Chicago Bears: Green Bay Packers

Bears vs. Packers preview

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
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The NFL's oldest rivalry kicks off Sunday when the Chicago Bears (2-1) host the Green Bay Packers (1-2) at Soldier Field.

The Bears enter the contest riding a two-game winning streak, while the Packers are coming off a loss to the Detroit Lions.

Here, ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright and Packers reporter Rob Demovsky break down key elements leading up to Sunday's matchup.

Wright: Rob, there seem to be tons of questions regarding Green Bay's struggling offense. But what perked up my radar is Aaron Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy seemed to contradict one another about some of the things that went wrong against Detroit and what adjustments the offense needs to make moving forward. It seems Rodgers and McCarthy have butted heads in the past about the offense. What's going on now?

Demovsky: Rodgers doesn't say anything without carefully thinking it through, so clearly there was something that bothered him about what they tried to do offensively against the Lions. That was not just an off-the-cuff remark, not when he kept using the word "adjustments" over and over. The interesting thing is, McCarthy has been criticized in the past for not sticking with the running game long enough, but against the Lions, it might have been the opposite. He stayed with the running game long after it was apparent they couldn't get anything done on the ground. Rodgers also mentioned the fact that perhaps they need to move receiver Jordy Nelson around in order to gain favorable matchups, but they did that some against Detroit -- including on the fourth-and-5 play in the red zone on which Nelson got matched up against a linebacker, and Rodgers simply missed him.

Turning to Chicago, perhaps the two highest profile signings in the NFC North were the Packers signing Julius Peppers and the Bears signing Jared Allen. Peppers had his best game as a Packer last week against the Lions, and the coaches seem pleased with his contributions. How are the Bears feeling about what Allen is giving them?

Wright: Statistically, Allen obviously got off to a slow start with two tackles in each of the first two games, but against the New York Jets on Monday night, Allen put together somewhat of a breakout performance with seven stops. The Bears are certainly pleased with Allen's contributions up to this point, but I also think the staff's feelings concerning the defensive end are more about his contributions at practices and in the meeting rooms. Remember, originally, the Bears brought in Willie Young to start opposite Lamarr Houston. Then, Allen sort of just fell in the team's lap in free agency and it had to pounce. Allen has been instrumental, in my opinion, on helping to develop Young, as well as some of the other players. Don't be surprised if Young eventually becomes one of this league's better defensive ends in the next couple years, and Allen will have had a part in that. Allen mentioned last week that ever since he left the Kansas City Chiefs, he's typically gotten off to slow starts statistically. This season appears to be no different. But the staff still is pleased with Allen.

I know Green Bay faced imposing defensive lines to start off in Seattle, the Jets and the Lions. Are this team's struggles along the offensive line a product of the teams they faced or are there real problems in protection?

Demovsky: We should find that out this week, right? It looked like the Bears did a decent job against the Jets' running game, but they still rank 26th in the league in run defense. If the Packers can't get Eddie Lacy going against this defense, then there are real problems. The interesting thing is James Starks has been able to make things happen on the ground, whereas Lacy has not. Perhaps that's why McCarthy put the onus on Lacy this week, when he said "Eddie needs to play better."

The Packers have struggled to run the ball, too, but what in the world is wrong with the Bears' running game?

Wright: Man, I think the Bears suffered from the same thing as the Packers in that they drew tough opponents for the first three contests. Think about it: All of Chicago's first three opponents rank among the top 10 in rush defense. The Jets ranked No. 1, the San Francisco 49ers are seventh and the Buffalo Bills sit at No. 6. Combine that with the fact the Bears lost starting center Roberto Garza and left guard Matt Slauson and have played the past two games with Brian de la Puente and rookie Michael Ola in those spots. In my opinion, playing the backups sort of throws off the precise timing needed to really click in the ground game.

Let's look at Green Bay's air attack. Randall Cobb and Nelson combine for 58 percent of the Packers' offense. So it looks to me like the complementary targets aren't getting it done. What does Green Bay do if the Bears find a way to take away Cobb and Nelson, especially considering this team's struggles the first three weeks running the ball?

Demovsky: It would help if they could get their tight ends involved. Remember all those catches Jermichael Finley used to make against the Bears? That's one of the things that has been missing from this offense. The Packers hoped rookie third-round pick Richard Rodgers would be able to make an immediate impact, but despite starting all three games so far, he hasn't caught a single pass. Of course, Rodgers has only thrown his way once. Andrew Quarless seemed to take over the role midway through the game against the Lions and had the Packers' only touchdown of the game, but he's not as dynamic as Finley. They probably need to turn to Brandon Bostick, who looked like Finley-lite in the preseason before he sustained a leg injury. He's back healthy again but mysteriously hasn't played on offense in the past two games despite appearing on special teams.

