Last MInuteNews, Rumors etc.:
(Updated regularly if or when needed) - Alshon Jeffrey (hammy) and Pernell McPhee (wrist and knee) listed as questionable. M Wilson is next man up behind Jeffrey. Former Card Sam Acho is McPhee's backup...Bostic and Tracy Porter are listed as "Out." Ego Ferguson is listed as "questionable."...Andre Ellington (PCL) and Iupati will sit vs. Chicago. Tony Jefferson and Deone Bucannon are game-day decisions...If Jefferson can't go, expect to see more of Justin Bethel (or Chris Clemons). If Bucannon sits, expect to see more of Sean Weatherspoon or other Cardinal ILB's...Carson Palmer's presumed "gimpiness" last week (after a scramble) turned out to be a twisted brace. He's OK....Chicago is operating out of a 3-4 with Jared Allen now playing OLB...CW has John Fox placing most of his marbles on RB Matt Forte. Employing a bit of game theory, "scouting outselves" etc. - If I were HC John Fox (even with Jeffrey questionable), I'd zig when everyone else thinks we're going to zag and take a lot of shots downfield out of play action...
Setting the Stage:
Cards are coming off an opening win vs. the Saints. Bears gave GB a battle but came out on the losing end last week. Chicago, under new HC (but old familiar NFL face) John Fox, piggybacked on the shoulders (and legs) of RB Matt Forte (who gained 141 yards on 24 carries). Bears are considered by some to be a .500 team but don't let that fool you: When Jake Cutler is hot, they play more like an .800 team, but the problem is that half the time - when he's not - they play more like a .200 team and you never know what you're going to get. We hear that the vaunted Bear defense of old is a bit shaky and needs rebuilding.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals (with Carson Palmer back from injury) opened last week's game like the Palmer of old. The rebuilt OL allowed zero sacks and allowed Cardinal runners to gain 120 yards. Only casualty of the NO game was RB Andre Ellington who was carried off the field with a knee injury (thought to involve a PCL). MRI results revealed a minor sprain - Ellington is expected back in 1 - 3 weeks (with an outside chance he might play in Chicago). If he can't go, his duties will be shared by the two Johnsons (Chris and David) and possibly Step Taylor. Interesting matchup figures to be Forte vs, a Cardinal run-defense that held NO ballcarriers to 2.7 ypc.
Opponent's Last Game
Bears looked good early, taking a 13 - 10 halftime lead but lost to the PAck lost to the 31- 23. According to new HC John Fox, the Bears would have to play near-perfect football to defeat their division arch rival and came up a little bit short. Bears controlled the ball throughout the 1H with Matt Forte gaining 105 of his 141 total rushing yards during quarters 1 & 2. (Bears had a huge time of possession edge in the first half - 18:30 to 11:40).
But GB came right back in the 2H to take a 17 - 13 lead on their opening drive on a 1-yard Rodgers to J Jones TD pass. Chicago came right back and made it aq one-point game on a 44-yard Robbie Gould FG. But GB responded with a 16-play (78 yard drive resulting in a 5-yard Rodgers-to-Cobb TD pass to expand their lead to 24 - 16 early in the 4Q. The two teams posted a TD apiece to wind up 31 - 23. Green Bay scored first to make it 31 - 16, Chicago came back with a TD to narrow GB's lead to 31 - 23 only tomiss recovering the onside kick with 0:34 to play.
According to LG Matt Slauson, "...Penalties at really big times killed us." According to Fox: "...this is the first time that myself and this staff have watched this team play a real game. Hopefully we'll learn from it and get better from it."
Chicago received. TB on K. Bears drove to the GB 10 in 11 playsand Gould kicked a 28-yard FG to make it 3-0 Bears.
GB returned the KO to their own 39 but went 3 & out. TB on the punt. On the 5th play of the Chicago possession, Cutler was sacked. Fumble call was challenged and reversed. Punt was out of bounds at the GB 23. Rodgers moved GB in 9 plays to the Chicago 13, where he hit J Jones for a 13-yard TD to make it 7 - 3 Green Bay.
