All I Want For Christmas Is Home-Field Advantage

Posted: December 27, 2011 by Kodi in NFL, Pack It Up

Green Bay continued its dominance against the NFC North beating on a depleted Chicago Bears squad

Donald Driver set a record no other Green Bay Packer has ever achieved

While the defense still gave up yards to back-up players they did improve their NFL lead of interceptions

The Green Bay Packers stormed onto Lambeau Field to play their first game since losing to the Kansas City Chiefs over a week ago. Some skeptics believed that the Chiefs had given teams a gameplan to exploit the Packers weaknesses and that it could be the beginning of the end for the Packers. Struggling with some key injuries the Packers were able to welcome back linebackers Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk to the starting lineup although offensive lineman Chad Clifton and Brian Bulaga were unable to make it on the field.

The Packers were ready to shake the dust off and get rid of the bad taste that has been in their mouths since spoiling what could have been a perfect season. Luckily for them the Bears won the coin toss and Green Bay would receive the ball to start the first half for only the 4th time in 14 games. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and Head Coach Mike McCarthy were ready to get back to doing what they had done so well and Green Bay ran an up-tempo offense relying on the no huddle offense.

Rodgers was 8-8 on the drive completing passes to 4 different receivers for 77 yards including a 2 yard TD pass to TE Jermichael Finley. It was Finley’s 4th TD catch against the Bears and his 7th of the season and he accomplished something that no TE has done since Antonio Gates did it in 2005 in his two games against the Chiefs, that accomplishment is a TE scoring 4 or more touchdowns against a division rival in a single season. Finley had two catches in the first drive but had just one more throughout the entire game and finished with 3 catches for 20 yards and his touchdown. On the year he ranks 10th among NFL TE’s with 707 receiving yards and tied for 3rd with his 7 touchdown catches but he has had multiple games with some pretty bad drops and if he wants to sign the type of contract he is expected to be put in front of him he needs to work on that.

The Packers offense was crippled until the end of the 2nd quarter when Rodgers once again instituted an effective no-huddle offense with a lot from the shotgun formation. Green Bay was able to charge down field and Rodgers was eventually able to hit WR James Jones for a 2 yard touchdown pass giving the Packers a 14-3 lead heading into halftime. In between the two touchdowns the Packers had 3 three and out drives and it almost seemed as if the skeptics were starting to believe that the Pack had lost their touch but they didn’t.

Chicago had cut it to a 4 point game after their first drive of the 2nd half resulted in offensive lineman Edwin Williams picked up RB Khalil Bell’s fumble in the end-zone for a touchdown. Green Bay took just 3 plays before Rodgers found WR Jordy Nelson deep down the middle for a 55 yard touchdown and the Packers were starting to look like their old selves again. With their defense rejuvenated they forced the Bears to a three and out and Rodgers and the Packers stormed back onto the field and scored another touchdown from a 7 yard pass between Rodgers and Jones, their 2nd touchdown connection of the day.

On the following Bears drive QB Josh McCown tried to go deep on the Packers secondary and a tipped ball landed into the hand of S Charlie Peprah. That gave Green Bay the ball back and Rodgers found Jordy Nelson a couple of times on the drive including a 2 yard touchdown pass, it was also the 2nd connection between the two and Aaron looked like the god-like QB who had been on the field for those first 8 games of the season. Not to mention the fact that the Packers were now up 35-10 and homefield advantage was all but 14 minutes away.

Rodgers was back to his early season form and finished the game 21-29 with 283 yards and 5 touchdowns including a passer rating of 142.7. He also added another 18 yards rushing on 4 attempts but he was disbursing the ball incredibly well hitting 8 different receivers at least once. Rodgers has now recorded a QB rating of 100+ in 13 games breaking a NFL record previously held by Steve Young and Tom Brady. He also has had 4 games with 140+ QB rating breaking a record held by Roger Staubach and Tom Brady. His 5 touchdown game was also his 5th with 4 or more and ties the Packers franchise record from Favre’s 1996 MVP season.

He has a whopping 45 passing touchdowns on the season, leading the league, and has 4643 yards good enough for 3rd but has thrown just 6 interceptions and rushed for another 257 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is known for his incredible arm and ability to force the ball into pockets most QB’s wouldn’t imagine threading a ball into but he ranks 4th amongst QB’s in rushing yards and is tied for 5th in rushing touchdowns amongst QB’s.

Rodgers has spread the ball around a lot this season and after the game against the Bears WR Donald Driver has a total of 10,008 yards receiving and is just the 36th player in NFL history to achieve such a feat and the first Packer. WR Jordy Nelson hauled in 2 touchdowns tying a career high and allotted for 115 of Rodgers 257 yards. It brought Nelson’s season total to 1,101 yards and 12 touchdowns which are both career highs and he is just the 8th player in the Packers franchise history to have 12 or more touchdown catches. James Jones also caught 2 touchdowns against the Bears and now has a career high 7 touchdown catches on the season. Last week the Packers offense looked to struggle without WR Greg Jennings but on Christmas day they looked to be back in form. The offensive line allowed just a single sack and it wasn’t to any of the front 7 but rather CB Charles Tillman. Next week McCarthy hopes to get Clifton back and test him against the Lions to see what type of role he will play in the post-season.

As I said earlier the Packers got Hawk and Bishop back on the field on defense and the two were tied for the team high in tackles. Bishop had 12 total with 9 solo and a tackle for loss while Hawk had 12 with 6 solo and a tackle for loss. Not to say that D.J. Smith and Patrick Francois didn’t fill in admirably they clearly weren’t playing to the level that these to have all season long. The Packers have struggled all year long with their pass rush and it’s something they know they need to fix going into the playoffs but even against a porous offensive line like the Bears Green Bay was unable to record a single sack and hit the QB just 2 times.

Clay Mathews seems to be missing DL Cullen Jenkins and nobody has been able to fill the void after his departure last season. Since nobody is able to step up there has been a lot of extra coverage on Claymaker and he has had to make an impact in a different way than last season. Clay was able to pick off his 3rd pass of the season increasing his career high when he faked the pass rush and dropped into coverage perfectly. Bears RB Khalil Bell may have blown blocking Clay but he was able to drop back unabated and get in between the QB and his target and the ball looked to be thrown directly to Mathews. Along with Peprah’s interception later in the game Green Bay continued to increase their league lead in interceptions and while their offense didn’t lose the ball once they also increased their turnover ratio.

Green Bay gave up 11 points late in the 4th quarter after the game had long been decided and ended up defeating the Bears 35-21. The victory was significant because not only did they lock up homefield advantage but they were able to knock Chicago out of playoff contention and set a record for most regular season wins with 14. The win is also their 12th straight at home and have swept the Bears twice in the past three seasons. Heading into the season finale against the Detroit Lions HC Mike McCarthy and the Packers are 26-9 against division opponents second only to New England, 27-8, during that same stretch of time. But as McCarthy reiterated home-field advantage was the teams biggest goal; “I think it’s most important, that’s why we made it one of three goals. We had three goals to start the season: win the division, home-field advantage, and obviously to win the Super Bowl.”

McCarthy continued to explain “we wanted the path to go through Lambeau. We have a great home-field advantage here. There is nothing like our fans, our surface is in great shape, and we play well at home. Ithink everybody would like to play at home” especially if your team is 7-0 at home on the season and are used to playing in the cold elements which may be detrimental to the Packers two biggest contenders the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers. The most important thing is that after a wonderful Christmas day the Packers fans were able to huddle around and watch their favorite team spread some cheer and now it’s on to goal number 3.

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