While the Packers seem to be a team lacking confidence, how sky-high are the Bears after winning back-to-back road games -- one on each coast against the 49ers and Jets?

Wright: Confidence is definitely sky-high, my man. When the Bears upset the 49ers on the road, coach Marc Trestman talked about how wins such as that are the ones that build a strong backbone for later in the season, when every outing is clutch. Remember, coming into the season, everyone expected the offense to carry the defense. But in the two wins on the road, it was the defense shouldering the load for what's been a fairly mediocre offense. So the Bears know they've got a really good shot to put it all together at some point. But injuries are certainly a concern. The Bears play five of their first seven games on the road, and I still contend they'll be lucky to go into the Nov. 2 bye week with a record of better than .500.

 

NFL Nation: 4 Downs -- NFC North

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
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Are the Detroit Lions thinking of moving up in the draft? If not, why did they host Jadeveon Clowney on a recent visit? But what about the possibility of moving up to take Sammy Watkins to pair him up with Calvin Johnson as a dynamic receiving tandem?

That’s one of the questions our NFC North reporters -- Rob Demovsky with the Green Bay Packers, Ben Goessling on the Minnesota Vikings, Michael C. Wright on the Chicago Bears and Kevin Seifert filling in on the Lions -- will tackle in this installment of 4 Downs.

With all of the offseason movement in the NFC North, which move will have the biggest impact? Will Julius Peppers have a bigger impact with the Packers or will Jared Allen make a bigger splash with the Bears?

Will the Bears’ defense, buoyed by offseason acquisitions, enjoy the kind of resurgence in 2014 that their offense did in 2013?

Now that Adrian Peterson has reached 29 years old, will his production decrease, or will Norv Turner’s offense invigorate him?

Find out what our reporters are thinking.

First Down

Fact or fiction: The best draft move the Lions could make is moving up for Sammy Watkins.



Rob Demovsky: Fact. There's something to be said for making your strength even stronger. Clearly, with Calvin Johnson, the Lions' passing game is their strength -- they were third in the league in passing yards per game last season -- so why not make it even more difficult to stop? The addition of Watkins would give Matthew Stafford another big-play option.

Ben Goessling: Fiction. As exciting as it would be to see Watkins in the same offense as Calvin Johnson, the Lions likely would need to move up from No. 10 to No. 4 or 5 to get Watkins. That would be the kind of expensive trade that could mean Martin Mayhew doesn't have enough picks to improve the team's defense. The Lions could use an upgrade to their secondary and at linebacker, and they'd likely find some good options there with the 10th overall pick. The Lions need another complement to Johnson, but defense is too big of a priority to make a costly trade up to get Watkins.

Kevin Seifert: Fiction. Adding Watkins to a group that includes Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate would be one of the top power moves in recent memory. And, yes, the best way to build a team is to draft the best players and fill in positional gaps via free agency. But mortgaging the next two drafts seems like a steep price for a wide receiver on a team that has already committed the NFL's third-most salary-cap space ($20.3 million) at the position. The Lions' best move would to be clearheaded and take the best player remaining at No. 10.

Michael C. Wright: Fiction. By now, the Lions should've already learned their lesson about investing too heavily in receivers. Besides that, Detroit needs help on defense if it wants to win now. The club has several defensive tackles set to become free agents after the 2014 season, it needs a safety and a cornerback, and it could stand to use some help at linebacker, too. The Lions already have several weapons on offense in Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush, in addition to free-agent acquisition Golden Tate. They can't neglect a defense that seems to always lack depth once injuries hit. This is also one of the deepest drafts in recent years for receivers, meaning the Lions could address defense first, then come back and add another target for Stafford in a later round. That would be the best course of action for Detroit. But the Lions haven't always done what's best (even though things seem to be improving with Martin Mayhew on board).



Second Down

Fact or fiction: Julius Peppers will make a greater impact on the Packers' defense than Jared Allen will make on the Bears' D.



Demovsky: Fact. The Packers didn't have a single defensive lineman record as many sacks as Peppers did for the Bears last year, when he had seven. Even if he's only able to replicate that, it'll be an upgrade for the Packers' defense, which badly needs another pass-rusher to complement Clay Matthews, who faces near-constant double teams.

