For the Green Bay Packers, Monday night’s loss to the Chicago Bears had shades of the 2009 season. The gut-wrenching loss was eerily similar to the crushing defeats suffered a season ago to both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals.
In all three instances, the Packers beat themselves as much, if not more than their opponent. A team-record 18 penalties negated big first downs, slowed down momentum, took away a third-quarter touchdown and prevented not one, but two fourth-quarter interceptions.
The penalties were also a problem a season ago, when Green Bay led the NFL in the number of yellow flags thrown by the officials.
The penalties also played a big role in both losses a season ago. Against the Steelers, Jarrett Bush’s game-clinching interception was negated by an illegal contact call, while the loss to the Cardinals was helped by a Daryn Colledge holding call on the overtime drive, negating a first down completion from Aaron Rodgers to Ryan Grant. Two plays later, Rodgers fumbled and the game ended.
If the Packers are hoping to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February, this problem has to be cured. On Monday night, with momentum on its side and a 7-0 lead, a holding call (once again on Colledge) stalled a drive that seemed destined for another seven points, and a 14-0 lead midway thru the 2nd quarter.
Green Bay let Chicago hang around and before we knew it, the score was 10-7 at halftime and anybody’s game.
Fast forward to the third quarter where more mistakes helped the Bears stay in the game. Jermichael Finley’s touchdown catch was taken off the scoreboard because of another holding call, which was followed by a Mason Crosby blocked field goal.
So the score stays 10-7, while the Bears hadn’t moved the ball consistently since the first drive of the game, leaving the game as a disaster waiting to happen.
The disaster was sparked by return ace Devin Hester and finished off by the Packers inability to finish off an opponent. Something we’ve seen time and time again in the past two-plus seasons.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers was supposed to solve this problem when he was hired after the dismal 6-10 team of 2008, but the Steelers and Cardinals both lit up Capers’ pass defense. And while statistically, the defense played well versus the Bears, Capers’ insistence on rushing just three and four guys in the final three quarters led to zero big plays, which was a big part of the team’s demise in the fourth quarter.
Also helping were those darn flags again. Two interceptions became Bears first downs because of questionable calls, while Charles Woodson couldn’t hold onto another poorly thrown pass by Jay Cutler.
This recurring theme must end soon. The Detroit Lions are next up on Sunday, but when the schedule stiffens up starting on October 24 (the Vikings and some gray-haired quarterback are in town), the Packers cannot continually beat themselves.
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Written by Mitch McLaughlin