by Troy Sparks
Green Bay – That dream of having an undefeated season was over for the Green Bay Packers when they lost at Kansas City, Dec. 18. It would have been icing on the cake if they would have been able to finish the regular season without a loss.
But the Packers are aiming for the big picture, which is another trip to the Super Bowl. The Pack set one of three goals this year by winning the NFC North division and getting a first round bye and a home game in the second round. Their second goal was to beat the Chicago Bears at home, Dec. 25, to wrap up home field throughout the playoffs. If Green Bay wins the NFC Championship, they will reach their third goal, which is the Super Bowl.
On Christmas night, the Packers and Bears had the nation’s attention because that was the only NFL game scheduled. One thing that Green Bay couldn’t do was give Chicago the win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. They also had to get through the home stretch without losing key players to injury.
The Bears won the toss, gave the ball to the Packers, and the green and gold wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. A 9-play, 80-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Jermichael Finley gave the Packers a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
Finley made up for the dropped passes from the last game. He caught three of six passes in the Chicago game. This is his contract year, so he’s trying to impress either the Packers or some other team in an effort to earn lots of money next season.
What team other than the Packers will pay Finley big money as a tight end to only catch the ball and not block sometimes? It seems that Finley doesn’t like to block anybody. A tight end’s job is to block on the line and catch the ball when it’s thrown to him.
The Bears, who had their postseason hopes and head coach Lovie Smith’s job on the line, made the game close in the first half with a 35-yard field goal from Robbie Gould that cut the lead to 7-3. A late TD pass to James Jones gave Green Bay a 14-3 halftime lead.
It’s no mystery that once the Packers take a lead, they never look back. The scoring that was missing at KC came back to life at Lambeau Field. Green Bay had a comfortable margin in the second half, winning 35-21. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw five TD passes in the game and broke the franchise record set by Lynn Dickey for passing yards in a season. Dickey threw for 4,458 passing yards in 1983. Rodgers has 4,643 right now. Rodgers threw for more than five scoring passes in a game before, but not as a professional.
“Junior college (at Butte, California), I threw for six against Shasta (JC, California) in 2002 at Shasta,” he said. But his performance against the Bears meant a lot. “This one is pretty special.”
With home field throughout the playoffs wrapped up, the question is, do the Packers rest their starters in the regular season finale against Detroit at home, Jan. 1? Both teams have nothing to prove because they’re in the postseason.
“I think that’s going to be up to (head coach) Mike (McCarthy),” Rodgers said about playing the starters the whole game against the Lions. “We’ll fall in line (with McCarthy’s decision). I think as a close friend of (backup QB) Matt (Flynn), I wouldn’t mind seeing him getting an opportunity to play a little bit. I’ll definitely do whatever Mike says.”
The advantage that Green Bay has this time of the year is that they know how to play in cold weather. The team is on the right path to run the tables through the NFC playoffs.
“We wanted the path to go through Lambeau,” McCarthy said. “We have a great home field advantage here and there’s nothing like our fans. Our surface is in great shape, and we play well at home.”
Receiver Jordy Nelson, who caught two of Rodgers’ five scoring passes, will go with the flow in next week’s game. “I think that the coaches will be smart with it, and they will feel what is necessary to do,” he said. “We’re here to play football, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Donald Driver went over the 10,000-yard career receiving mark in the Chicago game, which puts him at No. 36 on the NFL all-time list. Too bad that he didn’t want to talk about his record, saying after he got dressed that he was in a hurry and jetted past members of the media and out the door.
MU 39-0 vs. UWM
Another win by the Marquette men’s basketball team against visiting UWM, Dec. 22, at the Bradley Center, had people wondering if the Golden Eagles should renew their agreement with the Panthers. Both teams completed their five-year deal to play each other in which Marquette had a 4-1 advantage in playing their city rivals at home. The 64-50 victory by MU pushed their all-time record to 39-0.
“A reporter asked me this (question) before we played somebody, I think it was (UW) Green Bay,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “I’m not from here, so I probably don’t have the perspective that (UWM) coach (Rob) Jeter does, that (Wisconsin) coach (Bo) Ryan does. I think it’s good for the state on a lot of different levels. I don’t have a problem with it. I respect coach Ryan. He’s a Hall of Fame coach. I respect coach Jeter. I respect (UWGB) coach (Brian) Wardle. So let’s play.”
Wouldn’t that be great if the four Wisconsin Division I schools play in a round robin tournament at the BC, the U.S. Cellular Arena, the Kohl Center or the Resch Center? There will be guaranteed sellouts in every building.