Goessling: Fiction. It's hard to know what the Packers will get from Peppers. The Bears are essentially asking Allen to do what he's always done, and as consistent as Allen's been, you know what you're getting. He'll probably produce 10-plus sacks and stay on the field, though he looked a step slower last season. With Peppers, though, the Packers' decision to put him opposite Clay Matthews is a big gamble -- on Peppers' ability to pick up a new position, to move around in the Packers' defense and to remain productive at age 34. It could work out splendidly, but as consistent as Allen is, I'm not ready to bet that Peppers will make a larger impact.

Seifert: Fiction. Call me boring, but I don't foresee one having a dramatically different impact than the other. Both will provide something their teams didn't have last season. The Packers will get a player athletic and versatile enough to spur defensive coordinator Dom Capers' creativity and legitimately draw attention away from linebacker Clay Matthews. Allen offers a classic outside pass rush that Peppers failed to provide the Bears last season.

Wright: Fiction. The Bears played it very diplomatically publicly while ushering Peppers out of the door, but even if his base salary for 2014 wasn't so astronomical, the club still didn't want him back. That's because some within the organization felt Peppers gave the Bears just five to six solid snaps per game in 2013. That sentiment falls right in line with Peppers' longstanding reputation as a player who doesn't go all-out consistently. So even if Allen's impact with the Bears in 2014 is minimal, I'd venture to guess it would be more than what the Packers will get from Peppers. That's not to say Peppers has lost it. He hasn't. He can still play at a high level when motivated. And he'll definitely be motivated in Green Bay. At the same time, Allen has never been accused of taking plays off, and over several years has earned a reputation as a high-motor player. That's exactly what the Bears need. Besides that, Peppers will be playing in a scheme totally different than anything he's ever done in the NFL, while Allen moves to a scheme similar to what he did in Minnesota. Everything considered, Allen has the best chance to be the more impactful player.



Third Down

Fact or fiction: Chicago will achieve a turnaround on defense similar to what the team experienced on offense in 2013.



Demovsky: Fiction. Unless your definition of turnaround is a slight improvement, don't expect this defense to jump into the top 10 after ranking 30th last season. The Bears have added some nice pieces, especially on the defensive line with Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston, but this defense was downright bad in 2013. A major turnaround could take several years.

Goessling: Fiction. I like what the Bears did to their defensive line, adding Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Jared Allen, but their safeties are still suspect, their young linebackers are still learning and they're going to count on players like Charles Tillman, D.J. Williams, Lance Briggs (if he's healthy) and Allen, who will all be at least 32 when camp starts. The Bears will be better on defense, but I'm not ready to say unequivocally that they'll turn things around after having the league's worst rushing defense in 2013.

Seifert: Fiction: Some important team-building remains, most notably through the draft. But I'm not convinced the Bears have done enough yet to expect such a dramatic turnaround. (Remember, the Bears' offense ranked second in scoring in 2013 after finishing No. 16 in 2012.) Free agency has promised a different lineup, but will it be better? As many as six projected starters will be at least 30 years old. That's not a profile for massive turnaround.

Wright: Fiction. The Bears will definitely turn things around, but I don't see the improvement being near as dramatic as what the club did in 2013 on offense. And that's OK. If the Bears can reach mediocrity on defense in 2014, that would be a huge win because the club now has a potent offense that can flat out stack points on the board. The Bears set single-season franchise records for net yardage (6,109), net passing yards (4,281), completion percentage (64.4), passing touchdowns (32), passer rating (96.9) and first downs (344) in addition to finishing eighth in total offense (381.8 yards per game), second in scoring (27.8-point average) and fifth in passing yardage (267.6). I don't see the Bears rewriting the franchise record books on defense next season, which would be incredibly difficult anyway given all the great defenses fielded in the past by this franchise.



Fourth Down

Fact or fiction: At age 29, Adrian Peterson will be invigorated by a new offensive scheme and buck the trend of running backs declining in their late 20s.


Demovsky: Fact. If we've learned anything about Peterson, it's that we should never doubt him. Not after what he did following his ACL tear. That said, 2,000 yards might not be realistic. If his 1,266 yards from last season was a disappointment, then so be it, but there aren't many teams in the league who wouldn't be happy with that right now.

