Feast or famine for Bears offense against Packers defense

Green Bay Packers defensive tackle T.J. Slaton (93) drags down Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery (32) during the first quarter of their game Sunday, December 4, 2022 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill.Packers04 14
Green Bay Packers defensive tackle T.J. Slaton (93) drags down Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery (32) during the first quarter of their game Sunday, December 4, 2022 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill.Packers04 14 /

It was all or nothing for the Bears offense on Sunday. The Green Bay Packers defense gave up several chunk plays, including a few big ones, but as frustrating as it was to watch at times, they held the Bears in check for the most part, especially in the second half to help secure the win.

The Bears scored a pair of touchdowns in the first half of Sunday’s game via a big play on the ground by quarterback Justin Fields, and the second score was set up by a big pass to Equanimeous St. Brown.

Fields’ 56-yard touchdown run came on a read-option. Quay Walker, whose responsibility was the running back, was essentially taken out of the play as he followed David Montgomery to the opposite side initially. Keisean Nixon’s responsibility was Fields, and he was in position to make a play but would whiff on the tackle. From there, Adrian Amos was in a very poor position to make the tackle, and the Bears had several offensive linemen at the second level, creating a clear running lane for Fields.

On the pass, which went for 56 yards, St. Brown simply beat Jaire Alexander — who was in man coverage with no help over the top — and caught Fields’ well-thrown ball. Montgomery then took advantage of the catch by finding the end zone.

Although those two plays were the most damaging for the Packers’ defense, there were a few other big plays created by Chicago. Wide receiver N’Keal Harry, who also beat Alexander, had a 49-yard reception that put the Bears in Packers territory, but they left with no points following a blocked field goal by Dean Lowry. Tight end Cole Kmet had a 24-yard reception of his own while running back Darrynton Evans had a 21-yard run.

However, while certainly frustrating, outside of those plays — and I don’t mean to downplay their significance as they were nearly enough for Chicago to come away with the win — the Bears’ offense wasn’t able to produce much.

Those three aforementioned completions accounted for 129 of Fields’ 254 total passing yards. His other 17 completions averaged out to only 7.3 yards per play. On the ground, Evans had two other rush attempts for zero yards, while David Montgomery averaged a respectable 4.3 yards per rush but had a long of only nine–a far cry from the 122 yards he rushed for against the Packers in Week 2. Fields, meanwhile, had just 15 rushing yards on his other five attempts. Green Bay would also force three turnovers, including two in the final minutes, to put the game away.

To tame this run-heavy Bears offense, we saw the Packers playing with heavier boxes, but the defenders simply played better as well. Kenny Clark had his best performance in several weeks. The Green Bay edge rushers did a good job of not letting the Chicago ball carriers get to the edge, and defenders were able to get off blocks more regularly. The defense, as a whole, was much more sound with their tackling responsibilities overall and did a good job of swarming.

When it came to limiting Fields, the Packers played 100% of their defensive snaps in zone, allowing the secondary to keep their eyes on the quarterback at all times. We’ve seen Green Bay utilize this strategy against both Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts, but it worked well on Sunday, as Fields was limited to only seven yards while scrambling, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

The Packers’ defense against Fields and the Chicago run game was aided by a Bears’ lackluster passing game that ranked 28th in DVOA prior to the game. It’s a lot easier to stop a mobile quarterback and the running backs when there just isn’t the same fear about getting beat through the air as there is when playing Philadelphia or Buffalo.

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This was far from a perfect performance by the Green Bay Packers defense that allowed several big plays, struggled to get off the field on third down at times and still didn’t generate much pressure. But with that said, this is a unit that has oftentimes failed to come through when needed this season, and they did that on Sunday to help secure the win, even if it was against a three-win Bears team with one of the worst offenses in football. Perhaps more than anything, that speaks to how poorly this season has gone for this side of the ball.