By Adam Hoge-
GREEN BAY, Wis. (CBS) — It’s not often that the Bears get caught off guard by a huge special teams play from their opponent, but that’s exactly what happened in Thursday night’s 23-10 loss to the Packers.
Trailing 3-0 late in the second quarter, the Bears defense came up with back-to-back sacks on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to force a field goal after Green Bay drove all the way down to the 11-yard line. It was a huge stand after a disastrous first half by the Bears’ offense.
Or so we thought.
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On 4th-and-26 — yes, 4th–and-26 — Packers punter and holder Tim Masthay pitched a shovel pass to tight end Tom Crabtree who ran 27 yards untouched for a touchdown that put Green Bay up 10-0.
“It was a good call by them,” head coach Lovie Smith said after the game. “They executed the play to perfection. What else can I say?”
Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub is widely regarded as one of the best in the NFL, but he was clearly bested by Packers special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum on the fake.
“We were trying to block it,” Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said. “I think that would have been a good game-changer if we would have blocked it. Obviously they got the better end of it by running that fake on us. Great call call on their part, great scheme. It was a great call for that particular style of block we had set up.”
In fact, it was a call years in the making.
“We’ve been working on that for two or three years and we were looking for a certain look from the Bears,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. “They gave it to us and it was a great execution on our players’ part. I was trying to send a message when I made the call and I was fine with the field position. Then our guys executed and I thought it really lifted our sideline up and our defense just kept going … It was a big play in the game.”
Bad All Around On Offense
Not that it wasn’t obvious, but Smith didn’t sugarcoat the struggles on offense.
“We didn’t have good enough protection, we probably made a couple bad decisions and the receivers didn’t get open as much as we needed them too,” he said. “We didn’t get the running game going to help the passing game.”
There’s really no better, concise way to sum up Thursday night’s offensive performance that was, well, offensive.
Carimi Penalty Hurts
When things aren’t working offensively, penalties certainly don’t help.
Trailing 3-0 in the second quarter, the Bears managed to drive down to the Packers’ 37 yard-line. That’s when right tackle Gabe Carimi lost his cool.
Carimi had been shoved after the play and instead of walking away, he delivered a blow in retaliation and got caught. The Bears were given a 15-yard penalty and then allowed a sack on the next play. Suddenly, 2nd-and-11 at the Packers’ 38 yard-line turned into 3rd-and-33 at their own 40 yard-line.
“We have to keep our composure in those times,” Smith said. “We had momentum. That was one of the times we did have a drive going.”
If there was any bright spot, it was the play of the defense, which only allowed one touchdown and gave the offense a chance to win the game.
“The defense did some good things, keeping them to field goals early on,” Smith said. “Kept us in the game, giving us an opportunity.”
Still, the unit allowed Cedric Benson to run for 81 yards and missed opportunities for takeaways. Lance Briggs dropped an easy interception that led to a field goal and a 12-man penalty early on gave the Packers their first field goal.
All-in-all it was a performance that should have been good enough to beat the Packers, but there were still things the unit could have done much better.
“All three phases, we didn’t play well enough,” Smith said. “We have to learn from this game.”
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.