Chicago Bears versus the Green Bay Packers: Five Keys to the Game

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23: Center Olin Kreutz #57 of the Chicago Bears prepares to snap the ball against the Green Bay Packers in the first half of the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

By Bryan Dietzler

Going into the Thanksgiving night game against the Packers, no one really thought the Bears would win the game as even this writer felt that there was no way the Bears could take down the Packers in their house.  It was even the night the Packers were retiring former quarterback Brett Favre’s number so you figured that there would be a lot of emotion and a lot of energy for Green Bay in this game.  It was thought it might be a close game but as the game drew near not too many people gave the Bears a chance to win.  But the Bears would prove most everyone wrong.

Chicago scratched and clawed their way to a 17-13 victory over the Packers at Lambeau Field this past Thanksgiving night silencing critics and proving many doubters wrong.  Quarterback Jay Cutler got the monkey known as the Green Bay Packers off his back finally and the defense showed up in a big way.  Granted it was a bit of a slow start for the Bears but they got things going on offense, locked the Packers down on defense and didn’t have any turnovers.  It was nearly a complete game by the Bears.

The following is a look at five keys to the game for the Bears against the Packers this Thursday night.  There is some insight into individual keys as well as a look at unit and team performances that had an outcome in this game.  Finally, there is an overall summary of the effort by the Bears and what they have to look forward to next Sunday.

Penalties Take Hold-The Bears, after playing a game (against the Broncos) in which they didn’t have a single penalty had several key penalties in this game that could have easily cost them the win.  One penalty came on the Packer’s only touchdown drive and was key in helping Green Bay score.  Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was able to draw Chicago’s defense offsides on a few occasions and the offensive line of the Bears had some mistakes as well.  They definitely made up for not making any mistakes the previous week this Thursday night.  The Bears need to curb these penalties, be much more cerebral and be much more careful in future games.

Is Porter a Shutdown Corner?-You have Darrell Revis who is known as a shutdown corner in the league. Thursday night Bear’s cornerback Tracy Porter shut down any receiver that was in his area and has been doing so for the last few weeks.  Porter has been very good at his craft lately and hasn’t been allowing a lot of completions to receivers that he is covering.  Now that he is healthy (he missed the Bear’s first game against the Packers) Porter has been a force in the secondary for the Bears. Kyle Fuller isn’t doing too bad a job himself but Porter has been on fire as of late and seems unstoppable and he was against the Packers.

Jay Saves the Day-The Bears offense and quarterback Jay Cutler started off the game a little slow but when it mattered Cutler got the offense going and scored enough points to win the game.  More importantly Cutler kept the ball out of harm’s way (although there were a couple passes that were nearly intercepted) and didn’t make any mistakes.  Cutler had never won at Lambeau Field before Thursday night and had a pretty poor record against the Packers overall so this win is important for him and the Bears to make an attempt to climb back in to dominate the Packers like they did in the 80’s and 90’s.  Is this the start of something special for the Bears versus the Packers?  We will find out next year.

Stopping the Run-The Bears defense started out the game with problems trying to stop the run against the Packers and struggled much like they did against the Broncos the previous week.  The Packers were able to initially control the ball and the clock to start the game keeping it out of the hands of the Bears offense while they wore out the defense.  The Bears tightened up their run defense a little later in the game and forced the Packers to go to the air which the Bears then locked down and prevented the Packers from coming back.  The Bears run defense has to step it up and play better if they want any shot of winning more games and making the playoffs this season.

Forte was Back but..-The Bears rushing offense ran up against a good Packer’s rushing defense and there wasn’t a lot of room to run for the Bears.  Matt Forte was coming back after being out three games with a knee injury and neither he nor Jeremy Langford had much success running the football.  The Bears had to turn to the passing game on a night when the weather wasn’t quite cooperating (and when running the football would have been a better idea than anything else) but they still managed to get it done.  The Packers run defense has been good the past couple of weeks and the Bears were victims of the resurgent Packers run defense.  Had Chicago been able to run the ball this game might not have been as close as it was.

The Bears played a very good game minus the penalties and the early offensive inefficiency finally beating the Packers at home.  While it may not seem like it this is a big win for the Bears, not only do they finally get a win over the Packers in their house but they hold onto the edge in the all-time series, but they have scored more points in the series but they also get a huge monkey off their back by winning this game.  This is a statement win for the Bears and a good one for their morale and chances of making the playoffs.

The defense did a very good job while the offense took a while to get going.  The defense has been playing very well over the last few games allowing one to two touchdowns in every game since playing the Lions in an overtime loss several weeks ago.  The offense isn’t the greatest but has done enough to win games for the Bears or keep them close.  The team may not be a big time winner just yet but give them another year and they will be very competitive.

Chicago will host the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday.  The 49ers have played the Bears tough as of late but they come into this game without their starting quarterback, Colin Kapernick, who is on injured reserve.  San Francisco hasn’t been playing that well and the Bears can take advantage of this to try to gain another victory to pull themselves up to .500 keeping their playoff hopes alive.  A more in depth preview of this game will follow in the next few days.

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