The Green Bay Packers (5-3) not only suffered their first loss against the Chicago Bears (5-3) since the 2010 NFL season on Monday Night Football, but the loss ended their four-game winning streak and resulted in the short-term loss of their face of the franchise.
Leading into their Monday Night game, the Packers looked like they were on their way to a third-consecutive NFC North division title, but now their journey and path to the playoffs looks to be a little more rocky after one major setback.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers left Monday’s game shortly after he was sacked by Bears’ outside linebacker Shea McClellin at the end of the first drive of the night. Rodgers was diagnosed with a shoulder injury, but reports have now spread that Rodgers has a small fracture in his collarbone and he could be out for up to three weeks.
Fortunately, Rodgers’ injury is short-term and not season-ending. Unfortunately, though, the Packers are now very shaky at a position which has had consistent success since 1992.
In the loss against the Bears last night, veteran backup quarterback Seneca Wallace completed 11-of-19 passes for 140 yards and threw one interception. Wallace was also sacked four times, including twice on the final two plays of the game.
Last night, fans figured out why Wallace hadn’t played an NFL snap since the 2011 season. Wallace’s small stature (5-foot-11) was the result of many tipped passes at the line of scrimmage by the Bears’ defensive front, and Wallace proved he couldn’t throw the ball with any kind of serious velocity down the field.
Currently, the Packers have quarterback Scott Tolzien on the practice squad and it’s likely that the team would promote him to the 53-man roster if Rodgers was ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles. If the Packers decide not to promote Tolzien, however, this would be one of those rare occasions where Packers General Manager Ted Thompson would look outside of the organization to find more help at quarterback.
Obviously, Packers fans would like to see Thompson bring back veteran free agent Vince Young or recently-released Matt Flynn. Young was in training camp with the Packers this past August while Flynn served as Rodgers’ backup from 2008-2011. Bringing in either player though wouldn’t help ease the situation.
In training camp and in the preseason, Young was clearly more talented than fellow quarterbacks Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman, but his inability to comprehend the Packers’ playbook led to his release. Like Wallace, Young hasn’t played in an NFL regular season game since the 2011 season.
Flynn is remembered by Packer fans as Green Bay’s ace in the hole behind Rodgers at quarterback. In two starts in place of Rodgers with the Packers, Flynn completed 55-of-81 passes for 731 yards and threw nine touchdown passes with only two interceptions.
As great as bringing Flynn back to Green Bay sounds, Packer fans have to understand that his talent has obviously declined in the eyes of others around the NFL since his final days with the Packers. In the past two years, Flynn has been a journeyman quarterback, spending time with the Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills.
Understandably, Flynn lost his starting job to up and coming quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Terrelle Pryor in Seattle and Oakland, respectively. In Buffalo though (where the quarterback injury situation couldn’t get any worse), the Bills decided to start undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel over Flynn.
Flynn may have only been in Buffalo for a short time, but when the coaches feel a guy like Tuel, who has only completed 44.1 percent of his passes for 309 yards while throwing one touchdown and three interceptions, gives Buffalo a better chance to win than Flynn? Oofta, that’s a cause for alarm.
If Green Bay decides to keep the quarterback situation in-house and start a veteran who is 6-15 in 21 career NFL starts or look outside of the organization for washed-up talent, the Packers’ short-term answer under center will stir up quite the quarterback controversy.
The Green Bay Packers (5-2) and Chicago Bears (4-3) will finally meet for the first time in 2013 at Lambeau Field on Monday Night Football, as the long and historic rivalry has gotten the best out of the Bears over the past few years.
Green Bay hasn’t lost to the Bears since September 2010, and the Packers haven’t lost a home game to the Bears since 2007.
Since last season, though, both teams have undergone serious changes. In Green Bay, the Packers let one of their top receivers (Greg Jennings) walk in free agency, and the team currently has one of the best rushing attacks in all of the NFL behind the play of rookie Eddie Lacy.
In Chicago, the Bears lost their monster of the midway (Brian Urlacher) to retirement and hired an offensive-minded head coach (Marc Trestman) to help knock the Packers off of the NFC North pedestal.
This season, though, both teams have had their respective problems staying healthy. For Chicago, quarterback Jay Cutler and linebacker Lance Briggs are out, and in Green Bay wide receiver Randall Cobb, outside linebacker Clay Matthews and tight end Jermichael Finley are out, too.
Cutler, Briggs and Matthews are likely to return later this season to their respective teams, while Cobb and Finley’s seasons are in jeopardy.
For the Packers’ sake, losing Finley hurts because his versatility, size and athleticism along the perimeter of the offense has historically given the Bears’ defense headaches. Bears cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are two of the most physical cornerbacks in football, and Finley gave the Packers an edge when competing against Chicago’s secondary.
In seven career games against the Bears, Finley has caught 34 passes for 383 yards and scored four touchdowns. When Finley is in the lineup against Chicago, Green Bay’s offense averages 23.5 points per game. With or without Finley, though, Green Bay is 9-2 against the Bears since Aaron Rodgers took over at quarterback.
Finley’s replacement, fourth-year tight end Andrew Quarless has only caught six passes for 41 yards through seven games, which could be all the more reason he is due for a big night against Chicago. The Packers have continued to surprise opponents, and Quarless presents a match-up nightmare for Tillman, Jennings and company.
Without Cobb, Finley and wide receiver James Jones, Green Bay’s offense has been effective because they have players who shine when it is least expected to happen.
In their Week 7 win over the Cleveland Browns, second-year receiver Jarrett Boykin caught eight passes for 103 yards and scored one touchdown. Before that game, Boykin had only caught six passes in his NFL career.
In their Week 8 win over the Minnesota Vikings, veteran running back James Starks and rookie defensive back Micah Hyde provided impressive sparks. Starks returned from injury and played the role of second-fiddle to a tee, rushing for 57 yards on seven carries and scoring one touchdown. Hyde, on the other hand, returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown.
When the Browns and Vikings both entered their respective meetings with the Packers, I guarantee that shutting down Boykin, Starks and Hyde wasn’t on their top list of priorities to beat the Packers. With the Bears’ struggles in recent weeks defending opposing tight ends, Quarless is due for a quality showing on offense.
Washington Redskins rookie tight end Jordan Reed caught nine passes for 134 yards and scored one touchdown in the Redskins’ 45-41 win over the Bears, so Quarless having even a career night against Chicago isn’t too farfetched.
The Packers have consistently proven during their four-game winning streak that they operate just fine without their high-impact players not named Aaron Rodgers to win games. If Quarless provides any kind of impact on Monday night, Green Bay’s offensive attack will be wide-open and just plain fun to watch on the Frozen Tundra.
Chicago’s defense has also dragged the Bears down in an overall successful 2013 season, especially in three of their last four games. After a 3-0 start, the Bears’ chances to make a run in the NFC North could dwindle greatly if they can’t register a big win at Lambeau Field.
The key to a win or a loss for the Packers is Quarless. If Green Bay can feed the big man the ball, the Packers will win. If Chicago prevents Quarless from making any kind of mark on the game, the Bears will walk out of Lambeau with a renewed sense of purpose at the midway point of the 2013 season.