TB on the KO. Quarter over one play later
Cutler engineered a 7:54 TD 16-play TD drive which ended with a one-yard Forte TD run. Chicago 10 - GB 7.
Green Bay answered with a 10-play drive of their own; with Crosby booting a 37-yard FG to tie the score at 10 - 10 with 2:32 left till halftime.
Chicago came back with a 12-play hurry-up scoring drive with Gould kicking a 50-yarder with 0:13 left on the clock to make it 13 - 10 Bears. Rodgers then took a knee to end the quarter.
First Half Score: Bears 13 - Green Bay 10.
GB returned the KO to its own 41. Completions of +15 and (an unsuccessfully challenged) + 25 helped set up a one-yard Rodgers-to- J Jones TD pass to retake the lead. Green Bay 17 - Chicago 13.
Mariani returned the KO to the Chi 18. Cutler QB'd a 12-play drive which ran out of steam at the GB 26, resulting in a 44-yard Gould FG to make it Green Bay 17 - Bears 16.
Packers returned the KO to their own 22 and ran off along drive which consumed 16 plays and 9:31 worth of clock; taking the game deep into the 4th quarter.
With the ball on the Chicago 5, Rodgers hit Cobb for a 5-yard TD. Green Bay 24 - Bears 16.
TB on the KO. A 50 yard short-pass & run (Cutler to Wilson) put the ball on the GB 16. A short pass to Jeffrey moved the Bears even closer at the 6. Bears wound up 2nd & goal at the GB 2 but couldn't punch it in and turned the ball over on downs. GB remained boxed-inside inside the 10 and went 3 & out. Punt was returned to ther GB 41. On the 5th play of the Chicago possession, Cutler's pass for Bennett was picked off and (net a penalty) returned to the Chicago 48 with 3:41 left. On a 2nd & 0 at the Chicago 36, a pass interference call on Fuller put the ball on the Bear 2, where Lacy punched it in to make it Green Bay 31 - Chicago 16.
KO was returned to the Bear 28. 1:50 to go. Cutler moved the Bears to the GB 24 in 5 plays and hit Bennett for a 24-yard score. Green Bay 31 - Chicago 23. 0:34 to go. Onside Kick Time; but it was recovered by Green Bay. Rodgers took a final knee.
Final Score: Green Bay 31 - Chicago 23.
Cutler was 18 for 26, 225 yards, a TD and a pick.
His leading receivers (each with 5 grabs) were Jeffrey, Bennett and Forte. Wilson also gained 59-yards on 2 catches.
Forte gained 141 rushing yards on 24 carries (with one TD). Cutler carried 4 times for 31.
Defensively, McClellan led the Bears with 8 tackles followed by (C Jones (7), McPhee (6), Rolle (6) and Amos (5).
Third Down Efficiency - 11 for 17 (64%). GB was 6 for 10 (60%)
Net Rushing Yards -189. (Bears held the Packers to 133)
Net Passing Yards - 213 Yards. (They held GB to 189)
Sacks - Cutler was sacked twice (Chicago pass rushers had zero sacks).
Turnovers: Neither team had any.
Run/Pass Ratio: 33/36 (Green Bay's was 30/23)
Net Punting Average - 56.0 (vs. 33.0 for Green Bay)
Penalties - Chicago 6/Green Bay 10.
Red Zone Efficiency: Chicago - 1 for 3 = 33%. (Green Bay - 4 for 5 = 80%)
Time of Possession: Chicago 31:52. Green Bay: 28:08.
