Bears Defense Well Equipped to Contain Aaron Rodgers
Of course Akiem Hicks can't wait to return to the lineup from injured reserve, but one of the reasons has nothing to do with simply being able to play again after an elbow injury.
It's the chance to play against Aaron Rodgers again.
"I love it," Hicks said. "You want to go against the best of all time. If you're a true competitor, you want the best competition."
Best of all time might be slighting two quarterbacks who won a lot more Super Bowls than Rodgers, chiefly Tom Brady and Joe Montana.
Still, Rodgers is in the team photo.
"Well, the biggest thing with Aaron is his experience that he’s seen over all the years," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "There's not much you can throw at him that is going to rattle him.
"He's a guy that regardless of what year it is, what game it is during the week, he's competitive as hell and he doesn's want to lose. So it doesn't matter the score. We saw it Week 1 last year, he comes back. You're always in the game with him. We respect that, we know that and we know we will have our hands full with him."
Part of the problem with facing Rodgers is frustration after he eludes the pass rush and finds players downfield.
"His ability to slip out of a sack, his ability to keep his eyes downfield, Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks to play in this league," Hicks said.
Rodgers has a phenomenal career passer rating of 105.24 against the Bears. Yet, the Bears have held him in check since acquiring Khalil Mack. The rating since then is 93.7.
In fact, the Bears have fared well against Rodgers in 11 of the last 12 quarters they played against him, and still have come out with a 1-2 record in those games.
They have Hicks pushing inside, Khalil Mack on the outside, and the unofficial Rodgers Hunter, Leonard Floyd, coming off the other edge. Floyd has 7 1/2 sacks against the Packers in seven career games. He has 11 sacks in the 44 games he played against other teams.
"He did a great job in that first game of finishing plays," Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said of Floyd. "And there have been times where not only him but we have left plays out there. He'd tell you the same thing. There were opportunities. You just have to finish them.
"He takes every week very, very seriously, prepares the same every single week, so I don't think it's just the Packers (he plays well against) per se."
If the Bears are to keep Rodgers in check as they have done in the last three games in order to stay in the playoff chase, they have to use these three keys.
3. Return of Mobile Mitch II
The sequel to last week. The Bears have to play ball control to keep Rodgers on the sidelines. The best way to do it is the ground game but not just with David Montgomery, who had been struggling in the 3.3-yards-per-carry range until the last three games. Instead, they also need Mitchell Trubisky to run the way he did last week with 63 yards to extend drives or set up easy down-and-distance situations. IZa'Darius and Preston Smith maintained their edges in the first game and kept Trubisky from getting outside the pocket. They also made it tough for him to step up. To cause trouble, the Bears need more short crossing pass routes to occupy the linebackers' attention and clear the way when Trubisky does step up.
2. Risky Business
Blitzing Rodgers is never an easy thing to do. The Bears didn't do a lot in the first game, but they need more of it off the slot and in the A-gap early in the game to take Rodgers out of rhythm. It goes beyond this. The cornerbacks have to be willing and able to jump routes early in the game to gamble for interceptions, so safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Eddie Jackson have to be at their best in open-field tackling situations in case it fails. Why not take some shots both blitzing and jumping routes? If they lose, the season likely is over anyway.
1. Turn David Montgomery Loose
The running game emphasis isn't all on Trubisky. Nine Packer opponents have run for 112 yards or more, and Green Bay is 25th against the run. It's an open invitation to continue the success Montgomery had the last two games with 75 and 86 yards. Limit Rodgers' touches, force the Packers out of the running game they've enjoyed using, and make their play-action game irrelevant by possessing the ball and being physical with your own running game.
And the Bears can't forget Montgomery in the passing game. They've never used him properly like this. He's had 23 receptions. They said they needed a running back who could play in the passing game and got rid of Jordan Howard, and Montgomery has only 23 receptions. They need to give him a chance.
The Line: Green Bay by 4 1/2
The Call: Packers 24, Bears 19
Bucs -3 1/2 at Lions
Bucs 34, Lions 17
Eagles -4 1/2 at Redskins
Eagles 28, Redskins 17
Patriots -10 at Bengals
Patriots 20, Bengals 7
Texans +3 at Titans
Titans 24, Texans 23
Seahawks -6 1/2 at Panthers
Seahawks 27, Panthers 17
Broncos +9 1/2 at Chiefs
Chiefs 34, Broncos 20
Dolphins +3 1/2 at Giants
Giants 27, Dolphins 20
Bills +2 at Steelers
Steelers 19, Bills 16
Jaguars +6 1/2 at Raiders
Raiders 24, Jaguars 17
Browns -2 1/2 at Cardinals
Cardinals 31, Browns 24
Falcons +10 1/2 at 49ers
49er 26, Falcons 23
Rams -1 1/2 at Cowboys
Cowboys 20, Rams 17
Vikings -2 1/2 at Chargers
Vikings 27, Chargers 19
Colts +8 1/2 at Saints
Saints 30, Colts 20