Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011
Posted: 11:39 a.m. Updated: 10:13 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
It was the perfect play, one in a game that had precious few for the Bears. And it still produced nothing.
With the Packers leading 27-17 and just over a minute to play, the Bears forced a Green Bay punt. Scheming for a pooch punt to their right, the Bears staged a collective feint, with returner Devin Hester drifting to his left, and blockers going his way.
Except that the ball was not going anywhere near Hester.
Johnny Knox quietly had made his way deep along the right sideline and punter Tim Masthay dutifully punted that way. But the coverage team was suckered into going for Hester, while the ball was going to Knox all alone at the Chicago 11.
Knox gathered in the ball and went 89 yards for a touchdown that appeared to bring the Bears back to within a score and with a chance to recover an onsides kick and pull out a win.
But as Knox neared the Green Bay goal line, he looked back upfield and saw yellow, a penalty flag. Far on the other side of the field, away from the play, Corey Graham had been called for holding.
It wasnt explained, just a hold on me, said a visibly angry Graham. I should have just let him go. I shouldnt have even touched the dude. But the call was ticky-tack.
Other Bears used far stronger words for the call. The Packers, for their part, were impressed.
That was the most incredible play I had ever seen in seven years, said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. And being a sports fan in that situation, it was incredible. I think everyone on the sidelines was wondering what the heck just happened as he was running down the sideline with two blockers in front of him. Honestly, it was the most incredible play that I have ever seen.
The Green Bay victory makes coach Mike McCarthy 7-0 in road openers.
The TD pass from Rodgers to Jermichael Finley at the end of the first Green Bay possession marked the third time in the last four games that the Packers scored first. Ironically, the Packers scored first in game three last season and lost; the Bears scored first in the second meeting between the teams and lost.
Looking down the schedule a ways, the Eagles may be in bad standings shape by the time the Bears visit them on Nov. 7. Quarterback Michael Vick suffered a concussion last week against the Atlanta Falcons and now has a broken right hand (not his passing hand) from the New York Giants game Sunday.
Nice repair job
The Detroit Lions were able to get the wheel fixed on their Cinderella carriage up in Minnesota. After trailing 20-0 at halftime to the Vikings, whod lost halftime leads in their first two games, Detroit pulled to within a score at 20-17 on a second TD pass from Matthew Stafford to Megatron, a.k.a wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
Then the two teams traded field goals to reach 23-23 until the Lions won on a field goal in OT. Bad news for the Bears.
Last year it was Green Bay needing huge contributions from backups as one starter after another went down with injuries. The injuries arent the season-enders that a lot of Packers suffered but the Bears hopes Sunday and possibly for longer hinge on reserves playing at starter levels.
Brandon Meriweather was signed with the intention of him being a starting safety and he will, for free safety Major Wright (head injury). Craig Steltz was tasked with standing up to Rodgers and the Green Bay offense as the fill-in strong safety for Chris Harris.
The offensive line struggled with injury based shuffling last year and Sunday was without the starting right side of Lance Louis and Gabe Carimi, although Louis was active. Chris Spencer started again at right guard and Frank Omiyale remained at right tackle, where he filled in last week for Carimi.
Rookie quarterback Nathan Enderle is active for the first time as the Bears inactives line up this way: Marion Barber, Earl Bennett, Carimi, Harris, Wright and Corey Wootton.
The Wootton inactive status is a little eyebrow-raising. Wootton was having an excellent training camp before needing a minor knee scope and being idled for some time. In his place, Mario Addison and Nick Reed consistently made impact plays, to the point where the Bears kept both of them on the 53-man roster.
Now Wootton isnt getting on the game-day roster while Addison and Reed are. Good for the Bears to have what they consider impact, quality depth at their outside-rush position but disappointing for Wootton, whos fought back twice now from knee injuries and looked close to his breakout before the camp setback.
After a 2010 in which the Bears started the same safety tandem Chris Harris, Danieal Manning for all 16 games, the Bears will start their third different pairing in as many games.
Harris and Major Wright started against the Falcons. Harris was out with a hamstring strain and missed New Orleans, so Wright moved to strong safety and Brandon Meriweather at free. Wright suffered a head injury against the Saints and will miss the Packers, leaving either Harris (listed as questionable) or Craig Steltz to start in his place.
The offensive line began to function well last season when it stopped needing weekly changes. The state of flux, unfortunately, has returned, and the Bears played third game with a different starting five:
Atlanta: Webb - C Williams -Garza - Louis - Carimi
New Orleans: Webb- C Williams - Garza - Spencer - Carimi
Green Bay: Webb - C Williams - Garza - Spencer - Omiyale
Comcast SportsNet colleague Jim Miller gives an excellent analysis of a key Bears crisis; that they still have not established an identity on offense under Mike Martz. Jay Cutler said something to that effect last week, that it will take 5-6 games for that to shake out, which is head-shaking at this level and had the ring of excuse-making.
Jim also gets into why the Packers may in fact be struggling a little on defense, and it has some roots in the lost offseason and lockout. Great stuff.
If the Bears are indeed going to run the football with any measure of success, help has traditionally had to come from blocking by more than the offensive line and tight ends. It will come from a wide receiver group that coach Darryl Drake demands be blockers.
Two of the better ones were missing in New Orleans with Roy Williams inactive with a groin injury and Bennett down early with a chest injury that has him still out. Williams was back this week, bringing with him a veteran grasp of how best to get into the minds of defensive backs.
Corners dont want to tackle, Williams said. Thats the last thing a corner wants to do. So if you can run, it brings the safeties down which gives no help on the outside for corners. That puts them on an island and not many corners in this league can play by themselves on that island.
The thing safeties dont like is receivers coming down to block them. Thats the thing that makes them grumpy.
The only undefeated team in the NFC East is the Washington Redskins and that Rex Grossman is their quarterback.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.