Sunday, January 23, 2011

Packers - Bears Second Half Diary: The Cheese Stands... Barely

Crosby tries another short kick, but Hester foils the strategy by taking it anyway, and gets to the Black 40. As Bear Fan stirs with hope, it's Forte for five, then one. It's kind of easy to cover Black right now;

On third and four, it's another skittery deep drop and short miss to Hester, and that's the end of the drive. As Fox excuses Cutler's troubles on his knees, Maynard's punt is field on a mindless hop by gunner Corey Graham, who could have let it go for more yards. Whoops.

From his own 17, Rodgers tries Jennings deep, but Tillman is all over it for an incomplete. Yellow gave their QB time on the ball; telling for the first play from scrimmage. Starks spins for two, then gets wiped by DE Israel Idionje. Huge down here on third and eight, and Rodgers from the gun has time to find Nelson for 22 yards on a center laser that's the 5th 20+ yard pass play of the day. Number six is the very next play, as it's Jennings for 21 as the CB stumbles. That's just all day, and Jennings is at 5 for 98 already. From the Bear 40, Starks gets nine on good and patient draw running. Cutler on the bench looking morose, and QB Todd Collins is warming up. Ye gads. Starks is snowed under for a yard loss, and with the Bear offense about to go to a meh backup, this could be the last meaningful play of the game. On third and one from the gun, Rodgers goes to Jones deep. The WR drops it, but DPI is called, correct by the standards of the day. Sigh. First and goal from the eight and the gun is a give to Starks for two. Rodgers tries Driver in the back of the end zone, but the coverage is too tight. From the gun on third and goal, Rodgers makes the only play that he couldn't make... a pick by Urlacher on an utterly unnecessary try into triple coverage. Wow, what a mistake. The LB rumbles for 39 before Rodgers can get him down, and Urlacher in the open field might have been the best scoring chance of the day for Black.

Collins in for Cutler; let's just say that you can get Jay's jersey for a lot less tomorrow in the Chicago area. The back-up misses Davis on first, then sees a false start. Cutler is 6 of 14 for 80 yards and a pick, and nothing about his day has gone the way he wanted. Collins is rushed and misses a cross as Jenkins hits the elbow on the throw. Third and 15 from the gun is picked off by S Nick Collins, and that call should be reviewed and reversed. Fox obliges with a timely commercial break, and Smith has to throw the challenge flag to get his Maynard punt. It's 39 yards of net, and we're 23.5 minutes from this being over.

A Starks run comes back on a hold for first and 20. Yellow outgaining Black by a 3-to-1 margin. From the gun with two backs, it's an awkward bubble screen to Jennings, who takes it on a knee for four yards. From the gun again, Rodgers has time and Jennings for another 20+ yard gain, the same 22-yard center square out that's worked all day. First down, Pack. Starks jitterbugs for a yard; and that was *not* balls nasty. Pre-snap adjustments, then Rodgers from the gun squirms to the line; the 1-yard sack is less preferable for Black than a 10-yard Clifton hold on Peppers. 21 minutes left. Second and 18 from the gun is an out to Nelson for 10, and the Pack's WRs are just owning their releases from the line. Third and eight from the gun with 20 minutes left sees Rodgers extend the play but eventually throw it away. The Black D deserves better in this game. Masthay's punt to Hester is long and returnable, but the Miami product slips, and Black's best chance to score is down without stress. Black will start at their own 17.

Forte -- what a shock! -- gets it for nothing. Clock running. Second down carry works better, and he gets 8 before an uncalled late hit. The woes of not being a QB. Collins waits too long on a slant and is nearly picked by Williams; good call by the refs, as Knox played DB on that. Maynard's punt is fielded on a remarkably stupid hop by Williams, who gets crushed and fumbles... but the play never happened due to an ineligible man downfield call. Yellow will have it with 18 minutes left against an utterly impotent offense.

