Playoff Breakdown: Packers-Bears
With solid protection last week against Seattle, Cutler threw for two scores and ran for two others. It was only the sixth time in 17 games this year (including the postseason) he finished a game without a pick. He'll need to be as good with his accuracy as his decision-making against the Packers, whose 24 interceptions ranked second in the league. Another thing to keep in mind: Green Bay had multiple picks in three of its last four games against Cutler. The one time it didn't was the only time it lost.
Chicago also must limit Aaron Rodgers' ability to escape the pocket. Atlanta had at least six chances for sacks last Saturday but failed to bring down Rodgers, who spun out of trouble, moved in the pocket, or scrambled free. After the first few times, the dejection from those missed opportunities was readily apparent on the Falcons' faces.
It's imperative the Bears avoid third-and-long situations because Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers is so creative with play-calling. Against Green Bay and its 3-4 defense, opponents had the league's fourth-worst passer rating (67.29) in blitzing situations and threw eight interceptions. Only two teams had more picks in blitzing situations.
In three career playoff starts, Rodgers has thrown 10 touchdowns and only one interception. He has completed 77.3 percent of his passes and improved his passer rating each outing from 121.4 against Arizona last season to 122.5 against Philadelphia and 136.8 against Atlanta this postseason.
Arguably no defense has given him more problems than Chicago's. The Bears have limited him to just three touchdowns (with two interceptions) in the teams' last four meetings. In those games he was sacked four, three, zero and two times. One reason is that Chicago can drop more defenders into coverage because it's able to generate a pass rush with its front four. That will be critical Sunday, because Rodgers was the league's best passer against the blitz this year among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts in those situations. He completed 111-of-167 passes, according to Stats Inc., with 11 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 104.5 rating.
The teams' last five meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less, and this one should be no exception. Part of it has to do with the clubs being so familiar with each other as NFC North rivals; another factor could be the natural "turf" in Soldier Field, which some players rank among the worst in the league.