The Bears’ porous offensive line and bewildered quarterback made the Packers’ newly configured defense look like the Steel Curtain on Thursday night. Don’t expect to see that kind of performance every week, but with Jerron McMillian and Casey Hayward in and M.D. Jennings and Jarrett Bush out, you also shouldn’t expect to see too many repeats of what happened versus the 49ers. Look for the D to settle in somewhere in between – and that should be good enough to keep Green Bay atop the NFC North.
Here are 3 thoughts on the defense following the Packers’ 23-10 beat down of the Bears:
1) The pass rush was awesome, but don’t get too excited. After re-watching the first two games, I still see only one player (Clay Matthews) with the ability to consistently win one-on-one battles. And let’s be honest, very few teams are going to let CMIII dominate the way Chicago did. A second threat will have to emerge. It could be top picks Nick Perry or Jerel Worthy, but neither has shown that type of ability yet. Interestingly, the second and third most effective pass rushers against the Bears were probably Mike Daniels and Dezman Moses. Both unheralded rookies deserve more snaps against Seattle next Sunday.
2) I don’t know who was wearing No. 37 in August, but it wasn’t Sam Shields. Fortunately, the real Sam Shields showed up when the calendar flipped to September. The third-year pro from Miami was solid in a limited role versus the 49ers and very good as the starting right corner on Thursday night. Shields has regained the swagger he exhibited as a rookie in 2010. Just as importantly, he’s also showing a willingness to be physical. With Morgan Burnett giving Tramon Williams help over the top against Brandon Marshall, the coaches trusted Shields to handle Chicago’s impressive rookie Alshon Jeffery all by himself. He was up to the challenge. Jeffery caught only 1 pass for 7 yards. Give some credit to the pass rush that didn’t allow Cutler to get the ball down the field, but give most of the credit to Shields. He covered like white on rice and he never allowed his size disadvantage to become an issue.
3) Defending the middle of the field is still going to be a problem. Jay Cutler didn’t have the time, or in some cases, the vision to find open receivers, but they were there most of the night. D.J. Smith was much improved against the run and he showed explosiveness as a blitzer, but his cover skills leave a lot to be desired. The former Appalachian State star lacks the height to cover tight ends and the speed to stay with backs. You can be sure that he’ll be exploited by any QB who’s given the time to find that matchup. I begged coordinator Dom Capers to replace Bush and Jennings. That worked out pretty well. My next suggestion is to replace Smith. Give Robert Francois or Brad Jones a chance. They’re not speedy either, but they’re taller and more fluid. Both players can flip their hips and get good depth in their coverage drops.