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Monday, January 03, 2005
Game Review: Packers 31 Bears 14
by Thomas Pyc
At kickoff, Packer fans were unaware of which players would be starting and who would be sitting. On defense Grady Jackson was absent the starting lineup allowing for the knees that supported his 350+ body some much-needed rest. The only other regular starter on defense that was not on the field for the first series was Cletidus Hunt. Hunt was benched due to his persistent underachievement. On the offensive side of the ball, all of the usual suspects started the game and only running back Najeh Davenport and wide receiver Robert Ferguson were inactive due to injury.
By the time the first two minutes and six seconds had rolled off the clock the Bears found themselves up, 7-0. The key play on the drive was a 63-yard pass from Chad Hutchinson to David Terrell. The called coverage on the play appeared to match Al Harris man-to-man with safety Mark Roman covering over the top. After two consecutive running plays, Harris was caught peaking into the backfield as Terrell made his moves on a corner route. At that point several fans had to be wondering whether the Packers were ‘mailing it in’ and ready to start preparing for their first round playoff game.
Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. After an unsuccessful drive for the offense the Packer D forced a punt and then proceeded to drive 86 yards for a touchdown on a Favre to Franks pass. After the Bears initial scoring drive they punted on seven of their next eight possessions. The result of the possession on which they did not punt was an interception by Darren Sharper, which he returned for 43 yards and a touchdown.
At that point the score was 21-7 and momentum was solely with the Packers.
Brett Favre finally left the game at the 9-minute mark in the second quarter giving way to backup Craig Nall. Favre finished the day with a 151.4 passer rating (9 of 13, 196 yards, 2 TDs). More important than the statistics, Favre appeared to be 100% comfortable and ready for a strong playoff run. As for Craig Nall, he entered the game as though he had been in it all along. Nall went 3 for 3 on his first drive, passing for 64 yards concluded with a 25 yard touchdown strike to Javon Walker. Nall’s first pass was a bullet to Franks, which he squeezed between a few Bear defenders. The second pass was a beautifully placed throw to Ben Steele. At the time it appeared as though Nall would have a hard time further impressing onlookers but his next pass to Javon Walker was another perfectly placed ball that Favre himself would have had trouble topping.
With the score 28 to 7 the outcome of the game appeared to be over. What else could possibly happen? Unfortunately for Packer fans a scary moment occurred when Javon Walker’s noggin bounced violently on the field and his extremities appeared to tighten as he lay motionless on the turf. Fortunately, Walker made it off the field under his own power and is expected to play in the first round of the playoffs. Overall, this game is a perfect example of how important it is to play your starters in order to maintain momentum going into the playoffs but at the same time it displayed how quickly a key element of a team can be lost.
Next up for the Packers is the Minnesota Vikings (Sunday @ 4:30 EST). The idea of playing and defeating a team 3 times in a season does not sound like an easily achievable goal but history shows that in similar situations (there has been fifteen) that it is accomplished 66% (ten) of the times. And if the Packers have one thing going their way heading into the playoffs it is momentum, something that the Vikings do not appear to have at this point. How important is momentum at this point in the season? Well, all one has to do is reference the final game of the 2001 season in which the Packers looked dismal in their final regular season game against the New York Jets as well as the following week against the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs. This time around the Packers are the ones with the big ‘MO’ and a solid opportunity to take advantage to keep it.