Four Downs: Keys to beating the Packers (01/02/11)

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A look at four keys for the Bears to beat this week’s opponent.

1. Get pressure on Aaron Rodgers with the front four
The last good quarterback the Bears faced this season torched the defense and made it look easy. Tom Brady completed 27 of 40 passes for 369 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the Patriots’ 36-7 rout of the Bears three weeks ago. Aaron Rodgers isn’t too far down the talent list and can just as easily pick apart the Bears’ defense if they cannot get pressure on him. Sending blitzes all game will not do the trick because Rodgers has great mobility and can burn the defense from where they’re sending pressure. Assuming Lovie Smith plays his starters, Pro Bowler Julius Peppers along with Israel Idonije, Tommie Harris, Matt Toeaina, Henry Melton and the rest of the defensive line will have to supply the pressure up front to disrupt the continuity of the Packers offense.

2. Take care of the football
The Packers rank sixth in the league with a plus-10 turnover ratio, meaning they take care of the football and take it away on defense. The Packers are third in the league with 22 defensive interceptions to go with eight fumble recoveries. If the Bears turn over the ball on offense, the Packers will make them pay on the scoreboard. Jay Cutler has done a great job of protecting the football and making smart decisions with his throws ever since the bye week and he’ll need to do the same this game — again, assuming he plays. If we see another repeat of last year’s four-interception game at Lambeau Field, the Packers will surely win the game.

3. Protect against Clay Matthews
The Bears did a great job of containing Clay Matthews in the first meeting between these teams in Week 3 of the season. Matthews recorded just three tackles and no sacks and was unable to generate as much pressure as he normally does on opposing quarterbacks. Matthews is fourth in the NFL with 12.5 sacks, has a relentless motor, and can move all around the field while bringing pressure from different areas. The Bears’ offense has to be aware of his whereabouts at all times.

4. Win the battle of field position
The Bears have the most dangerous weapon on the field in Devin Hester and they’ll face a Packers special teams that ranks among the worst in the league. The last time these teams met, Hester returned a punt for his first return touchdown in more than two years. With such bad special teams, you can guarantee Packers coach Mike McCarthy will have punter Tim Masthay kick the ball out of the stadium. Often when punters attempt to angle the ball out of bounds, they sacrifice field position and give the opponent a great starting point. It’s important the Bears take advantage of their field position because they’ll need every bit of it against a Packers offense that can move the ball down the field with ease.

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