Game Changing Play of the Week: Packers Finally Stop Bears on 4th Down, Shift Momentum

The fifth time was the charm for the Packers' defense on fourth down.

Your Green Bay Packers just notched their second 13-3 record in a row with their 100th win over the Chicago Bears, a win that gives them the #1 seed in the National Football Conference!

It was a tough, grind-it-out kind of game until the fourth quarter. The offense played well until it hit a wall in the third quarter. The defense limited scoring opportunities for the Bears, holding them to just one touchdown in five visits to the red zone, but had a difficult time getting off the field, especially in short-yardage scenarios, which made the game a little nerve-racking for a bit in the third quarter.

The one time the Packers' defense managed to get off the field on fourth down was perhaps the most crucial play of the game.

The play

Earlier in the game, the Bears had gone for it on fourth and one with a very similar play, where they ran out of the gun, had Trubisky roll out and hit a man for a short gain.

They saw the success of the play and hoped to emulate it on this, their fifth 4th down conversion attempt of the night. But a couple things went wrong.

First, you have Za'Darius Smith unblocked, other than a slight chip from the running back to slow down his progress into the backfield. That, combined with Krys Barnes quickly recognizing the play and running up toward the quarterback, resulted in Trubisky being a bit hurried with his decision. While this is designed to be a quick throw, the pressure that comes from Smith (with Barnes right behind him) perhaps created a bit more urgency in Trubisky's mind to get the ball out.

Next, you have really strong coverage by Chandon Sullivan on this play. On the earlier conversion, the coverage simply was not this good, and the Bears were able to scheme a man open. Here, the Packers matched up in man-to-man coverage, and both receivers on the side Trubisky was throwing to were blanketed. In fact, this really should have been an interception by Sullivan... not that it mattered, given the result of the play was a turnover on downs anyway.

Finally, you have what seems to have been an error by Bears TE Jimmy Graham. On a replay, Cris Collinsworth seemed to think Graham was supposed to run his route inside to get a natural rub on Sullivan to free up the receiver, Allen Robinson, past the sticks. but instead, Graham attempts to run straight up and through Jaire Alexander, which does nothing to inhibit Sullivan's coverage.

So a hurried throw, a wrong route and great coverage all added up to a crucial stop for the Packers. The Bears were driving into scoring position in the fourth quarter down by only five, and had an opportunity to take the lead. Instead, the Packers got the ball back, put together an efficient drive down the field and scored a clinching touchdown, before getting the ball back for some bonus points off an interception by Adrian Amos.

The outcome of this play was the major turning point of the second half, and led to the Packers clinching homefield advantage throughout the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

__________________________

Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Comments (25)

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Thegravedigger's picture

January 04, 2021 at 05:16 pm

Everybody hates mike pettines 'give up a few yards and hope the other team screws up" defense. I hate it too as a fan. But it worked yesterday. It worked because the red zone d did its job. And it worked because our ol pal jimmy fucked up and sullivan made the play. Our offense had half the top but was much more efficient. Gave up one big play to mooney, but even then the d stood its ground. So hate pettines scheme all you want, but yestetday it worked. Against the bears. We will see in 2 weeks.

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Cubbygold's picture

January 05, 2021 at 05:03 am

Completely agree. Even in the first half I was thinking 'Pettine is good with what's happening here'. Bears needed a 4th down conversion to score their opening TD and we're racking up a bunch of 3rd and 4th down plays as the game wore on. Pettine knows that's hard to sustain for an entire game, especially against this offense. Eventually they'll fail to convert on 4th down, or they'll get anxious and start trying to throw deep... could have had 3 INTs when it was all said and done.

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Thegravedigger's picture

January 04, 2021 at 05:18 pm

On a sidenote, howbout jaire keeping jimmy out of the end zone on the last play? That was awesome. No garbage time td for you jimmy.

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GregC's picture

January 04, 2021 at 09:44 pm

Yeah, that was kind of a perfect ending. I would've been annoyed if the Bears had scored that TD at the end of the game. The funny thing about Graham switching teams in the off-season is that it made both teams better. He has filled a niche for the Bears, but for the Packers he was just getting in the way of better players. And the Bears WAY overpaid for him.

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Bure9620's picture

January 05, 2021 at 04:35 am

Yeah loved that, I was hoping Jaire would have followed that up with the "wingspan dance" and jump spike the ball

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Jonathan Spader's picture

January 04, 2021 at 05:21 pm

Game changing play was the TD drop by MVS. Packers had all thw momentum and that would have been the final nail in the coffin. Dropping an easy completion allowed the Bears back into the game.

The other game changing play on the positive side was Aaron Jones 3rd down run. I thought for sure we were going to punt. It was awesome seeing Jones foght like hell for the 1st down. Wish we could afford to sign him.

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Houndog's picture

January 04, 2021 at 06:02 pm

Jonathan,
To me it seems like MVS sometimes looses concentration on the easier, almost perfect throws to him and does better when it's more difficult. Either way I like his value to this team as a speed guy to help clear out the field for others.
Man, I agree, if there is any way possible to KEEP Jones, they gotta do everything they can. They screwed up by not doing him a new deal last season.

