Insider: Thumbs up to Montgomery, down to Randall
THE BIG PICTURE
Talk about getting out of a place just in the nick of time. When kicker Mason Crosby connected on a game-winning, 32-yard field goal as time expired, the entire Green Bay Packers team should have sprinted out of Soldier Field. No showers, no packing up, no goodbyes. If they had stayed a second longer they might not have left controlling their own playoff destiny. By virtue of their 30-27 victory over the Chicago Bears and Detroit’s 17-6 defeat at the hands of the New York Giants, the Packers (8-6) merely need to win out against Minnesota (7-7) and at the Lions (9-5) in their final two games to win the NFC North. The defense gave up 17 points in the fourth quarter to squander a 27-10 lead Green Bay had gained with 1 minute, 3 seconds left in the third quarter. But with 31 seconds left, quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed a 60-yard pass to receiver Jordy Nelson on third and 11 that set up Crosby’s game-winner. That single play kept the Packers’ playoff hopes alive. “What an (expletive) play by Jordy Nelson,” nose tackle Letroy Guion said. “I don’t know what to call that. It was amazing. Glad to have him back this year.”
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Through the third quarter, Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery, returning from a four-game suspension, did not have a catch. Then coach John Fox decided it was time to get him involved. It changed the entire game. The Bears moved from their own 42 to the Packers' 8 on back-to-back Jeffery catches of 23 and 27 yards and then a play later Jeffery caught an 8-yard touchdown pass to make it, 27-17. Jeffery kept making big plays until the Packers finally benched cornerback Damarious Randall and put LaDarius Gunter on him full-time. But in the two-touchdown series that brought the Bears back in the fourth quarter, Jeffery had six catches for 89 yards, four first downs and a touchdown. “I think they doubled him up some early,” Fox said. “Throughout the course of the game, that lightened up.” And it put the Bears on the brink of a big upset.
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If Ty Montgomery isn’t the Packers’ answer at running back, the question must be misunderstood. The second-year receiver-turned-running back had a breakout game with 16 carries for 162 yards (10.1 average) and two touchdowns in the team’s first 100-yard performance since Eddie Lacy gained 103 yards against Detroit in Week 3. Montgomery fell three yards short of breaking into the top 10 in franchise history in most rushing yards in a game. Montgomery had not carried more than nine times in a game during his short career, but he looked like Ezekiel Elliott the way he was pausing, accelerating and breaking tackles. “He’s getting better every game,” guard Lane Taylor said. “He’s more of a natural runner than anyone thought. You can tell his vision is through the roof. I’m so proud of him.”
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Whether it was because of the groin injury that required surgery earlier in the season or he just got sloppy with his play, Randall got yanked from the field in the fourth quarter. Randall was getting ready to go back in when he got the word from the sideline that Quinten Rollins was going to replace him. Randall played off receivers all game long, didn’t tackle well and was no match for Jeffery when the Packers needed him most. Asked about being removed after the game, Randall said, “Why don’t you ask the coaches? I don’t know.” His only other comment was, “We won’t lose a game. We’re making the playoffs. Period. There’s nothing else to talk about.”
RANTS & RAVES
RAVE: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix didn’t do anything spectacular to pull down two interceptions, but that’s not always what is required. What Clinton-Dix did was consistently go to the right place on the field. That’s what a safety has to do. Those who do that, wind up seeing balls that are overthrown or tipped come right at them. All they have to do is make the play. Clinton-Dix had his second two-interception game this season and raised his team-leading total to five with two picks against quarterback Matt Barkley. He had 43 combined return yards to boot.
RANT: The Packers are committing way too many penalties on the special teams. It’s starting to kill their field position and make their coverage and return games a liability. They had three special teams penalties Sunday, all holding penalties. Two were on the same punt return and another was on punt coverage. The rules are pretty clear on holding, but the Packers apparently don’t know them very well.
RAVE: Rookie cornerback Makinton Dorleant knows how to play the game. He showed that at Northern Iowa, he showed it in training camp and he showed it in a rare appearance at the end of the first half. Mostly a special teams player, Dorleant entered the game at the end of the first half with the Bears about to throw a Hail Mary. Dorleant did what so many defensive backs don’t in that situation. He knocked the ball down with two hands. It deflected right into Micah Hyde’s arms for an interception.
RANT: It’s time the Packers put linebacker Clay Matthews on the shelf until he’s healthy. He’s adding almost nothing to the defense. He can’t use his strength because his shoulder won’t allow it and his speed is negated if he doesn’t have a counter move with his strength. He plays in dime situations and he was shut out of the stat sheet for the third time in five games. He has five tackles and one sack in that span. He needs to be held out until he can be an effective player.
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DID YOU NOTICE?
» Linebacker Blake Martinez was active for the first time in four weeks, but he did not start. Jake Ryan and Joe Thomas started on the inside and Matthews played there some in the nickel. Martinez did play some snaps inside.
.» Kicker Mason Crosby kicked the game-winning 32-yard field goal twice. He knocked one through just after Fox called a timeout and then hit it again.
» After using WR Randall Cobb on punt returns the last four weeks, the Packers put Hyde back this week. Cobb injured his ankle last week against Seattle and the coaches decided not to use him. Cobb did not have a catch.
» Dorleant was active ahead of cornerback Josh Hawkins. It broke a streak of 11 straight games in which Hawkins had been active.