Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Henson: From Raji to Cutler: Best, worst from NFC Championship

[media-credit name=’Associated Press’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′]NFC-Championship-Foot_Barg[/media-credit]

Leading up to Sunday’s NFC Championship game, there was one buzzword surrounding the Packers-Bears rivalry.



We saw clip after clip of Vince Lombardi and George Halas. Highlights of Mike Singletary and Bart Starr. The vicious battles in the trenches. We were told this rivalry was war and that players on both sides would do anything they could to emerge victorious.

With a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, anything and everything would be left on that sloppy field in Chicago.

It didn’t look like that standard applied to Jay Cutler yesterday.

The Packer defense did exactly what we thought they would do. They brought pressure. A ton of pressure. And Cutler was hit early and often.

Then he injured his knee during a pass late in the first half. Cutler was labeled “questionable” and he did not return. Todd Collins lasted one series before Caleb Hanie came in and brought some life to the Bears, but the comeback fell short.

What’s “questionable” here is Cutler’s role as quarterback and leader of his team.

Cutler tested his knee but ultimately sat and watched his teammates finish one of the biggest games of their lives.

After the game, Cutler said he tried to re-enter the game but that the Bears’ staff wouldn’t allow it. Take from that what you will.

But a healthy Cutler didn’t look like he belonged on that field. 

Chicago was inept offensively in the first half, and there were no signs of life. The zero on the scoreboard said it all. Cutler was 6-for-14 with an interception. We saw the same old body language. The slumped shoulders, the slow trot to and from the sideline.

But if he was going to have to miss the rest of this game, he was going to help the backups any way he could. He was going to offer advice after every series to try to get his teammates to North Texas.

You see, that’s what any starting quarterback with some leadership ability would do. We didn’t see any of that from Cutler. He sat there. No attempt to even look like he cared.

Now come Super Bowl Sunday, the Bears will all be doing the same. Just sitting there. Watching.

But Cutler’s dismal outing is just one of many storylines from an unpredictable yet entertaining NFC Championship.

Here’s a rundown of some other memorable aspects from yesterday’s 21-14 Packers victory.

Best play: B.J. Raji’s pick-six

The Bears finally got on the board in the fourth quarter with a one-yard touchdown run from Chester Taylor, and suddenly the game was very much within reach. Minutes later, the Bears got the ball back down 14-7 and the Soldier Field crowd was back.

But on third-and-five at the Chicago 15-yard line, Hanie made the kind of mistake you expect to see from a third-string signal caller. Green Bay defensive tackle B.J. Raji dropped back into coverage, picked off Hanie’s pass and strolled into the endzone.

It was a terrific defensive play-call to catch Hanie off-guard, and the Raji did the rest, scoring what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.

Worst play: Earl Bennett’s third-down end-around

There are a number of candidates for this honor, including Hanie’s game-ending interception on the very next play, but the decision to call an end-around on third-and-three with under a minute remaining is just baffling. That’s not the time to get cute.

Bennett takes the carry and immediately has nowhere to run. The Packers’ athletic front seven does what it does best and swarms to the football, stopping Bennett for a 2-yard loss. That leaves Hanie to convert a fourth-and-five in an obvious passing situation with everything on the line. As we saw, that gives the Packers a sizable advantage.

Unsung Hero: Green Bay punter Tim Masthay

In addition to the Green Bay pass rush, Tim Masthay made life even more difficult for the wounded Bears’ offense. The Packer punter made Devin Hester a non-factor with his directional punting and showed off an incredible leg with a booming 65-yard punt in the third quarter.

If Hanie was going to engineer a comeback, Masthay was going to make sure it took the full length of the field to do it.

Stat of the game: Third-down conversions

There were three third downs converted the entire game. The Packers had two of them.

That’s astoundingly bad offensive execution.

Overall, Green Bay was 2-for-11 on the money down, while Chicago was 1-for-13. But the Packers were so good during the opening drive of the game that a third-down play was never even presented. Aaron Rodgers scored on a naked boot, and the Packers made it look easy, reaching the end zone in seven plays. Obviously, that score turned out to be the difference and once the third downs came, the Packers struggled.

The Bears’ defense gave them a chance by not allowing a single point in the second half, but Chicago was similarly abysmal on third downs and they spent much of the half punting it right back.

But hey, at least Hanie can say he converted a third-down in the NFC Championship. You have to wonder if Cutler wishes he could say the same.

Max is a senior majoring in journalism. Pumped the Packers are going to the Super Bowl? Despise Jay Cutler? Let him know at [email protected]

Editor’s Note: It was reported after the game that Cutler did in fact test out his knee after suffering an injury. That has since been clarified in the column.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *