Bears must go back to the drawing board after awful showing in Green Bay
Jay Cutler's statistics at halftime on Thursday night looked like this: 4-of-9 passing for 37 yards, three sacks, an interception and a 16.7 QB rating. In that same two-quarter span, Green Bay's punter -- Green Bay's punter -- Tim Masthay had 27 yards passing, a touchdown and a perfect 158.3 rating.
And that's pretty much all you need to know about Green Bay's 23-10 over visiting Chicago.
The Bears were supposed to have all they needed on offense this year to keep pace with the Green Bays of the NFL world. Cutler was back healthy, Matt Forte had the new contract he'd been so desperate for and Brandon Marshall was on board to give Chicago the game-changing weapon it badly needed at receiver.
Two weeks into the regular season, and we're already asking if all those playmakers matter. They certainly did not on Thursday, as the Bears' offensive line again opened the floodgates up front -- at one point, Cutler became so incensed with his lack of protection that he screamed at immobile left tackle J'Marcus Webb, then bumped him as the two made it to Chicago's sideline.
Cutler finished the game with a measly 27.8 rating, though he was in single digits prior to a late TD pass to tight end Kellen Davis. He wound up being sacked seven times. Some of Chicago's game plan was undone by Forte exiting with an ankle injury in the second half, but the damage was done by that point.
And if this is all Chicago has to offer, well ...
Entering Thursday night, Cutler had played two prior games at Lambeau Field. The Bears lost both, with Cutler throwing six interceptions and just one touchdown. His Green Bay nightmare simply continued Thursday, as he was sacked seven times and threw four interceptions.
"I think it's the game plan which we have," Matthews said when he was asked why the Packers have so much success against Cutler. "We were able to get after the quarterback."
Blame the Bears' offensive line all you want (and it deserves a whole heap of finger-pointing). Or blame Cutler for losing his cool in the opening minutes, then responding with poor throw after poor throw. Heck, blame Forte's injury, if you need an excuse.
The reality is that the Bears' effort in this game not only put them clearly behind Green Bay in the NFC North pecking order, but it raised serious questions about just how good Chicago can be in 2012.
Let's face it: The Packers did not exactly play like world-beaters Thursday -- aside from Clay Matthews, who had 3.5 sacks on his own and proved unblockable all night, allowing Green Bay to rush just four and sit everyone else in pass coverage. But Aaron Rodgers took five sacks himself and threw a pick in the fourth quarter, as the Packers' offense struggled to find points.
"We've got to get better," Rodgers told NFL Network's Alex Flanagan after the win. "Our defense took a lot of trash in the media this week, (but) they played incredible. The defense ... if they play like that, we're going to be tough to beat."
The nicest play of the night came from Green Bay's special teams. Facing a 4th-and-26 late in the first half, the Packers lined up for a long field goal and instead pulled off a brilliant fake, with Masthay, the holder on the play, shoveling a pass to Tom Crabtree for a 27-yard touchdown.
Green Bay needed this performance, one week after flopping at home against a San Francisco team that may very well be the best the NFC has to offer. Even an ugly win will help the Packers steady their ship, in spite of Rodgers' shaky outing, prior to a stretch that sees them play four road games in five weeks, with the one home outing coming against New Orleans and its explosive offense.
Chicago finds itself 1-1 now, just like Green Bay, but with a boatload more questions.
There's no shame in losing at Lambeau; losing in this manner, however, is another issue. It took nearly 53 minutes of game action -- until the 7:20 mark of the fourth quarter -- for Marshall to make his one and only catch of the game. Green Bay defensive back Tramon Williams wound up catching one more ball than Marshall, as he finished with two interceptions and absolutely put the clamps on Chicago's top receiver.
Hardly what the Bears had in mind when they traded for Marshall this offseason.
Cutler did not even look Marshall's way in the first half. When he finally did so in the third quarter, Marshall let a touchdown pass slip through his fingers after breaking wide open near the Green Bay goal line. Name it, and it went wrong for the Bears.
Now, the questions will begin yet again -- about Cutler, about the offensive line, about Forte's health and, oh yeah, about Marshall's ability to be the threat the Chicago offense wants. The only clear answer we have right now is that Chicago still has a lot of work to do if it wants to get over the top against Green Bay.