Four Downs: Keys to beating the Packers (12/16/12)

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The longer Aaron Rodgers remains on the sideline, the better the Bears chances at winning will be.
The longer Aaron Rodgers remains on the sideline, the better the Bears chances at winning will be.

A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the Green Bay Packers.

1. Win the time of possession

The single best way to defend an explosive offense is to keep it on the sideline. If they don’t have the ball, they can’t score. The Bears offense needs to succeed in this game as a defensive mechanism as much as for offensive purposes. The Bears need to grind it out on the ground with Matt Forte and Michael Bush and keep the chains moving. When they take to the air, we need to see less shots down the field and more short and intermediate routes that keep the linebackers in coverage rather than blitzing Jay Cutler. Not only do Bears drives need to end with points on the board, they need to chew up the clock.

2. Make them earn every inch

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is so dangerous and his receivers are explosive across the board. They have the capability of scoring in a heartbeat and the Bears defense needs to prevent that from happening. Just as it’s important for the Bears offense to chew up the clock and limit the amount of opportunities Rodgers and company have the ball in their possession, it’s equally as important for the Bears defense to get off the field as quickly as possible. And if the Packers do score, hopefully it requires a long time to do so rather than from a quick strike.

3. Never give up on a play or a drive

The beauty of the Cover 2 is that it is designed to prevent the big play and force the opposing offense to keep taking swings, having to earn every inch. And every time a ball is snapped, it’s one more opportunity for an attacking defense to take the ball away. That’s how the Bears have thrived in such a scheme under Lovie Smith for many years. If the Packers make some big plays in Sunday’s game — as they almost certainly will — the Bears can’t get into a funk and give up on the play or the drive. They need to continue taking swings at the ball to see if the Packers will lay it on the ground. You never know what will happen on any given play which is why you have to live to play another down.

4. Keep Rodgers in the pocket

Rodgers is one of the most athletic and mobile quarterbacks in the NFL and he’s dangerous while on the run. Not only can he buy himself time to make plays in the passing game by moving around the pocket and escaping the pass rush, but he can also pick up yards — including the first down — by tucking and running. There’s nothing more frustrating for a defense — or opposing fans — than when the defense has great coverage on third down and long, but the quarterback scrambles to pick up the first down. It’s a back breaker and a momentum shift, and Rodgers is so good at it. It’s imperative that the Bears defensive line not only gets pressure on Rodgers but contains him in the pocket and doesn’t let him move around too much.

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