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Thegravedigger's picture

January 04, 2021 at 06:12 pm

The packers dont want to pay rbs. Neither does anybody else. Hopefully it works out. Hes going to test the market. But the market might not be as friendly as he thinks. The only thing about Jones is he hasnt taken much of a beating, so honestly i dont know. Maybe another gm sees that, and pays him. Odds are they keep jamal tho unfortunately. Baks injury also makes signing linsley that much more important. You need linsley at center now with bakh and his acl. He will at least be on the pup to start 2021.

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fastmoving's picture

January 05, 2021 at 06:05 am

....but you aware of the fact that game changing play means a play what changes the game????

by the way, MVS did more good than bad.....in generell and in that game even more so.

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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

January 04, 2021 at 06:23 pm

It wouldn't matter if the defense had stopped every 4th down attempt. It wouldn't matter if the defense had shut the Bears out. Some people would still be whining and moaning about the defense being bad. Some people have invested in that opinion and just cannot get away from it.

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edp1959's picture

January 04, 2021 at 06:52 pm

You mean like the invested opinion some on here have about #12 which have been proven very wrong.

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fastmoving's picture

January 05, 2021 at 06:09 am

you nailed it. whining and moaaning became the sport nr.1 the last couple of years. in generell even more so.

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Bearmeat's picture

January 04, 2021 at 07:08 pm

You know, the entire game it seemed the Bears were living on a knifes' edge... 4th and 3, 4th and 1. Convert. Over and over and over again. False start on a pick. etc... They had so many 4th and 1s or less and we never stoned them - we finally pounced when they didn't execute for once. But the fact is that they never truly threatened the end zone after the first drive until the last play of the game. Meanwhile, MVS dropped a 6 point pass and we got hosed on a few massively awful calls.

The Bears were trying to turn the game into a dogfight because they knew they were outclassed and just hoped to win a judges decision type of game.

I get it. But damn, Nagy. You chicken shit.

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Lphill's picture

January 04, 2021 at 08:51 pm

Well it seems JJ Watt will be a Packer next season as per JJ Watt .

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Coldworld's picture

January 04, 2021 at 11:20 pm

I assume he will be playing for free essentially if the cap is held where it is.

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fastmoving's picture

January 05, 2021 at 06:14 am

and even than you would find something to complain about......to big of a contract, injurie prone, kneels to much, talks about more than football, has a brain, is a good guy, has values and moral, soft.......

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Jonathan Spader's picture

January 05, 2021 at 12:32 am

Packers cap is at -22 million. Vikings at -10. Philly at -73 and Saints at -100. It'll be interesting to see what 2021 brings.

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Bure9620's picture

January 05, 2021 at 04:47 am

Saints will be having a fire sale

The Packers can unload a solid chunk of over $20 million in cap by releasing Kirksey, Lowry and designating P. Smith as a post June 1 cut which would be $12 million alone.. Moving on from Wagner could save another $4.2 mil in cap too. It will be interesting. Another caveat, there are typically no post June 1st cut designations allowed in a CBA year........I think it may be needed this year due to Covid and decreased cap number and teams needing to spread out the dead money to the following year. This would benefit both the front offices and also FAs on the market looking to get signed.

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Guam's picture

January 05, 2021 at 08:39 am

Agreed on Kirksey, Lowery and P. Smith and would have agreed on Wagner until this past week. Bahk won't be back for much of 2021 season (big guys usually take a full year to recover from an ACL) and Wagner just got much more valuable unless that Packers want to spend a high draft choice on an OT and hope he can start right away.

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Coldworld's picture

January 05, 2021 at 08:50 am

I do not think moving on from Wagner is a good idea. The replacement cost for equivalent play is going to be much higher. He has been a huge value signing.

If we keep Pettine I can’t see them letting Lowry go. Pettine has resolutely refused to supplant him.

I’m also not sure about Kirksey. We may have now found his spot. We need depth at ILB. Kirksey would be useful alongside Barnes and Martin. If he continues to play well through the playoffs that’s no longer as obvious as it seemed though it may be necessity is a stronger argument.

It’s certainly going to be interesting. I think P Smith is a likely casualty just on monetary grounds as the most obvious large chunk player for whom there is at least some depth and who is under contract.

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Bearmeat's picture

January 05, 2021 at 11:00 am

You can't pay 5m for a backup ILB. Kirksey will be cut. And I'd bet that Lowry will too - immediately after the draft.

Jones will be gone. King will be gone. Linsley will be gone. The draft will be CB, ILB, DT, RB, WR etc...

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Jared's picture

January 05, 2021 at 09:32 pm

I think Linsley stays, too valuable as his injury showed.

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Jared's picture

January 05, 2021 at 09:33 pm

I think Linsley stays, too valuable as his injury showed.

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Bure9620's picture

January 05, 2021 at 11:34 am

I wasn't necessarily advocating moving on from Wagner, I am just not sure where else to unload cap room. That cap number assumes we resign zero of the pending FAs too. So King, Jones, Williams, Lindsley all walk...... Not to mention a tender on Tonyan as he will be a RFA.....

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Duneslick's picture

January 05, 2021 at 12:00 pm

Don't get me wrong i am glad they called a pass play. They were getting first downs on 3rd and short and 4th and short all day running up the middle. QB sneak or Montgomery. Terrible play call. I couldn't believe they called a pass play,

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