4 Downs: Dougherty on Packers' loss
Every week I'll share four quick thoughts the day after the Green Bay Packers' game. Here they are after the Packers' 17-13 loss to Chicago on Thursday night:
First down: The Packers’ passing game Sunday night basically consisted of screen passes and Aaron Rodgers’ scrambles. It was reminiscent of the first year or two of Brett Favre’s career with the Packers, though at that time the heavily used screen game was a substitute for running the ball. Now it’s a substitute for throwing it downfield. Halfbacks Eddie Lacy and James Starks combined for eight receptions for 75 yards, and almost all of them were on screens, including Lacy’s 25-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Rodgers picked up 33 yards on his four scrambles. Nothing wrong with screens and scrambles – they’re great change-ups and keep drives alive – but when those are the best plays in your playbook, something’s wrong with your offense.
Second down: Rookie cornerback Quinten Rollins (pictured) keeps playing well when he’s healthy and gets his chance, and that continued Sunday night. Rollins was the Packers’ dime (No. 4) cornerback because Micah Hyde (hip injury) didn’t play, and Rollins moved up to the No. 3 when Damarious Randall left the game because of a knee injury. Rollins had a pass defensed, though he probably should have intercepted it, and showed good timing and explosiveness as a blitzer from the slot with a sack and quarterback hit. He just looks like a good, instinctive football player.
Third down: The Bears had something on offense the Packers didn’t Thursday night – namely, a go-to play. When Chicago needed a nice gain or a good play to start a new set of downs, it often threw a bubble screen, usually to receiver Alshon Jeffrey. Jeffrey has great size (6-feet-3, 216 pounds) and was tough to tackle on the quick bubble screens, probably in part because the footing on Lambeau Field was slick with the game-long rain. Jeffrey finished with seven catches for 90 yards – not huge numbers, but those bubble screens were safe plays and almost functioned as an extension of a punishing run game.
Fourth down: It’s probably safe to say the Packers have found a new kickoff returner. Jeff Janis had a 64-yard return against the Bears a week after he had big a 70-yarder at Minnesota. He broke five tackles on his long return against Chicago, which shows he has not only the 4.42-second speed, but some strength to go with it. Rookie Ty Montgomery figures to return from ankle injury next week, but it’s hard to see how the Packers give him back the job as returner after Janis’ performance the last two games.
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty.