Senior NFL Columnist

Packers defense makes triumphant return, stuffing Bears


A.J. Hawk, Clay Matthews and the Packers D show their teeth against Chicago. (AP)  
A.J. Hawk, Clay Matthews and the Packers D show their teeth against Chicago. (AP)  

CHICAGO -- The Green Bay Packers defensive players were stars in their own horror movies the past two weeks, the gruesome images on the big screen in front of them making them all feel a little queasy.

"When a team throws for 400 yards on you, it means they did whatever they wanted to you," Packers corner Charles Woodson said. "It left a bad taste in our mouths. We watched the film, and we had to stomach it."

Say hello to Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears -- the Packers' remedy to relieve their two-week long battle with nausea. The Packers limited the Bears to 12 first downs and only 13 yards rushing in beating the Bears 27-17 at Soldier Field to get to 3-0.

The Packers may have been undefeated coming in, but they hardly resembled the team that won the Super Bowl last January. They came in ranked 32nd in total defense and 32nd against the pass.

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For a team loaded with cover corners, and a premier pass rusher in Clay Matthews, they were playing nothing like the unit that so dominated during last winter's Super Bowl run.

"No, not at all," Woodson said of the comparison. "Not even close."

That started cries that this wasn't the same team, that they were beatable, that the back-to-back talk was way too premature.

That changed on this overcast day in Chicago.

Message: The Pack defense is back.

"Did we look like it today?" Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk asked.

The answer is a resounding yes.

On the same field where they won the NFC Championship Game last January, they made the Bears one-dimensional, although some Chicago fans will say pass-happy offensive coordinator Mike Martz does that on his own every week. The Bears ran it only 12 times for 13 yards. They could have taken the snap and fallen forward and done better.

The irony in that is the Bears talked all week about how they would run it more than they did the first two weeks.

"We expected it," Hawk said.

The 13 yards is the lowest output by a Bears team in 59 years. It forced the game on Cutler, and failed to respond. He was wild high much of the game and ended up throwing but 302 yards, but he was picked off twice and even his long touchdown throw of 32 yards to Kellen Davis was behind the target.

Cutler could take home one thing from the game: He was the Bears leading rusher with 11 yards. Running back Matt Forte had 2 yards on nine carries. Two?

"That was surprising to me," Packers corner Sam Shields said. "We thought they would try and run the ball and ram it down our throats. That was kind of surprising."

With the run stuffed, the Packers were able to use three-man fronts and drop eight a lot of the time in the second half. That led to Cutler holding the ball for long periods of time, something he is known to do.

It helped the Packers that corner Tramon Williams, their best cover player from a year ago, was back in the lineup after missing last week (shoulder injury). Without him, rookie Cam Newton threw for over 400 yards against the Packers. Grades
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
Not their best, as coach Mike McCarthy and QB Aaron Rodgers both emphasized after the 27-17 win at Chicago. The seven penalties were too many. But they ran the ball effectively, Rodgers was Rodgers (though he threw an uncharacteristic INT), and they forced Bears turnovers. We havenít seen ĎAí-level football from the defending champs yet.
By James Carlton
RapidReports Correspondent
Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears
It wasn't so much Mike Martz's play calling this time, but the execution -- or lack thereof -- in the running attack that proved an issue. Perhaps Martz should't call running plays if they're going to gain the second lowest rushing total in franchise history (13 yards). The defense seems to come out to play a few series late against Green Bay, and then adjusts.
By Gene Chamberlain
RapidReports Correspondent

In the first two games, teams converted 15 of 27 third-down plays against the Packers, worst in the NFL. The Bears were 3 of 12 on Sunday.

"We did a great job of getting off the field on third downs," Woodson said. "The first couple of weeks our third downs were terrible. Today, great job getting off the field."

That was the message the players talked about all last week. They stomached the tape sessions and then preached third-down defense. And it paid off. They were so good it led to boos flying down on the Bears offense in the third quarter as they struggled to get a first down.

Asked about the lack of a running game afterward, Cutler said he wasn't free to audible even when the Packers loaded up to stop the run. That's part of the Martz system. That style worked a decade ago, but with so much defensive change and so many looks, it makes no sense for Cutler not to be able to check out of a play.

"You're going to have to ask someone else about that," Cutler said. "I don't do the game plan."

It won't help the Bears fans or players feel any better to hear what Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji said about the offense.

He actually used the dreaded "P" word -- calling it predictable.

The Packers' offense is almost a given now. They have scored at least 27 points in each of the first three games. With Aaron Rodgers throwing to a skilled group of receivers, at times they look unstoppable. They rolled up 392 yards of offense and sometimes almost appeared to take the foot off the pedal.

That's why the defense coming together is so important. With Dom Capers, one of the game's best defensive coaches, formulating game plans and making calls, it seemed was only a matter of time before the defense played better. The talent is that abundant.

"We made them one-dimensional and they had to pass," Woodson said. "For us, that was big. We get them in second-and-long and third-and-long situations where they have to pass and we can open up our playbook."

As the senior member of the defense and the leader of a young secondary, Woodson wasn't about to declare the Packers defense back.

"It's one game," he said. "It's one game."

Maybe, but at least this week the films won't be as scary to watch.

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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