Talking heads billed Thursday night's game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears as a showdown for supremacy in the NFC North. Instead, the Packers sacked Jay Cutler seven times and picked off four of his passes on their way to a 23-10 win.
A short week and a gut-check loss to the 49ers in the season opener must have been exactly what the Packers defense needed. They sacked Cutler on the Bears' first offensive snap of the game, forcing a three-and-out. That set the tone for the game, and the two defenses did most of the heavy lifting until late in the second quarter.
Green Bay, leading 3-0, brought out the field goal unit with just under two minutes to play in the half. Tim Masthay took the snap and threw it to backup tight end Tom Crabtree for a 27-yard touchdown on the fake.
Cutler threw the first of four picks on the drive after that. Tramon Williams picked off a pass intended for Earl Bennett, the first of two interceptions for Williams, who was in shutdown form most of the night. In fact, Williams spent most of the game shadowing Brandon Marshall.
No hyperbole: Tramon Williams has played one of the best games I've seen a CB play. 2 INT. Complete shutdown of Brandon Marshall.— Kevin Seifert (@espn_nfcnblog) September 14, 2012
Marshall didn't need help from Williams to be a non-factor in this game. He let a touchdown pass slip through his hands in the end zone that forced the Bears to settle for a field goal at the end of a 13-play drive to start the second half of the game.
Chicago's offensive ineptitude was highlighted by its offensive line. The unit had no answers for the Packer pass rush. Clay Matthews finished the game with 3.5 sacks, according to the press box numbers. That represents a new career-best for the fourth-year linebacker.
Matthews shouldn't have shared any of those sacks. All should be his alone--he should have 4 tonight, not 3.5.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) September 14, 2012
The Bears had a few highlights of their own, and the defense managed to pick off Rodgers once and limit him to a single touchdown. Julius Peppers had two of Chicago's five sacks on Rodgers.
Whatever positive momentum the Bears defense provided, it was overshadowed by the loss of Matt Forte, the Bears running back. He left the game with an ankle injury and did not return right when his team could have really used him. He finished with 49 yards on four carries.
Cutler took most of the heat for the Bears' woeful performance. Rightfully so. In spite of little to no protection from a criminally incompetent offensive line, he was forcing throws into double coverage. He managed one touchdown, in the fourth quarter, on a 21-yard throw to Kellen Davis.
It took 3.5 quarters to score a TD, and now we need 2 more in less than 7 minutes.— Windy City Gridiron (@Official_WCG) September 14, 2012
Just interviewed Charles Woodson on the field - he said: "It's the same old Jay. We just need to be in position. Jay will throw us the ball"— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) September 14, 2012
The best news for the Bears might be the calendar. This was only their second game of the season. Next week, they draw the St. Louis Rams at home.
Green Bay travels to Seattle for a Monday night game against the Seahawks. Both the Bears and the Packers are now tied in the division standings at 1-1.
Game ball: Matthews is the easy pick here after his 3.5 sacks threw the Bears offensive line and Cutler into an existential crisis. An honorable mention goes to Williams for showing flashes of the shutdown corner Green Bay so lacked in 2011.