A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the Green Bay Packers.
1. Keep Aaron Rodgers in the pocket
The San Francisco 49ers have one of, if not the best defense in the NFL and they stifled Rodgers and the Packers offense this past Sunday. Rodgers had perhaps one of the worst games I’ve seen him play, at least since his first year as a starter. With a strong defensive backfield, the 49ers were able to clamp down on the Packers receivers and they gave Rodgers very little windows to throw through. But the key to it all was collapsing the pocket on Rodgers and keeping him contained. The mobile quarterback still had five carries for 27 yards but the defense certainly made him uncomfortable. The Bears need to stay in their rush lanes and the ends can’t let Rodgers get outside. And because Rodgers can keep plays alive with his feet, the secondary can’t give up on their coverage responsibilities too soon.
2. Win the battle of field position
A bad Devin Hester return on the opening kickoff and an ensuing sack on the first offensive play doomed the Bears early in the game against the Colts. It took a pick-six from Cutler in order to reset field position to get the offense out of harm’s way deep in its own end of the field. And that was at home in a friendly environment. If the Bears fall into such a perilous position early against the Packers at Lambeau Field, they really could dig themselves into a big hole early. Special teams will need to play a big role — as it always has in victories over the Packers — on Thursday night in helping keep the ball on the Packers’ end of the field.
3. Control the run game
There was big talk about the Packers’ signing of Cedric Benson in the preseason as well as high expectations from the former Bears running back and his new team. But against the 49ers, Benson rushed just 9 times for 18 yards. Sure, the Packers were playing from behind for most of the game and the 49ers have one of the best defenses in the league, but it was not an inspiring effort from Benson. The last time the Bears faced Benson, the back rushed 37 times for 189 yards as a member of the Bengals in a 45-10 romp over the Bears in 2009. The Colts’ Donald Brown had a few big runs against the Bears on Sunday and with Brian Urlacher still battling knee troubles, the Bears are no sure thing to stop the run. On the other side of the ball, the 49ers managed to accumulate 186 rushing yards on 32 plays. The Bears need to impose their will in the run game with the duo of Matt Forte and Michael Bush.
4. Play with a lead
This is obviously easier said than done, but if the Bears can get on the scoreboard first and maintain the lead, it really limits what the Packers can do offensively and it opens up the playbook for the Bears offense when they have the ball. The Packers have a strong pass rush led by linebacker Clay Matthews and in order to neutralize it, the Bears need to be able to mix in some runs and short dump-offs to the running backs to keep the defense honest. Those kinds of plays won’t do any good if the Bears find themselves trailing on the scoreboard all game and the defense will be able to pin its ears back and attack Jay Cutler if the Bears are behind.
Then again, these keys may mean nothing because even a Bears win doesn’t mean they will “beat” the Packers, per Green Bay cornerback Jarrett Bush.