It's tough to come up with ways to stop Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers within the confines of the law.
Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano wouldn't mind throwing him in a well, but not the kind holding water.
"If you can keep him throwing from in the well, so to speak, and get the middle push so he can't step up, if you just look at the data and look at the tape, people have had success," Pagano said. "We've had success in the past, the Bears teams before I've got here have had success doing that, our first game against these guys a year ago here, when we opened up with them."
It's better to take chances by forcing Rodgers to throw from in a pocket collapsing from the front than to lose containment and let him scramble to throw in the open field where he can see every receiver and make big plays, the logic goes.
It's easier for the Bears to collapse a pocket this time with defensive end Akiem Hicks playing. Hicks couldn't play the last game with Green Bay, the 41-25 loss Nov. 29 at Lambeau Field.
It still doesn't mean the Bears can beat Rodgers, but like Pagano said, Vic Fangio's Bears defense did enough twice in 2018 to win twice by keeping him contained in a collapsing pocket—they managed to squander one of those in the end, anyway.
The Packers counter with all types of strategies to maximize Rodgers even when operating from in the well, or pocket.
"At some point I'm sure you try to slow down an aggressive front that we have here so sometimes they max protect and sometimes I think that will take their shots and trust in their guys beating our guys," edge rusher Robert Quinn said. "Same thing, I think we trust our guys to beat their guys. It’s a chess match."
Rodgers has won 19 of the 24 starts he made against the Bears and one of his five losses was a game when Shea McClellin knocked him out with an injury. He has a 105.3 lifetime passer rating against the Bears.
Different teams have taken different approaches. Carolina likes using a 3-3-5 and playing pass coverage. They had some success against the Packers this way in the second half but trailed already 21-3 at halftime.
"Just giving him different looks, safeties coming down on one side shooting to the other side of the field or showing you're down and going back into coverage," Bears safety Eddie Jackson said. "The Minnesota Vikings, Harrison Smith, did a great job with it as well. You see the teams that do that, the way he responds he doesn't know where he's going to go with the ball once you give him his look.
"We are definitely looking at it, we are definitely taking down details and putting together different things to try and confuse him and get him on his heels and mix some pressure in there."
The best thing anyone has done was what Tampa Bay did with Todd Bowles' array of all-out blitzing. They beat Green Bay 38-10 by sacking Rodgers five times and pressuring him into two interceptions. It
"Man that would be way easier," Jackson said. "Like I said, the thing that gets him riled up is confusing him, putting pressure on him, not letting him know where he's going to go with the ball before he hikes it, just giving him different looks."
There is danger here, however. If the heat doesn't get to Rodgers and he isn't fooled by the coverage, it's a big play.
"He's seen it all and he's so smart and he's so efficient," Pagano said. "What he does so good is he's at the line of scrimmage so early and he's able to gather so much intel with motion shifts, lineup in empty, see who goes out with the running back, get man-zone tells, all those kind of things.
"So he pretty much has it whittled down knowing exactly what you're going to be before the ball's snapped."
Jackson boiled it down to something simple and more personal for each Bears player.
"Take care of your assignments and contain Aaron Rodgers," Jackson said. "You can't keep letting him just pat the ball and give him time to just sit back there and make different reads. You have to put pressure in his face, you've got to get him uncomfortable—different looks, disguise-wise.
"So stuff like that, we have to go in this week and work on those things."