As I fight off the urge to take a nap -- oh, the joys of post-40 -- Rodgers from the gun gives to FB Jon Kuhn for two. I think Yellow calls these plays just to get a heat check of their road crowd. Jackson goes right and backwards as Urlacher is all over him. Given the Yellow defense today, just running it and taking time off the clock here is defensible. Rodgers from the gun throws instead, and misses TE Andrew Quarless in front of the sticks. The QB is Not Happy, and there's 16.5 minutes left now. Masthay's punt is long and directional, and Hester runs 30 yards, but none of them forward. An ineligible man downfield flag gives the PR another shot as the Bears mull over going to QB Caleb Hanie -- no, seriously. And if he leads them to a comeback win, he'll have the job in the Super Bowl and next year? Masthay's line drive punt to sub PR Earl Bennett goes for 65 yards, with a 21-yard return. Hanie in. Wow. 16 minutes left.

Forte for 11, the biggest hole he's seen in some time. It's kind of amazing to me that this game is still close enough to be in doubt. Forte for four, and that's the end of the third quarter. I hope you didn't take the over.

Since Hanie's in before the fourth, Collins and Cutler can not come back. Wow. Um, that could be a big deal in the event of injury. Forte in the flat for a first. The QB uses scamper power for two, and he might not want to take full power hits from LB AJ Hawk too often. From the Yellow 42, Forte gets through another hole for 11, and Black's got it at the Yellow 30. INTERESTING. Pre-snap shifting, and Taylor is eaten by Mathews for a loss. On second and 13, Hanie finds Knox on a cross, and the speedy WR just burns the corner after a perfect pass; huge play. Knox is ruled out at the one yard line. A give to Taylor from a power formation works, and in a game where the Packers looked like they could have put it away on a half dozen occasions, it's a one-play game. Gould's PAT is good, and with 12 minutes left, it's Packers 14, Bears 7. Bear Fan is singing, and I'm no longer fighting off Naptime. Wow, wow, wow.

The Packers guard against an onside kick, but Gould goes deep, and Starks gets it back to the Yellow 24. No gain as the RB goes left, and throats knot in Wisconsin. Rodgers is smashed on a deep ball, and that's an obvious helmet to helmet play by Peppers on Rodgers. Wow, that's just concussion city, and how Black Fan is complaining about that call, I have no idea. Rodgers is bloodied. Yellow pre-snap movement, and the teams are starting to show signs of a fight brewing, which tends to happen with seasons on the line and your QB getting crushed. Peppers channeling the Power Of Hate. Rodgers tries Driver and misses, and CB Tim Jennings is flagged for DPI. 50-50 call. 11:03 left, ball at the Yellow 49. From power, it's a play action dump to Kuhn, who gets six. Rodgers looks a little off to me, but he's not leaving the game. Starks on a delay for two, and there's ten minutes left. Every first down is two minutes off the clock, and a figgie could ice it... so this is A Big Damn Down. From the gun, Rodgers tries Quarless on a slant, and it goes right through the rookie TE. Black dodges another bullet. Masthay's punt appears to be stopped at the one on a great play by gunner Jarrod Bush, but the refs rule it a touchback. Huge call. Black will start at their own 20, with time enough for any kind of play-calling, and everything in play. Amazing turn of events here.

Forte for no gain, and it's a mite telling that I wrote his name before the snap. Black looks confused pre-snap on second, which sees Hanie's arm hit by Raji for force an incomplete. Third and 10 with 8:34 is another close out moment for Yellow... and the defense does the job with a blitz on Hanie that forces an incomplete. The Bears have been flat-out terrible on third down today. Maynard's bad day continues, with a 24-yarder that gives Yellow the ball at the Bear 45. Rodgers will have another chance to put this away.

Rodgers rolls out and checks down, but misses. Bad clock use there. A slant to Jennings gets nine in front of Tillman, and it's another third and one, the kind that the Bears have been owning all day. Fox hypes Kuhn's effectiveness... but the Pack tries a rollout throw tht Idionje ends. No long Crosby figgie, because long figgies are just against the law today. Masthay's punt is 25 yards of net to the Bear 10. So not the drive the Pack needed, and yet another bullet dodged by the Bears defense, which has been dancing on the edge for so long now, it almost feels like the Bears have to win this game.

