Packers Clinch, Prove Worthy of No. 1 Seed
The Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears 35-16 in the final week of the regular season to seal the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
The victory ensures the Packers a first-round bye and home-field advantage until the Super Bowl.
Trying their best to keep the ball away from Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay’s offense, the Bears out snapped the Packers (74-44), won time of possession (35:29-24.31) and converted fourth downs (5-6). However, the Bears managed a measly 4.8 yards per play (would rank tied for 31st in NFL) and had terrible red zone production (1 TD in 5 chances).
Chicago’s only touchdown came on the first series of the game. After that, Green Bay’s defense locked down and forced the Bears to settle for field goals.
Green Bay’s defense had two defensive drives that stood out.
First, after the two teams traded touchdowns to start the game, the Packers sacked Mitch Trubisky and forced a punt on the 3rd possession of the game. Green Bay’s recently acquired punt-return specialist Tavon Austin failed to make a man miss and coughed up the ball at Green Bay’s 20-yard line. The defense responded to the sudden change with Kenny Clark and Krys Barnes combining to stuff David Montgomery on a 3rd and two run, forcing a field goal.
Second, with the Packers leading 21-13, Trubisky hit his first (and only) big play of the game — a 53-yard catch from Darnell Mooney to Green Bay’s 10-yard line. The defense responded to the big play by forcing another field goal after Trubisky failed to throw the ball even into the end zone on the goal-to-go possession.
Green Bay’s defense also forced two turnovers. The first was a beautiful strip of Bears rookie Cole Kmet by the ALL-PRO Jaire Alexander. Kmet was targeted early and often and was doing an excellent job fighting for extra yards, but Jaire made him pay eventually. The fumble recovery by Rashan Gary set up Green Bay’s third touchdown of the half.
The second turnover came from former Bear (and current Bear-Killer) Adrian Amos. Amos took advantage of a horrendous Trubisky throw to set up Green Bay’s final touchdown of the game.
Rodgers’ perfect start (10-10, 150 yards and 3 TDs) led Green Bay’s offense to a touchdown on every drive of the first half.
The first drive of the game for Green Bay’s offense (12 plays, 80 yards) ended with a 4-yard touchdown catch from the Pro-Bowl snubbed/touchdown-machine Robert Tonyan.
The second drive was a little faster (3 plays 78 yards). Marquez Valdes-Scantling was his usual polarizing self with a lighting quick 72-yard touchdown, followed with a devastating drop to start the 2nd half.
A holding call put Green Bay’s streak of 17 straight goal-to-go opportunities ending in a touchdown in jeopardy but TE Dominique Dafney, signed to the active roster less than a month ago, slipped past the zone defense and scored the 3rd and final touchdown of the first half.
The offense struggled at the start of the 2nd half mostly due to a dropped 50-yard touchdown from MVS, but regained their form and scored two touchdowns on their final two possessions.
With the score 21-16, the Bears had possession at the Green Bay 25-yard line. Having already converted two fourth-and-one plays on the drive, the Bears lined up to go for another one. Chandon Sullivan makes a great read (maybe gets away with a hold) and undercuts Allen Robinson’s route to force the turnover-on-downs.
The offense took advantage with a 12-play, 76 yard, seven minute 35 second drive that ended in a touchdown run from Aaron Jones.
Lastly, can’t fail to mention the garbage-time touchdown against the division-rival to tie the franchise record for most touchdown catches in a season (Sterling Sharpe, 1994).
The Packers will ride a 6-game winning streak into the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Their opponent won’t be known until the Wild Card round is finished, but we do know that, whoever it is, they have to travel to Titletown, USA.