WR1 17 Jeffrey...............10 Wilson...........81 Meredith
LT 74 Bushrod...........65 Omameh
LG 68 Slauson
C 64 Montgomery....55 Grasu
RG 62 Ducasse
RT 75 K Long.............72 Leno..............73 Fabuluje
TE 83 Bennett...........82 K Lee
WR2 19 Royal...............11 Bellamy..........80 Mariani
QB.......06 Cutler..............08 Clausan
RB.......22 Forte...............35 J Rodgers.......33 Langford.....25 Carey
FB........86 Z Miller
DE 93 Campbell..........73 Mauro
NT 95 Gunter...............69 X Williams
DT 92 Rucker..............72 Stinson
SLB 52 Woodley.......... 47 Riddick....96 K Martin
ILB 55 Weatherspoon..54 Demens
ILB 51 Minter...............59 Fua
WLB 57 Okafor............. 44 Golden
LCB 21 Peterson
RCB 25 Powers.............28 Bethel
SS 22 Jefferson..........36 Bucannon.. 29 Clemons
FS 32 Mathieu............26 R. Johnson
Matchup: Bears Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Cutler is considered a bitinconsistent. Which Jay Cutler will come out on the field Sunday - the red hot one or the interception-prone QB? He hit 50% of his passes vs. Green Bay and either threw one or no interceptions depending on which NFL.com play log you're reading. RG Kyle Long feels that one or more poorly thrown Cutler passes were due to pressure (i.e. hands up in the lanes) by opposing pass rushers. Bear pass blockers surrenders 2 sacks vs. GB (Not perfect, but not horrible either). One thing that should benefit Cutler is what appears to be a potent Bear running attack and less of the need for him to overextend himself in order to win the game all on his own.
Cutler's primary passing targets appear to be Jeffrey, Royal, Bennett and a bunch of other guys. Coach Fox appears to be transforming the Bear offense from a multi-receiver pass-happy operation to a more run-oriented set up with a RB, FB, TE and a couple of receivers. Ideally, Coach Bettcher will want to put his two CB's (in man coverage vs. the two WR's and Mathieu or another safety vs. Bennett, with Bucannon up in the box to help deal with Forte and the Front 7 focusing on rushing Cutler and frustrating Forte while keeping an eye on Miller. I like our overall matchup options.
Key Matchups: Cardinal pass rushers/blitzers vs. Chicago O-line. Peterson vs. Jeffrey. Powers vs. Royal. Safeties or LB's on Bennett and Forte.
Matchup: Bears Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Forte's 141 rushing yards speaks for itself. But this week he'll be going up against a Cardinal run defense that held Saint runners to 2.7 YPC (a number fairly consistent with the "D"'s preseason stats). Cards had problems both with getting coordinated vs. flares and screens (which, in actuality, extended running plays) and wrapping up when tackling. They will (if you pardon the pun) have their hands full containing Forte. Note - Cutler can motor if need-be. Cardinal defenders should treat him the same way they'd approach Kaepernick or Wilson - don't let him ramble outside the pocket; keep him contained on waggles.
Key Matchups: Cardinal Front 7 vs. Bear OL. Forte vs. Minter and/or Bucannon.
WR1 11 Fitzgerald, 12 John Brown, Golden
LT 68 Veldheer, 79 Sowell
LG 62 Larsen, 76 Iupati
C 63 Sendlein, 53 Shipley
RG 61 Cooper, 74 Humphreys
RT 78 Watford, 79 Sowell , 70 Massie
TE 87 Niklas, 85 Fells
WR2 15 M. Floyd, 14 JJ Nelson,13 Jaron Brown
QB 03 Palmer, 05 Stanton xx Barkley
RB 38 Ellington, 27 C Johnson, 31 D Johnson, 30 Taylor,
TE 85 Fells, xx Fauria, 84 Gresham, 87 Nikklas
DE 95 Ferguson....93 Sutton
DT 91 Goldman
DE 96 J Jenkins...xx L Edwards
OLB 69 J Allen.......99 Houston
ILB.. 50 McClellin...53 Timu....49 S Acho
ILB...59 C Jones....52 Bostic
OLB 92 McPhee...97 Young
CB ..24 Ball..........21 Porter...27 McManis
S .....38 Amos.......45 Vereen..29 Jones-Quartry
S ...26 Rolle........30 Hurst
CB 23 Fuller........20 Mitchell.37 Callahan
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Bears Pass Defense
Cardinal pass blockers kept Palmer pretty clean vs. NO pass rush and he responded with a 3 TD day. Palmer did pick his spots when he had the opportunity to scramble (& scared the bejesus out of most Cardinal fans). He and his pass blockers will be going up against one world class pass rusher in Jarod Allen but not very much else. Other than our old friend Antrel Rolle, we don't know much about the rest of the Chicago secondary, and generally like the way Fitz, Smokey, JJ, Jaron and Michael Floyd match up against these guys. Completions to backup RB David Johnson and TE Darren Fells racked up copious amounts of chunk-yardage vs. NO and at the very least should give Fox and his assistanta something to concern themselves with. We just like what looks to be the "firepower advantage" of 4 or 5 really WR's, TE's and RB vs. a bunch of relatively unknown Chicago coverage guys. (Note - It looks like the Cardinals have legitimate home-run running threats in Ellington (when healthy) and the 2 Johnsons. Their threat to take it to the house is a valuable tool in pass pro.
