Can Bears ‘D’ replicate Rams demolition vs. Rodgers’ Packers?
In almost every other week, the 9-4 Bears could be excused for having a letdown after their seminal victory over the Rams on a national stage last Sunday night.
But not this week because this week they’re playing the Packers, the biggest rivalry game in franchise history, and the Bears have an opportunity to clinch their first NFC North title since 2010.
It will be worth watching to see if a Bears’ defense that dismantled the explosive Rams offense can do the same against long-time nemesis Aaron Rodgers. He sucker punched them in Week One with three fourth-quarter touchdown passes to overcome a 20-0 deficit and steal a 24-23 victory.
Rodgers has compiled a silly 23-1 TD-to-interception ratio this year but somehow has a passer rating of “only” 99.6, which is 11th best in the league. That’s because Rodgers is not making as many of the big plays that have characterized his career. He’s averaging just 7.5 yards per pass, tied for 17th with Dak Prescott and Derek Carr. Only four quarterbacks have been sacked more often than Rodgers, who has been dropped 39 times, including 14 in the past four games.
That’s understandable given the Packers’ unstable offensive line. Last week, RT Bryan Bulaga, RG Byron Bell and LG Lane Taylor were inactive. Bulaga (knee) did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. Taylor (foot) was limited Wednesday but back in full Thursday.
Rodgers will need all the protection he can get against a Bears team that hassled and hurried Jared Goff into his worst performance as a professional last week with a pass rush spearheaded by OLB Khalil Mack, who got his 10th sack and sixth forced fumble.
An interesting subplot worth watching in the 199th meeting in the Bears-Packers series will be the Chicago defense, which leads the NFL with 25 interceptions, against Rodgers, who has thrown an NFL-record 368 passes without an interception.
Rodgers has been picked off just once while throwing 495 passes this year. In his last 12 games against the Bears, Rodgers is 11-1 and has thrown 36 TD passes and just three interceptions.
In their second game under interim head coach Joe Philbin, the 4-7-1 Packers don’t have realistic playoff hopes, but they can salvage something in a tumultuous season with a victory over the Bears. If they do, it’ll be using a tried and true formula against Chicago – plenty of Rodgers.
“Obviously they’ve had the head coaching change, but they’re continuing to do what they do,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “They’re not going to make drastic changes with him at quarterback. For the most part, they’re going to just keep playing and trying to score points.”
As dominant as the Bears’ defense has been for much of the season, it will need more of a contribution from QB Mitch Trubisky than it got last week when he was picked off three times in his first game back after missing two weeks with a right shoulder injury. Was it rust? Has Trubisky hit a wall after making some huge strides earlier in the season?
His 33.3 passer rating last week was mitigated by the long-awaited emergence of RB Jordan Howard, who logged his first 100-yard game to lead the Bears to a season-high 194 yards on the ground.
Trubisky put together a stretch of four 102-plus passer ratings in a six-game span earlier in the season, but the way the Bears are playing defense, they don’t need him to be spectacular, just to avoid multiple mistakes.
It will be worth watching to see if Nagy scales back the game plan accordingly and asks Trubisky to become more of a game manager. But, given Nagy’s aggressiveness and his dynamic play calling, that seems unlikely.
But the Packers have done an exceptional job of getting to the quarterback, ranking second in the NFL in sack percentage, including eight by OLB Kyler Fackrell and six by NT Kenny Clark.