4 Downs: Channeling Holmgren at goal line

Pete Dougherty
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Every week I’ll share four observations the day after the Packers' game. Here they are after the Packers’ 30-27 win over Chicago on Sunday:

Green Bay Packers tight end Jared Cook (89) make s reception for 27 yards despite the efforts of Chicago Bears inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (44) during the first  quarter Sunday, December 18, 2016 at Soldier Field in Chicago.

First down: Ty Montgomery’s three-yard touchdown run in the third quarter harkened back to when Mike Holmgren was coaching and calling plays for the Packers in the 1990s. Holmgren’s running game had its share of issues in short yardage and at the goal line, so one of his fall backs was putting receiver-heavy personnel on the field to get the defense out of short-yardage personnel, then spread the field and run up the middle. Coach Mike McCarthy did that here. On first down from the 2, he brought in offensive lineman Jason Spriggs as a third tight end and tried to slam Montgomery up the middle. It lost a yard. The next play, McCarthy went with three receivers (Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams) and a receiving-oriented tight end (Jared Cook). They spread the field, and when Montgomery ran up the middle a second time he had a nice seam for an easy touchdown. Holmgren would have been proud.

Second down: This game showed that Morgan Burnett’s role will very much be a week-to-week proposition. Against Houston and Seattle the two previous weeks, defensive coordinator Dom Capers used Burnett primarily at inside linebacker rather than his usual position, safety. That helped the Packers’ defense match up better in the passing game. But the Bears’ offense is built around their good, physical (222-pound) halfback Jordan Howard, so Capers kept Burnett at safety and used two traditional inside linebackers (Jake Ryan and Joe Thomas) rather than one most of the game. Burnett’s role will be determined strictly by the strengths of each opponent.

Third down: We’re starting to see what kind of a weapon Cook can be at tight end if he can stay healthy. He’s not much of a blocker, but he’s a big target (6-5, 254 pounds) who gets open. His average of 14.2 yards on six receptions was wide-receiver like. In the last five games, he has 17 catches for an average of 13.6 yards, an average that many wide receivers would be fine with. Now it’s a matter of whether he can stay healthy after missing much of the offseason and training camp because of a broken foot, then six games earlier in the season because of a high ankle sprain. He also had to leave last week’s game against Seattle after 16 snaps because of a bruised lung.

Fourth down: Davante Adams has played the best football of his career over the last month or so, but he had two bad drops in the end zone Sunday that made a huge difference in the game. One was on a 16-yard fade route in the second quarter on which he’d beaten cornerback Tracy Porter. That cost four points, because the Packers kicked a field goal two plays later. The other was early in the fourth quarter, when he beat Cre’Von LeBlanc for what should have been an easy 16-yard touchdown. That cost the Packers another four points, because that possession too ended with a field goal.

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