Four Downs: Keys to beating the Packers (09/28/14)

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

1. Keep Aaron Rodgers dancing in the pocket

The single biggest key to this game is the performance of the Bears’ defensive line. The Packers are struggling this season but as long as they have one of the best quarterbacks in the game playing for them, they have a chance to win week in and week out. You take him out of the lineup and they’re a bad football team. Aaron Rodgers is adept at making plays while on the move. He can extend plays by scrambling outside the pocket and finding the open receiver, or he can tuck the ball away and pick up first downs with his legs. So, pressure alone is not enough to get the job done. The Bears need their defensive ends to keep Rodgers contained inside the pocket and then they’ll need their defensive tackles to cave in the middle of the line, cutting off Rodgers’ retreat and his passing lanes.

2. Continue run discipline and gang tackle

We have to be impressed with the improvement of the Bears run defense at this point. No, they’re not a good run defense yet. And no, they’re not statistically ranked well. After a disastrous Week 1, the Bears have yielded an average of 120.5 rushing yards per game in their two victories. Again, not exactly earth-shattering, but it would put them in the middle of the pack in that statistic. They at least appear to be headed in the right direction. Now they need to maintain that gap discipline and keep Eddie Lacy in check, preventing him from picking up big chunks of yardage per carry.

3. Play error-free football

Always a key to victory, this is especially more important in big games against tough competition. Rodgers is good enough a quarterback to make the Bears pay with whatever amount of possessions he’s given over the normal course of a game. To give him more possessions due to careless turnovers or give him great field position due to penalties makes him evermore dangerous. Penalties will naturally occur in the duration of a game, but it’s the mental mistakes, the brain farts that give free yardage to the other team that will kill a football team’s momentum. And as far as turnovers — you just can’t have them. The Bears need to protect the football like it’s the Holy Grail.

4. Forget balance; take what is given

Much has been made of the Bears’ struggles to run the football, and it certainly has been bad (ranked dead last in the NFL with just 64 yards per game). But at no point this season has that deterred the Bears from winning games. The Bears did not lose to the Bills because of problems in the run game. They lost because they couldn’t stop the Bills’ run game. They should be 3-0 at this point, all the while with a run game that has struggled. In fairness to Matt Forte and the gang, the Bears have faced three of the toughest run defenses in the league so far. Things might get a little easier for Forte this week against a Packers run defense ranked 30th in the NFL. But it’s not as if the Bears must run the ball. It would help, because it would chew up the clock and keep Rodgers and the Packers offense on the sideline. But whatever the Packers give to the Bears, be it through the air or on the ground, should be embraced.

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