up for what appeared to be a normal 44-yard field goal attempt, but after the snap, punter and holder on field goals, Tim Masthay, flipped the ball to backup tight end Tom Crabtree, who took the pitch and scooted through a large hole on the right side against the unsuspecting Bears special teams. Crabtree scored on what was officially called a 27-yard pass play and put the Packers up 10-0 with just under two minutes to go in the half. Green Bay then added a 35-yard field goal as the first half expired to lead 13-0 at the break.
Rodgers would throw his one and only touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter as the Pack increased their lead to 23-3 at that point. The Bears then scored a late TD on a pass from Jay Cutler to Kellen Davis, but it was not nearly enough.
The trick play may have given the Packers the momentum going into the locker room at halftime, but they really beat the Bears on Thursday night with defense. The Packers harassed Cutler, sacking him seven times, three and a half of which were at the hands of the always tenacious, Clay Matthews. The pressure also forced Cutler to make mistakes, four big ones in fact. Cutler threw four INTS, which accounted for all of the Bears’ turnovers.
Packers’ fans and bettors like to see the offense clicking, but the Pack proved last night that they are multi-dimensional. And we also have to take into account how good each of the two defenses are that they have faced in San Fran and Chicago. Going forward, expect the Packers to continue to do what they do well, which is score, but also look for them to provide a solid pass rush and force some turnovers on the defensive side.
Green Bay is not perfect, but make no mistake; the Packers are still the heavy favorites in the NFC North. Expect them to repeat as division champions and give them a good chance to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Don’t shy away of betting larger spreads for the Pack when they face weak defenses. The offensive will thrive again in those circumstances. Also, the Bears haven’t looked half bad either. Just because they got beat up by the Pack, doesn’t mean they will have good betting spots down the line.