Key Matchups: Watford and Veldheer vs. J Allen. Fitz, Floyd, Smoke, JJ, Jarod vs. Ball, Fuller, Amos, Vereen etc.
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Bears Run Defense
We're assuming that (despite what BA has said) Andre Ellington will rest the knee for at least another week. That leaves Chris Johnson (who looks like a slightly taller, more experienced version of Ellington) and rookie David Johnson (who proved last week he was (a) big enough, (b) fast enough and (c) sure-handed enough) to share most of the ballcarrying duties, with (competent if not spectacular) Stepfan Taylor available to back them up. Last week vs, NO, the committee of Cardinal RB's gained 120 yards and averaged 4.8 YPC. Both "Johnson Boys" proved to those watching that they definitely pose a threat to take it to the house every time they touch the ball and cannot be ignored.
Key Matchup: Cardinal OL vs. Bear Front 7. Chris Johnson and David Johnnson vs. Rolle, McClellan and C. Jones.
P 16 O Donnell
K 09 Gould
H 16 O Donnell
LS 43 Gafford
KR 80 Mariani
PR 80 Mariani
K 07 Catanzaro
P 02 Butler
H 02 Butler
LS 82 Leach
KR 10 Golden ......14 Nelson
PR 10 Golden.......14 Nelson
Matchup: Bears Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Gould is Mr. Ice-Water. O Donnell represented a huge net punting edge over Green Bay with a 56 to 33 YPP advantage). Catanzaro is (usually) a reliable kicker. Butler will shank one punt for every one or two good ones. We don't know much about Mariani as a kick or punt returner, Golden has the home run potential, but we're waiting for it to happen. Nelson, with his 4.29 speed. represents a greater playmaking threat
Key matchups: O Donnell vs. Butler scares us. Gould should have a slight advantage over Catanzaro. We like Golden or Nelso over Mariani.
Chi: John Fox comes over from Denver (& before that Carolina). He comes out of the Parcells tradition (I believe he was Bill's DC or DL coach back in the day). Expect his teams to play conservative, mistake-free football with the capacity to make the other team pay whenever it makes the slightest mistake.
AZ: Bruce Arians comes across as having an "old school" coaching style but unafraid of new approaches or to stretch the play-calling envelope. HIs motto: "No risk-it/no biscuit." A fun guy to follow - and he backs it up with solid coaching fundamentals (he has a huge staff of teaching-coaches from diverse backgrounds) and proven success.
Look for Foxy to use Forte and his running game to keep the ball away from the explosive Palmer/Arians-led Cardinal offense. Look for him to use his punter to pin the Cards back in the field-position game. Expect Robby Gould to be prolific in the kicking game. Conversely, BA will probably use the big play in an effort to flip the game, establiish a lead and force the Bears to throw the ball instead of handing it to Forte.
I like most of our matchups, but there are too many variables (i.e. luck, refs, injuries etc.) to let our guard down. It's a road game.(And lIke every other one of our 16 games, "a must game").