Goessling: Fiction. Peterson will still be productive in Norv Turner's offense and could relish the opportunity to get the ball as a pass-catching threat for one of the first times in his career. But running backs at his age -- and with that much wear and tear -- don't tend to stay at that level forever, and Peterson's three surgeries in the past three offseasons are concerning. If he does what LaDainian Tomlinson did for Turner at age 29 (1,110 yards rushing and 426 receiving), is that bucking the trend? Maybe, but that would still only be Peterson's sixth-best season in terms of total yards. So I'll say fiction. Even though I expect Peterson to have a solid, productive season, I don't think we're looking at some fountain of youth in Turner's offense.

Seifert: Fact. I'll say this: Peterson doesn't need to be invigorated as much as he needs a transition path for continued elite production. After all, he rushed for 1,266 yards in 14 games last season. But he has undergone significant surgery in each of the past three winters, and offensive coordinator Norv Turner wants to involve him more in the passing game. More receptions and fewer carries sounds like a good plan for preservation.

Wright: Fact. But I'm not even so sure it will be as much about a new offensive scheme. Peterson just isn't human. Just kidding; sort of. Peterson is coming off his worst season since 2009 in terms of yards per attempt (4.5). But think about that for a second. Most running backs would be downright giddy averaging 4.5 yards per carry. I know Peterson has taken a pounding over the years and he's coming off yet another surgery. But doesn't that always seem to be the case for Peterson, dating all the way back to college? At Oklahoma, Peterson dislocated a shoulder in 2004, suffered a right high-ankle sprain in 2005 and a broken clavicle in 2006, which led to scrutiny going into the 2007 draft about his durability and longevity. Seven seasons and 10,115 yards later, Peterson's still here, giving defenses fits. Minnesota needs to get Peterson some help (like a quarterback) for sure. But I honestly think Peterson is such an extraordinary physical specimen, hard worker and determined player, he'll buck the trend for a while the way Fred Taylor did it. Taylor rushed for 1,202 yards in 2007, completing that season just weeks before his 32nd birthday. The year prior, Taylor rushed for 1,146 yards.

Top free-agent roundup: NFC North

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
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A few deals have been signed around the NFC North in the days leading up to free agency, but plenty of valuable players are about to hit the open market.

Here is a ranking of top NFC North free agents, with information provided by ESPN.com reporters Rob Demovsky (Green Bay Packers), Ben Goessling (Minnesota Vikings), Michael Rothstein (Detroit Lions) and Michael C. Wright (Chicago Bears).

We will update this periodically throughout the next several weeks.

1.Sam Shields, Packers CB: Emerged as the Packers' top cover cornerback last season while playing for the restricted free-agent tender of $2.023 million and was re-signed to a four-year, $39 million contract just a few hours into the open negotiating period Saturday. His 2014 total pay of $15 million makes him the NFL's second-highest-paid cornerback for next season.

2. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions TE: The No. 20 pick in the 2009 draft out of Oklahoma State, Pettigrew spent the past five seasons as one of Detroit's primary tight ends, specifically known for the ability to both block and run routes effectively.

3. Jermichael Finley, Packers TE: Had surgery to fuse the C3 and C4 vertebra in his neck but expects to be cleared by his doctor. Gambled two years ago in free agency, signing just a two-year, $14 million deal in the hope that he would blossom into a star and command an even bigger contract the next time around.

4. Charles Tillman, Bears CB: The NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year, Tillman started eight games last season before finishing on the injured reserve with a torn triceps. The Bears hope to bring back Tillman but might not be able to come up with a suitable offer.

5. B.J. Raji, Packers DT: Reportedly turned down an $8 million per year offer from the Packers last season, which might have been a sign that he preferred to play in a system that gave defensive linemen more freedom. After a disappointing season, his value has gone down, and as of last week, he was close to signing a one-year deal to return.

Cassel
Cassel
6. Matt Cassel, Vikings QB: Opted out of his 2014 contract after the Super Bowl but signed a new two-year deal with the Vikings on Friday, just before teams could start contacting his agent. He will likely head into training camp with the inside track on the starting job.

7. Willie Young, Lions DL: Former seventh-round pick received his first extensive playing time in 2013, becoming a full-time starter after Jason Jones was injured for the season in Week 3. Young turned into one of the more disruptive players up front, making 47 tackles, recovering two fumbles and recording three sacks.

8. James Jones, Packers WR: Ranked second on the Packers last season in receptions (59) and yards (817), the latter of which was a career high despite missing nearly three full games because of a knee injury. Three years ago, coming off the NFL lockout, Jones did not draw strong interest on the free-agent market and re-signed with the Packers for three years and $9.6 million.

