Watch the game at Linneman’s this Sunday at noon. Nik and Keith will be calling all the action on the stage, next to a nine-foot screen. There will be enough chili and beer to go around.
On his way to the Illinois country in the late winter of 1677, Father Allouez passed near the Potawatomi villages around Green Bay. He learned that a young man whom he had baptized had been killed by a bear in a particularly gruesome manner. The bear had “torn off his scalp, disemboweled him, and dismembered his entire body.” The bear had, in short, treated the young man as a warrior treated the body of an enemy. Allouez, being acquainted with the hunter’s parents, detoured to console them. He prayed with the parents, comforting the distressed mother as best he could.
Afterward, “by way of avenging…this death,” the relatives and friends of the dead man declared war on the bears. They killed more than five hundred of them, giving the Jesuits a share of the meat and skins because, they said, “God delivered the bears into their hands as satisfaction for the death of the young man who had been so cruelly treated by one of their nation.”
So wrote Richard White on page 10 of his epic Great Lakes history, which is already past its 20th printing, and is constantly cited by other historians of our region.
There it is written that 340 years ago (at a minimum) the rivalry between Green Bay and the Chicago Bears began. Since the NFL has been keeping score (from 1921 on) it is now 95 Packer wins, 94 Bear wins, and six ties. After our fresh kill this September, the ledger has been weighted to the Packer side of justice for the first time since 1933.
Will the Bears regain equilibrium on Sunday noon? To prevent this reversion, we’ll have to beat these guys:
SCOUTING THE BEARS
For a detailed look at the key names and jersey numbers, please consult our scouting report, published before that Thursday September meeting eventually won by the Packers 35-14. Most of the principals from that six-weeks-ago clash remain—except, of course, for the two players (Glennon and Rodgers) playing the position that matters most.
In that story we wrote that “#10 Mitch Trubisky, who is much more athletic than Glennon…will probably be the starter by the end of the season.” Indeed, that happened even sooner than most thought. After #8 Mike Glennon wobbled two interceptions and coughed up the ball another two times (including the unprecedented kick fumble), he has not played another snap since.
In those intervening four games, with Mitch as their starting QB, the Bears have won two and lost two. Both times they lost, it was Mitch’s fault, as he threw a late interception first in a tie game against Minnesota, and then with a one-score deficit against New Orleans.
In the two games they won, Mitch was hiding in plain sight. Watching his tape against Baltimore, it’s hard to imagine the quarterback of a winning team that scores 27 points looking any more inconspicuous. Other than his wobbly and underthrown touchdown pass to tight end #88 Dion Sims, the rest of the Bears scoring happened this way: a field goal drive of 60 yards during which he did not complete a pass, a touchdown drive capped by a running back option toss from #29 Tarik Cohen, a 90-yard pick six by #38 Adrian Amos, and an overtime field goal set up mostly by a 53-yard handoff to #24 Jordan Howard.
The only time I’ve ever seen a winning NFL quarterback appear more underwhelming was in the very next game Trubisky played, during which he only attempted seven passes in four quarters! Both Bears touchdowns were scored by the defense in that 17-3 win against Carolina, and the one time Trubisky got near the end zone he stumbled his way into a tackler.
Nothing summarizes this ineptitude better than than his first two and a half quarters in the NFL. He led seven drives, six of which ended in punts and during the other he was strip sacked. The eighth drive ended in punt formation again, but then #16 Pat O’Donnell faked it and threw a touchdown. That’s right, in the four games Mitch has started, the punter and the backup running back together have thrown for as many touchdowns (2) as the quarterback. (And neither one of their scoring throws bounced off the safety’s hands.)
Despite this ever-worsening series of statistics and the horrific film underlying it, Bears fans—god bless their desperation—remain convinced this inaccurate and uncertain rookie is their messiah. Tribute songs are pouring in from local radio stations, and one in particular might tug a bit at the tender nerves of Packer fans:
HOW THE PACKERS MATCH UP
“Let Him Throw” arranged to the music of the movie Frozen‘s “Let It Go” could also describe the repressed angst of Packer fans wishing Brett Hundley would get a little air under the ball every now and then. In his two NFL starts, against the Saints and the Lions, he has yet to complete a pass more than 20 yards down the field, and the majority of his attempts have been within five yards of the line of scrimmage.
There’s no question that against the Vikings, when his entry was unexpected, he was held back by the play calls and the lack of practice reps with the starters. But Hundley and Coach had seven full days to get ready for the Saints, then an unusually long 15 day stretch to prepare of the Lions. Did McCarthy just forget to install the dinner portion of his Applebee’s menu?
Probably not. On the first drive of the game, after McCarthy broke type and took the ball after winning the toss, he did so with the confidence that a play like this one, the 12th of a methodical and clever drive, would work. Jordy Nelson was wide open. It was supposed to be the shot of confidence that the young QB—and the jittery home crowd—needed. The interior protection was there, Jordy ran the perfect route, the safety bit on the play action, and…
And Brett Hundley got spooked by an irrelevant outside rusher and didn’t even look downfield much less step into the safe part of the pocket to make his throw.
It was after this quarterback failure that the all too familiar in-game coaching disasters of McCarthy really began to shine through. He blamed the wrong player for that missed play. Yes, if Aaron Jones had picked up his block better Hundley might not have been spooked, but that’s like blaming a church mouse for all the sinning in the pews. McCarthy benched our best running back after that since he couldn’t bench our quarterback.
