BEARS BEAT PACKERS 27-20 Jerry Gilbert
I do not have the statistics to prove these statements but, as a long time observer of the NFL, I believe them to be true.
1. A team that surrenders 5 turnovers is unlikely to win the game.
2. A team that dominates the first half offensive statistics without also dominating the score frequently loses the game.
3. An offensive team that repeatedly puts itself in difficult situations due to penalties is a candidate to lose the game. The odds increase exponentially if the defense repeatedly stops the opponent only to have the drive continue because of a penalty. Add poor field position because of penalties by the return unit special teams, and you truly have a recipe for a bad outcome.
4. When the opponent's offense and defense outplay you in the fourth quarter, a loss frequently occurs.
This having been said, if the trajectory of Quarterback Brett Favre's desperate "hail mary" pass had been slightly different, it may have landed solely in Donald Driver's grasp resulting in a tie game and a chance to win in over time. For all their problems, the Green Bay Packers still had a chance to win at the end.
This is not to say that they should have won this game, or that the 2007 Green Bay Packers are a likely 15-1 or even a 13-3 unit. As they proved against good teams from New York and San Diego, when the Packers play basically error free football, they can beat a quality opponent. The Bears game proves that they cannot beat themselves and still defeat a quality team with any regularity.
Many aspects of this game have to frustrate the coaches. First, Charles Woodson, who, while no longer a gifted returner, is the designated punt returner because of his great hands and decision-making. Woodson's fumble on his second half punt return eliminated a chance for the Packers to increase their lead, and led to a tying field goal by the Bears. Second, the offensive linemen who opened large holes for running backs in the first half, could not repeat the results in the second half. Third, the only consistently successful pass play for the Bears was a high pass to a tight end who would leap over the covering defensive back to make the catch. For just such a match up, the Packers drafted 6-4 safety Aaron Rouse, from Virginia Tech. Unfortunately, Rouse has not shown himself to be ready to take on that challenge. Instead, his contribution to the game consisted of committing two penalties on special teams.
Nevertheless, the loss to the Bears should not be the start of a losing trend. In spite of all the problems, the Packers established a running game in the first half to supplement a passing attack shown in this and the 3 previous contests. The defense, but for untimely penalties, usually stopped the Chicago running game and its passing attack except for the tight ends. Special Teams neutralized the NFL's best return man, Devin Hester, without a significant effect on field position., and the kicking game was effective. Add to this the fact that the team remained in the game despite some self-inflicted wounds, and we have a basis to believe that even some improvement with turnovers and penalties should lead to better results. A home game against the up and down Redskins will be the next test.