9. Jared Allen, Vikings DE: After three All-Pro selections in six years, Allen’s time in Minnesota is likely over. He could come back as a situational pass-rusher on a reduced salary, but after making $14 million last season, Allen might head elsewhere for a bigger role and bigger paycheck.

McCown
10. Josh McCown, Bears QB: He proved he is capable of filling in for Jay Cutler in a pinch and is instrumental behind the scenes for nearly every skill player on the offense. It's not a slam dunk he will be back, and talks with the Bears haven't been especially productive.

11. Henry Melton, Bears DL: Melton's representatives fully expect him to test the market in free agency because the Bears haven’t shown a ton of interest. Coming off a torn ACL, Melton probably won't command top dollar in the first wave of free agency.

12. Devin Hester, Bears KR: Became strictly a return specialist for the Bears last season and is still one of the league's best at his position. Probably expects a payday similar to what he's gotten in the past.

13. Rashean Mathis, Lions CB: Mathis signed with Detroit during the 2013 preseason and became one of the team's starting cornerbacks by the third week of the season. He played in 15 games, making 47 tackles and often drawing the opponent's top wide receiver.

14. Everson Griffen, Vikings DE: The 26-year-old cashed in on Sunday by signing a five-year, $42.5 million deal that included $20 million guaranteed to return to Minnesota. He should flourish in new coach Mike Zimmer's defensive scheme.

15. Louis Delmas, Lions S: The 26-year-old was released by Detroit with one year remaining on his contract in February, in part because of a cap number of $6.5 million in 2014. Has played in 65 games for Detroit over five seasons, with 328 tackles, six interceptions and two forced fumbles. He also had five sacks and four fumble recoveries.

Bears fan who tasered wife fined

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
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An Illinois man and Chicago Bears fan who tasered his Green Bay Packers fan wife as part of a bet in November was fined $250 in a Wisconsin court on Jan. 9.

John Grant, 42, of Tinley Park, Ill., told police that he and his wife made the wager at a bar in Mayville, Wis., as they watched the Bears beat the Packers on Nov. 4. His wife told police at the time that she didn't think her husband would follow through with it.

Grant was also ordered to pay court costs totaling $568, according to the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen.

Police said at the time that Grant and his wife had been drinking.

Upon Further Review: Packers-Bears

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
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Bears reporter Michael C. Wright and Packers reporter Rob Demovsky discuss the state of their teams after Sunday's game.

Bears prepared for Aaron Rodgers

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears cornerback Zack Bowman drew a parallel to hoops when explaining curiosity about whether Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers would start Sunday when the teams meet in the regular-season finale at Soldier field.

“It’s almost like wanting to know if Michael Jordan was gonna go back in the day because, [like Jordan, Rodgers] is a difference-maker,” Bowman said.

Now that it’s a slam dunk Rogers will play, the question is whether the quarterback’s presence under center changes the approach for the Bears, who need a win in order to capture the NFC North crown and a postseason berth. Chicago’s struggling defense certainly recognizes the challenge it faces against one of the game’s top quarterbacks in Rodgers, but in terms of preparation, nothing changes.

[+] EnlargeRodgers
Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsThe Bears say news that Aaron Rodgers will be back under center for the Packers won't change their preparation for Sunday's game.
“It didn’t surprise us. If he could play he would, and we’ve prepared for that,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “That’s no disrespect to the job [backup quarterback] Matt Flynn has done. But if Aaron could play, we expected him to play. We’re prepared for that and we know that Mike [McCarthy] was going to get his team ready to play anyway with whoever was available. He’s proven he can do that year in and year out. With Aaron back, they have a feeling they’ll be at their best and we’re ready for that, excited about it.”

It wasn’t as if the Bears would prepare any less vigorously to face Rodgers than they would any other quarterback, even though several defenders in the club’s locker room on Thursday acknowledged the starter’s capabilities are more vast than those of the backup.

“It doesn’t change anything,” safety Craig Steltz said. “Matt had won games in this league and so has Aaron. You’re going to prepare hard, no matter who the quarterback is.”

Perhaps Chicago might toil even harder in readying themselves for Rodgers, given his track record against the Bears.

Rodgers has won eight of the 10 regular-season games he’s finished against Chicago, posting a passer rating of 107.7 throughout his career against the Bears, and completing 68.8 percent of his throws for 2,513 yards, 19 touchdowns and six interceptions.

