Joniak’s Keys To The Game: Bears Vs. Packers
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By Jeff Joniak-
Offense: Possessions To Points
Offensive possessions have to be treated like gold against the Packers. Squeezing as much out of the clock as possible would be nice, but those possessions need to pay off with points. The Bears are capable of scoring points to hang with any offense even though Jay Cutler is sidelined for the moment.
Josh McCown makes his 34th NFL start and he is experienced enough to handle whatever the Packers defense will throw at him. He is well versed in the offense and it fits his skill set. Guys have to get open. Brandon Marshall caught 80 yards of passes on 12 targets, while Alshon Jeffrey caught one pass on six targets in two games. The longest pass play between the two was 15-yards. The Packers play aggressively, so those perimeter battles are going to be a huge storyline in this game.
Both receivers are built to get off the jam and create cushion giving McCown a good throwing lane. Matt Forte is another weapon to call on repeatedly in this game. I say it every time against the Packers. Keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. Own the clock. Move the chains. Value the ball. Be productive. It’s all necessary Monday night.
Defense: Do Your Job
A year ago in two meetings the Bears sacked Rodgers eight times. They have to find a way to continue to hack at Rodgers who gets rid of the ball very quickly, but also takes sacks.
You never know which sack could make the difference. Blitzing Rodgers is a high risk proposition. He’s been sacked six times, but has four touchdowns and one interception when blitzed. His quarterback rating is a productive 108.0. He doesn’t mind throwing the ball away to live for another snap, which he’s done an NFL high 18 times.
He now has a productive running game. If the 1-2 punch of rookie Eddie Lacy and veteran James Starks gets going, the Bears are in a jam. They must stop the run. Rodgers has completed 70% of his passes against the Bears with 19 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions while going 9-2 against the Bears.
It’s a big challenge for what could be two rookie starting linebackers Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene. The bottom line is each defender has a responsibility and he must meet the requirements of the job. Be where he’s supposed to be and play smart and unselfish football.
Special Teams: Make Some Noise
Looking for the big hit and the big stop giving the Packers a long field will be something preached this week. While the Bears get takeaways on defense, earning one on special teams often leads to victory. An aggressive mentality and sure tackling and gap integrity will all factor in getting something big to happen for the Bears Monday night.
The punt coverage unit will be challenged by rookie Micah Hyde. He took a punt back 93 yards on the Vikings even though he’s not a burner. He’s instinctive and averaging 18.6 on his 10 returns since taking over for Jeremy Ross. Green Bay is clearly vulnerable to the big return as well, after Cordarlelle Patterson’s 109 yard kickoff return. Here’s the bottom line: it’s time to make some noise in Green Bay on special teams.
Intangibles: Grab The Momentum And Hold Onto It
Aaron Rodgers does not need extra possessions. In ten of the last 11 games against the Packers, the Bears have fallen behind by at least two scores. The grand total in those games on the scoreboard is a staggering 152-to-21 in favor of the Packers.
The Bears have scored only one touchdown in those games before Rodgers has directed 14 touchdown drives plus last season’s week two fake punt touchdown by tight end Tom Crabtree. Those are holes tough to dig out of. The Bears jumped to a 7-0 lead last December at Soldier Field on the Packers, but could not score again.
Grab the momentum and hold on tight. Sounds simple, but it’s far from it especially at Lambeau Field.