A look at four keys for the Bears to beat this week’s opponent.
1. Prevent Aaron Rodgers from setting up in or leaving the pocket
It’s blatantly obvious to everybody who has watched the Packers over the past three years that the path to success starts with Rodgers. He has good mechanics, is extremely patient, is one of the best third down quarterbacks in the league, has arguably the best wide receiver corps in the league (including tight end Jermichael Finley), is one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league and he can make all the big throws. In short, he’s a dangerous quarterback. The only way to counter a player like him is to not let him get comfortable in the pocket and set up with time to throw. The other thing the Bears cannot let him do is escape the pocket because he, like Tony Romo, whom the Bears faced last week, can make throws on the run and can also pick up first downs with his legs. It sounds like a tall order to both contain him in the pocket as well as make him throw before he’s ready, but that’s what the defense has to do. The Packers offensive line was terrible last year and they’ve only slightly improved this year so it’s incumbent upon the front seven to get pressure on Rodgers.
2. Stop the run
After two weeks, the Bears have the No. 1 run defense in the league, and it’s not for a lack of competition. The Cowboys’ trio of Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice as well as Lions rookie running back Jahvid Best provide two solid rushing attacks. The Packers lost running back Ryan Grant for the season and are relying on Brandon Jackson to get them through the season but he’s not nearly the back that Grant is. The theory behind stopping the run is that it’ll force the opponent to throw the ball more and become one-dimensional and that should lead to turnovers. If the Bears’ improved offense jumps on the board early, playing from behind will cause the Packers to have to throw more and run less. The Bears need to play as physical as they’ve been doing so far and keep the pressure on the Packers’ run game.
3. Be aware of where Clay Matthews lines up
Second-year linebacker Clay Matthews leads the NFL with 6 sacks through two weeks and is a force to be reckoned with. He’s an intelligent football player coming from an NFL football family and the Packers can move him around the field to give the Bears different looks. He’s not quite the beast that Cowboys’ linebacker DeMarcus Ware is — few NFL players are — but he can be just as effective in disrupting a play. Matthews surely will give the offensive line fits and will cause Mike Martz to get creative with both his play calling and his protection schemes.
4. Take what the defense gives and don’t force anything
The Packers defense led the league with 30 interceptions last year to go with 10 fumble recoveries. They have two interceptions and one fumble recovery so far this year. They have the reigning defensive player of the year in cornerback Charles Woodson. As mentioned previously, they have the current league leader in sacks as well as linebackers Nick Barnett, Brandon Chillar, and A.J. Hawk. They have some big beefy players along their three-man front in Ryan Pickett, Cullen Jenkins, and B.J. Raji. In short, they’re loaded with talent all over the field. After Jay Cutler showed so much promise the first two weeks and was patient and didn’t try to force the ball too much, I’d hate to see him regress this week. If there isn’t anything available, he needs to throw the ball away and live to play another series because otherwise the Packers will make him pay.