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Thank goodness they didn't blow it. Thank goodness ridiculous breakdowns on defense and special teams didn't cost the Bears a win the offense so richly deserved.
Of course the defense did come through with the one huge play that changed everything. Shea McClellin, the player who had faced near universal disdain for his play at defensive end so far this season used his speed to take down Aaron Rodgers and possibly break his collarbone (that's the most likely injury when a football player hits the turf the way Rodgers hit the turf) in the first quarter.
The Bears knew the one thing they could do to slow down Rodgers was to hit him hard early and McClellin made it happen. And really, the defensive line as a whole had a big night. Julius Peppers had that awesome tip and pick and Corey Wootton capped things off with that last, epic sack.
The linebackers not so much but obviously injuries are a huge factor. The cornerbacks did okay but they were facing a Packer receiving unit seriously diminished by injuries of their own.
The safeties, wow, they were brutal again. It doesn't help that Chris Conte and Major Wright seem to find themselves on an island more frequently than others who play their position. In other words, either they make a play or an opposing player breaks free. You probably have to blame defensive coordinator Mel Tucker's scheme for at least some of their shortcomings.
In particular, the Bears initially did set up in a ridiculous cover-2 (playing both safeties deep) when Seneca Wallace came into the game. And therefore many of them were in terrible position on the Packers' first big run, James Starks' 32-yard touchdown late in the first quarter.
They were in terrible position in particular because if the Bears were going to lose to a Wallace-led offense, everyone (except Tucker at least initially) knew they had to make the back-up quarterback beat them with his arm.
And that touchdown was set up by the sort of brutal special teams breakdown that has plagued the Bears and coach Joe DeCamillis this season. After Adam Podlesh had a punt blocked, you could almost hear a familiar song wafting out of sports bars across Chicago: "Where have you gone David To-oo-oub? Bears nation turns its lonely eyes to you."
Later in the game, the Bear defense seemed in position to switch out of the cover-2 just in time to be in better position to stop another big run, but Wright was late getting there and analyst Jon Gruden pointed out that he missed his gap. (Ex-Bear Hunter Hillenmeyer begged to differ.) The next thing you knew, Eddie Lacy was racing 56 yards to set up his one-yard touchdown on the next play.
Whether it was Wright or McClellin who blew the play, a fan also had to wonder: Why were the Bears even in that set-up?
Then came the onside kick and the Chicago area was threatened by a forecast of both gloom and doom.
Except the offense saved the day, with a little help from some decent red-zone defense that held the Packers to a post-onside kick field goal and to a three-and-out the next time they had the ball (I mentioned that some of the Bears defenders had good nights didn't I?). First came the third touchdown. And then the Bears really stuck it to the Packers, capping off the game with an awesome clock-eater of a drive that started with 9:56 on the clock.
It was clear all game that Marc Trestman is hitting his stride as a play-caller. He stayed one step ahead of the Packer defense all night - after one play Gruden gawked at how the Bears coach had called the perfect play against an anticipated Packers blitz - capping it off with the calls that led to the Bears driving more than 80 yards in over nine minutes, forcing the Packers to burn all of their timeouts and capping it off with Robbie Gould's 27-yard field goal with only 53 seconds left.
Usually I hate giving coaches too much credit. I listen to the college basketball analysts/sycophants yammering about what an amazing job coaches are doing when it is clearly the players deserving the majority of credit and I want to reach into my TV and slap 'em. Clearly the individual Bears, led by Josh McCown, had a great night on offense.
But Trestman was a maestro, mixing runs with passes until killing the clock became the ultimate priority and then coming up with the fake sprint sweep one way, pitch back the other to Matt Forte for a critical late first down (Gruden said he'd never seen that particular play - and he's seen a lot of plays). And Forte carefully getting down inbounds to keep the clock running . . . it was beautiful stuff.
One can only hope that somewhere George Halas (the greatest Packer-hater of them all) was glorying in it all.
* NFL.com: Marc Trestman's Bold Coaching Wins It For Bears.
* Tribune: Signature Game For McClellin.
* Hoge: Division Disrupted.
* Detroit Free Press: Lions Gain Standing As NFC North Favorite.
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