Well another season’s started, and Aaron Rodgers is already coming up with new ways to torture Bears fans. But what went on with all the decisions that led to the spectacular comeback? Let’s get into it.
The Bears jumped out of the gate by mixing things up constantly. In their first 17 plays, they had only ran the same set in back to back plays once. It worked out well for them, as they scored 10 of their total 16 points on their first 2 drives. They also had an interesting formation where they had a linemen lined up like a receiver. I like Matt Nagy’s creativity, as I believe it’s goal was to make Green Bay expect a screen, however both times they ran the play it only resulted in 2 yard gains. On the other side of the ball, Green Bay had a couple of decent plays. They ran the ball on a set with 4 receivers which fooled the Chicago defense and gained 11 yards, but as a whole their running game really struggled, as Packers running backs only averaged 3.06 yards per carry. One decision Green Bay would likely want to have back was running on 2nd and 8 on their third drive. If you’re trying to catch them off guard that’s one thing, but they telegraphed it by having three tight ends on the field, which led to just a 2 yard pick up, and eventually a third down try which the Packers failed to convert on.
Play calling got significantly more important for the Packers once Rodgers went down, and at first it started out well. Mike McCarthy put faith in Kizer by giving him several singleback sets (your traditional set with 3 receivers a tight end and a halfback) and some four wide (a set with 4 receivers and a halfback) sets to work with. However Kizer’s going to be Kizer, and after getting inside Chicago’s 10 he fumbled the ball, and then threw a pick six on the next drive for good measure. However there was some good news for Green Bay, Chicago’s play calling had gotten a bit predictable. The Bears ran 14 plays from a four wide set, and they threw on every single one of them. Obviously it’s a formation you’re going to throw more often then run, however when you don’t run at all it makes it very easy to prepare for the pass. After gaining 61 yards from the first three plays they ran out of that set, they only averaged 3.36 yards per attempt throughout the rest of the game. Mitchell Trubisky didn’t have a great overall game, he only averaged 4.89 yards per attempt. He was a bit better when a fullback was in, as he averaged 5.8 yards per attempt on those plays. However he really struggled in singleback sets, as he put up a horrendous 2.24 yards per attempt out of that formation, which is certainly not great for Chicago being that a singleback set is the most common formation in the NFL.
While Trubisky may struggle in singleback sets, Aaron Rodgers certainly does not. A lot of teams would’ve given a hurt quarterback more protection (and some wouldn’t play a hurt quarterback to begin with) However Green Bay went a different route. On Rodgers’ first drive back, 9 out of the Packers 11 plays were from singleback or 4 wide sets. They trusted Rodgers to get rid of the ball quickly, so much so that their last 23 plays were all from one of those two sets. In fact, their last 16 plays were all passes from those two sets. Despite Chicago knowing what’s coming, they still couldn’t stop Rodgers, as he averaged 8.84 yards per attempt from singleback sets and 10.44 yards per attempt from four wide sets. Green Bay came roaring back, and while the Packers were putting the ball in their best players hands, Chicago wasn’t.
As I mentioned earlier, Trubisky averaged just 2.24 yards per play in singleback sets, however despite that Bears running backs averaged 7.08 yards per carry from singleback sets. Jordan Howard averaged 5.5 yards per attempt period. However right after the Packers scored their first touchdown to make it a 10 point game, the Bears had a pivotal third down and one. They elected to throw the ball and it was caught for no gain. They had to punt and Green Bay scored another touchdown to make it a 3 point game. Chicago started driving, largely due to the run game however Trubisky also had a big 11 yard pass on third and 7. They got to Green Bay’s 14 yard line, and had a 3rd and 3 when a conversion would’ve won it for them. They lined up in a singleback set, but choose to throw it again, and ended in an incompletion.
For the Packers eventual game winning drive, there wasn’t really anything too crazy. They ran three straight singleback sets, the first two were incompletions, and then on the third down try Eddie Jackson went for the deflection and missed, and Cobb was able to outrun the rest of the defenders. And for Chicago’s final drive, the only real play of note was a 12 yard pass out of a 5 wide formation. They gained 6 yards on the first play of their final drive, and then failed to pick up yards on 6 of their last seven plays. At the end of the day Chicago certainly made mistakes with the playcalling, but I think a share of the blame has to go on Trubisky. He had multiple opportunities to win the game, and he wasn’t able to get it done. (Also Kyle Fuller catching that potential game winning interception would’ve helped.) Although the good news for Chicago is that they’ve proven they can compete with a good team like the Packers, and we’ll see if that inspires confidence as they play Seattle next week.