Joniak: Keys To The Game
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Offense: Control the clock
Only the Denver Broncos score quicker than the Chicago Bears, who average three-minutes of possession time on scoring drives. It’s a quick strike offense born of the system, the big play potential of Jay Cutler and consistently outstanding field position courtesy of the Bears defense and special teams. It all sounds great when the Bears are putting up 78 points in two games, but bleeding the clock against the Packers makes a lot of sense once the Bears have the lead. Entering the game, the Bears are 21st in time of possession, the Packers are 7th. It’s quite a dilemma. The Bears scored 38 points on 54 plays last week against the Jets. Short of that type of production against the NFL’s #2 scoring defense, milking the clock and keeping Aaron Rodgers off the field is critical.
Defense: Keep stonewalling the run
Being gap sound and disciplined is again a significant key to the game regarding the Bears defense. Typically, the Packers try to establish the run against the Bears, in particular the weak-side lead draw. Green Bay is 22nd in the NFL in rushing yards and yards/carry. It is imperative the Bears defense shuts down the run like they did in September at Soldier Field, holding the Packers to 63-yards on 15 carries. Brandon Jackson is averaging 3.7 yards-per-carry and has ripped off a 71 yard run. John Kuhn scored three times last week…and a committee approach has filled in for the injured Ryan Grant. Aaron Rodgers factors as well, averaging 5.9 yards when he leaves the pocket while scoring four touchdowns. He is arguably the best play-action passer in the NFL right now. It creates a lot of big plays in the passing game to Greg Jennings who leads the Packers with 72 catches, 16 yards a catch, and 12 touchdowns.
Special Teams: Don’t lose on special teams
It was against the Packers that the magic and confidence of Devin Hester in the return game blossomed. His 62-yard punt return helped. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy says Devin Hester is the most dangerous player on the Bears. Will the Packers give up field position and keep it away from Hester. New England’s Dan Connelly….had a big kickoff return, so can Hester, Danieal Manning or Johnny Knox. The Packers are 31st on special teams, the Bears are second. On punts they give up 10+, while on kickoffs they allow 22-yards. It’s a huge game for rookie Punter Tom Masthay and kicker Mason Crosby who has made 21 of his 27 field goals. The Bears can set the tone with a tone-setting hit on special teams like they did a week ago on Brad Smith of the Jets.
Intangibles: Beat Green Bay
Lovie Smith is 4-and-2 at Lambeau Field and 9-and-4 overall against Green Bay. It doesn’t matter what the scenario, the Bears will try to do whatever it takes within reason to spoil the Packers season. It’s possible they could meet in the playoffs. Green Bay did that last season when they throttled Arizona in week 16, only to give up 51 points in losing to Arizona in the first round of the playoffs. The whole objective is to beat the Packers in what amounts to an early playoff game for both teams. There is a lot on the line.