There are, of course, all kinds of articles this morning previewing the Bears-Packers game. Here is a straight up summary of some of the better points. I left out some of the really obvious ones if you are a Bears fan like winning the turnover battle, getting pressure on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rogers without blitzing, and running the ball more than you did the last time the teams played.
The Chicago Sun-Times asked coaches from the Lions and the Vikings to comment upon the Bears-Packers game. The comments were surprisingly pro Bear. Here are some samples that I think are especially good points:
“The Bears can slow Clay Matthews by having a running back or tight end chip him to help the offensive tackle. RookieJ’Marcus Webb has steadily improved, but his performance may affect whether the Bears reach the Super Bowl. Then there’s another pressing concern — the Packers’ two behemoths, Cullen Jenkins and B.J. Raji.
“‘They don’t get enough credit. Those two are forces in there.'”
Could not agree more. The Packers get great pressure up the middle and it flies under the radar. While the tendency will be to watch Webb, keep an eye on Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza, and Chris Williams. If they’re getting pushed into the backfield it will be a long day.
“The Bears’ outside receivers also need to step up. Devin Hester had two catches for 32 yards in the two games against the Packers, and Johnny Knox — after four catches for 94 yards in the first matchup — was shut out in the finale.
“‘Because they have such a wide variety of schemes and get single high safety, they’re more susceptible to big plays. You can have a catch-and-run.'”
The Packers might be the best team in the league at press coverage. The Bear wide receivers have to get off the line of scrimmage and into their routes. Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz obviously agrees via Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times:
‘‘’They obviously are the best in the league at bump-and-run and pressing and getting ahold of that receiver,’ Martz said. ‘They do a great job at that. They are well-schooled in all the details of doing that.’
‘‘’You have to have a plan. As a wide receiver, you’ve got to go into that game with a plan for how you’re going to deal with that. Some of it we can use formations and help, but by and large, it’s a technique issue that you have to resolve.’’’
Matt Bowen has some advice for Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Cpaers in regard to the Packers coverage via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune. Like he needs it:
“[If I’m Capers] I’m going to go after [Bears tight end Greg] Olsen and take him completely out of the game because the rest of the Packers DBs, especially their nickel personnel, can win against Johnny Knox and Devin Hester.”
Bowen also makes this point which is always a good one for every game, not just this one:
“If the Bears can’t stop the run with their front seven, which I believe they will do, that will be huge for the Packers. If you can keep those two safeties deep, which you do in Cover-2, and let your linebackers chase down the running game, that is an advantage.”
One of the Sun-Times NFC North experts agrees that the Bears should be able to accomplish this:
“‘Everyone talks about the resurgence of the Packers’ run game, but look at their schedule. They haven’t run on anyone that’s good at stopping it.'”
I don’t want to quote the whole article but Bowen makes another excellent point about the mobility of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler vs. the Packer defense:
“Any time you play Cover-1 and play your corners in a press alignment and your pressure does not contain the quarterback, you’re asking for trouble. Cutler is not Michael Vick, but he’s athletic enough where he can pick up 10, 12, 15 yards. Start putting those things together, and all of a sudden you’re at midfield. It’s a killer for the defense.”
Hayes thinks the Bears will try to isolate Packer nickel back Sam Shields in the same way that the Packers will try to isolate the Bears nickel backs, usually D. J. Moore. Moore acknowledges the difficulties with the Packers through Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune, by giving us yet another thing to look for – the Bears need to limitthe run after the catch:
“‘[Green Bay quarterback Aaron] Rodgers is smart,’ Moore said. ‘He gets the ball out to his receivers; short passes. If I want to have a good day, get to (the receiver) fast and don’t let make a move where Rodgers throws it 5 yards and (the receiver) takes it 20.'”
Its also worth mentioning that the Packers receivers have their problems, as well. They’ve been dropping balls all over the field lately. It didn’t show up in Atlanta but it was very evident in the last regular season game against the Bears. If they do that again, the Bears have an excellent chance of limiting Rogers.
Mike Mulligan at the Sun-Times points out correctly that we can expect to see a lot of “sky punts” near the sideline which have limited Hester’s returns in the past. That will largely limit the Bears advantage on special teams.
I’m going to mention one more major point on my own. Nearly everyone is lauding the improvement of the Bear offensive line in pass protection. But I have to point out that the Seahawks got very good pressure on Cutler when they blitzed. This game will be unwatchable for Bear fans if that happens this Sunday.
When asked to make a prediction the five sources from the opposing NFC North teams that the Sun-Times interviewed went 3-1-1 Bears, Packers, and a cowardly “I don’t know”. And surprising number of experts elsewhere are actually picking the Bears. But when Vegas talks, I think people listen and with the spread being the Packer -3.5 at Soldier Field, we know who the real under dog is in this match up.
In any case, blitzkrieg of the Bear offensive line aside, it promises to be a deep, entertaining game on many, many levels. No matter who wins, its the entertainment that brings which will will count the most this weekend.