Forte? Sure. He gets two yards. Can't imagine that the Pack were expecting that call. The Bears huddle up, because it's not like they are down by a touchdown with seven minutes left. Hanie gets it to Bennett for three against pressure, but the ball carries him to the ground. Third and five, and Hanie has to use a timeout. Wow, it's like they are using a third-string QB in the biggest moment of their season! And it shows, in a massive way, as Hanie throws a TAInt to Raji, who absolutely *coasts* into the end zone for the most fun that a 338-pound man has ever had on a football field. His first career pick and touchdown, and how Hanie is supposed to know that a NT is going to drop back into coverage, I don't know. Hanie tries valiantly to strip the ball from the big man at the goal line, but Raji crossed the plane in mid-gloat first. The Crosby PAT is good, and that's the kill shot to end all kill shots. Packers 21, Bears 7 with six minutes left, and Bear Fan can think about the parking lot. Wow, wow, wow. (And yes, he should have totally pulled a Westbrook and sat at the one.)

Fox fellates Raji, and why not? Everyone loves a fat man. Hanie to Olsen for 13 and a first, and it's Black Scramble Time. Finally, a no-huddle offense. Hanie to Bennett for seven as Yellow goes into Tee Off Mode. Forte for five, a first down, and more clock running. Five minutes left. Go Pack Go chants are heard for the first time today as Hanie finds Bennett, who keeps his feet and just plain ambles into the end zone. Ridiculous breakdown by Collins and CB Charles Woodson, and that's an 81-yard touchdown drive that, amazingly, puts the game back into doubt. Along with the over. How dare Bear Fan think about the parking lot? What a roller coaster this game is, for a game that hasn't had a lead change.

Gould thinking about an onside? Not with 4:43 left. A squib to Woodson is brought back to the Yellow 24. Can Rodgers close it out, or can Yellow grind it on the ground? Power formation give to Starks fools no one; loss of one. Four minutes left. Starks again to the right, and compounding the error, he's knocked out of bounds. Fox somehow neglects to inform us of this salient point, because an extra thirty seconds on the clock means nothing. Third from the gun sees Rodgers scramble to the line and sit, not able to avoid Briggs or get it to an open Kuhn. Masthay with a massive 56-yard punt, and Hester can only manage 9 on the return, as it was on the sideline.The Starks mistake to not stay in bounds means that Hanie has 2:53 left, and 71 yards to go.

From the gun, Hanie shakes off pressure to try the required First Down Forte, but Yellow is somehow looking for that. Incomplete. 2:49 left. From the gun, Hanie juggles a high snap, then panicks to Forte for a 1-yard flat route. Third and nine from the gun sees Hanie avoid the blitz to get it to Olsen, who makes the sticks and gets out of bounds. This deep CB blitz isn't working, Yellow. First third down conversion of the day for Black. Hanie gets rid of it for a post-whistle committee meeting that results in a grounding flag; weak call against the offense, and maybe the refs are giving Yellow the call for Olsen diving. From the Black 30, Yellow rushes three and allows a 10-yard under route to Forte. Clock running, and Hanie just gets it off before the two minute warning. A check down to Forte is stopped just short of the sticks. After commerce, the Bears will need to convert a fourth and one to prolong the game.

Taylor for a slow developing power run to the right that works with manliness. First down throw to Forte is a good looking screen for 12, a first down, and the ball at the Yellow 35. Mathews looking gassed and hobbling. 87 seconds left. Hanie throws it away on first against pressure from the Packer bigs. 81 seconds left. From the gun on second against a 3-man rush, Haine takes Olsen on a long 7-yard hook, and the TE steps out of bounds. 75 seconds left. Long clock results in the Bears having to take their second timeout. Woof. End around to Bennett fools no one, and that's a disaster loss and clock running. Fourth and four, and another Yellow chance to end it. From the gun, Hanie is picked off by Shields, and this one is finally over. Valiant effort by Black, and I don't doubt that you've just seen the best defensive effort against Rodgers and Co. that you will see in the 2010-11 playoffs... but that's all she wrote.

Green Bay returns to the Super Bowl, and they are the NFC's first #6 seed to go to the big dance. We'll see in about 3.5 hours if they will face another #6 seed.

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