Why couldn’t he bench our quarterback? Because Hundley’s backup, Joe Callahan from a D3 college in Delaware, is terrible and does not belong in the NFL. McCarthy angrily defended Joey Delaware at a press conference, but then didn’t have the guts to insert him when it mattered. Because McCarthy knows quarterbacks, and he knows Callahan is garbage. That’s why the Packers already cut him twice and two other teams have cut him once. (He was so bad McCarthy barely even gave him any snaps in the preseason.)
So instead McCarthy benched our best remaining player on offense—Jones—and just blindly hoped for the best after his brilliant 15 play script ran out. Such faith works when Aaron Rodgers is preaching the service, but not with these other guys.
Defensively, McCarthy has never known what’s going on, as evidenced by the fact that he wasn’t aware, while it was happening, that Clay Matthews didn’t get on the field for the crucial moments in the 2014 NFC title game collapse. Now we can add to that list of oblivion his ignorance of Mike Daniel’s pre-game bravado on Monday. If he really had his hand on the pulse of this team, Daniels would have been reprimanded before he ruined our first—and only—defensive stand of the game, not after.
It’s also worth noting how bad the defense also got in 2013 in the games immediately after Aaron Rodgers broke his other collar bone. Back then, on the PackerVerse radio show every week, several callers wryly remarked that we didn’t realize our quarterback was actually our best defender, too.
But, once again, it turns out that he still is. When an opposing offense knows that the other team is going to score 30 every week, it puts tremendous pressure on every drive, and forces them to throw past the sticks on most third downs because they’re afraid to punt. This makes our blitzes more effective and also increases the chances for incompletions and interceptions. Last Monday night, Detroit probably figured from the jump that 20 points would be plenty to win, and so they threw shallow crossing routes and screens on third down hoping the YAC would move the chains, but not fearing if it didn’t. It did, and our defense never adjusted. Playing a mediocre quarterback on offense—like Brett Hundley clearly is so far—decreases our defense’s margin for error and increases the play options for the opponents’ offense.
Thirty years plus a week ago, on November 3, a young teenager in Milwaukee gave birth a son. The biological father’s identity is unknown to the general public, but reportedly he was an African-American collegiate athlete. Within five weeks, the baby boy was transported to a small town along the Wolf River. Most of his next four years were spent on the southern tip of a wide, shallow, and reedy lake nestled between the upper and lower Fox Valleys.
The parallels in the early lives of Colin Kaepernick three decades ago and Moses three millennia ago are striking. “When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank.” [Exodus 2:3]
Of course the Moses story in the Torah is also strikingly similar to the Jesus story in the Gospels. Depending on the beliefs of the reader, this is either a divinely ordained symmetry or a clear case of the Gospel writers using Exodus as a template. The broad plot points shared between the two biographies are: Mysterious Father, Adoptive Parent(s), Mystical Signs of Mission, Physical Exile from the Holy Land, Social Banishment Upon Return Resulting From a Challenge to Orthodoxy and Power Hierarchies, Consensus About His Importance By All Sides, and finally the Deliverance of His People But Not of Himself.
Nearly all of these plot points—except the final one—have already occurred in the biography of Colin Kaepernick. If we take Wisconsin as Jerusalem, and Packer Fans as the Chosen People, then we see his father’s promotion to manager of a cheese factory—and the family’s subsequent move to a faraway facility in central California—as a deeply symbolic move into exile—taking his “culture” with him but living amongst foreigners and then eventually leading the enemy’s army into battle—and twice defeating his home team in the playoffs, once in California and then again in Wisconsin. When all appeared lost during the Super Bowl in 2013, with his adopted team down by 22 points, suddenly a deus ex machina occurred in the form of an unprecedented electrical delay at the mouth of our continent’s biggest river—a mystical intervention which changed the game and nearly led to a miraculous victory for the armies of Northern California.
Moses worked for Pharaoh, too, until he saw the injustices against his own people. “One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people.” [Exodus 2:11]
“This is what lynchings look like in 2016!” Kaepernick wrote on Instagram and Twitter when video of Alton Sterling’s death in Baton Rouge became public. “Another murder in the streets because the color of a man’s skin, at the hands of the people who they say will protect us. When will they be held accountable? Or did he fear for his life as he executed this man?”
Like Moses, Kaepernick subsequently challenged his people to more closely follow the laws. “When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.” [Exodus 32:19-20]
Moses was upset because this golden calf was a clear violation of the Second Commandment against the making and worshiping of graven images. [Exodus 20:4] In a strange bit of symmetry, the ritual Colin refused to participate in—civic worship of a colorful flag—is also a clear violation of the same commandment in Torah. But the laws more clearly on Colin’s mind during his protest were the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution, which are all under renewed attack in this century.
And now Colin’s protest has evolved into a direct attack on the financial underpinnings of the entire league. This is not unlike what Jesus did according to Matthew 21:12-13. “Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, ‘It is written,”My house shall be called a house of prayer” but you are making it a den of robbers.'”
If the messiah prophecy is to come true for a third time, then the Packers must soon hire Kapernick to be our quarterback. Then he must win for two months and deliver us to the edge of the Promised Land. There from the top of Pisgah’s Mountain, right around Christmas 2017, he will give the ball back to Aaron Rodgers, and Colin will then watch his people, festooned in Green and Gold, cross the wide Mississippi River to a land flowing with trophies and rings.
Tune into this week’s PackerVerse radio show, with Wildcat Mark in studio remembering games of Soldier Field past, back when nobody watched the pro game.