When the teams met on Nov. 4 with the Bears coming out of their bye, Rodgers completed 1-of-2 passes in Green Bay’s opening drive before suffering the collarbone injury, which has sidelined him for the past seven games. Prior to that 27-20 Chicago victory, the Bears hadn’t defeated Rodgers and the Packers since Sept. 27, 2010.

When the Bears won that game, they took advantage of an almost fluke James Jones fumble, which gave them possession on the Green Bay 46 with 2:18 left to play to get into position for Robbie Gould's winning field goal. Green Bay committed a franchise-record 18 penalties for 152 yards in that outing, including a call during Chicago’s final drive that wiped out what should have been an interception and gave the Bears possession at the Packers' 9 for Gould’s kick.

Other than that outing, Rodgers and the Packers have owned the rivalry. In the past four games he’s actually completed against the Bears, Rodgers is undefeated, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 1,091 yards, 12 TDs, two interceptions and a passer rating of 117.2.

The Bears expect Rodgers to pick up where he left off Sunday, and don’t anticipate any rust from the quarterback, who has practiced, but hasn’t played in seven weeks.

“I don’t know if he’s rusty or not. I haven’t seen him in about seven or eight weeks,” Bears cornerback Tim Jennings said. “We’ll see come Sunday, but I don’t anticipate him being rusty at all. It doesn’t matter if he’s the quarterback or not. We’ve got to go out there and execute. Everybody knows what’s at stake. Our playoffs start now.”

Josh McCown shines in Lambeau victory

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aided by terrific protection from the offensive line, Josh McCown pulled off a rare feat for a Chicago Bears’ quarterback on Monday night: win a game at Lambeau Field.

For the second consecutive game, McCown displayed remarkable poise and confidence in relief of Jay Cutler, completing 22 of 41 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 90.7, guiding the Bears to a 27-20 victory -- their win in Green Bay since 2007.

“It would be hard to find a (better win), but they are all special through every level from back at high school to Sam Houston to now,” McCown said. “They are all special. This is neat. This is really neat because it means so much to our team, because it is a divisional opponent, and it is for the divisional lead. All those things factor into this. So it is special and I am very thankful.”

[+] EnlargeJosh McCown
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago TribuneJosh McCown completed 22 of 41 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns against Green Bay.
McCown, sacked only one time, appeared to be in complete control of the offense from the opening kickoff, leading the Bears on two separate scoring drives that consumed 10 or more plays, including a marathon final drive in the fourth quarter that ate up 8:58 worth of clock (18 plays and 95 yards including penalties) that resulted in a 27-yard Robbie Gould field goal.

“He’s got a lot of energy in the huddle,” Bears center Roberto Garza said. “Every now and then we have to calm him down a little because he starts screaming and we don’t want the defense hearing the play. But we had a lot of fun and he did a great job leading us. That is what this game is all about; you prepare and when it’s time to play you go out there and let loose. We were able to do that today.”

On the season, McCown has connected on 36-of-61 throws for 476 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

According to Bears rookie right tackle Jordan Mills, McCown’s experience and understanding of the offense had a calming effect on the team the entire evening.

“Josh is a 12-year veteran,” Mills said. “He’s been through everything and has experienced all the ups-and-downs and has learned from it. He’s a true leader. Just to see him stay poised and calm in the pocket like that and show no fear towards anyone: that just left me speechless.

“I knew that he could do it. He knew that he could do it. But we had to show the world that he could do it. After seeing on Monday night how he is able to stand in pocket as cool as a summer’s day, it was really calming for me.”

Bears aim to stop Lacy, GB ground game

November, 1, 2013
11/01/13
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Opponents have long feared the Green Bay Packers' lethal passing attack led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but this season the Packers have added a new weapon to their offensive arsenal: the run game.

Lacy
Green Bay enters Monday night with the fourth-best rushing offense in the NFL, averaging 141.4 yards per game on the ground. At the center of it all is 2013 second-round draft choice Eddie Lacy, who leads all first year players with 446 rushing yards this season, despite missing almost two entire games because of a concussion.

Bears head coach Marc Trestman said on Friday that Lacy gives the Green Bay offense a physical presence in the backfield that he hasn’t seen from the club in quite some time.

Bears defensive lineman Corey Wootton added: “You look at the offensive line and the really look like they’ve been working on their run blocking. In the past, maybe they weren’t as confident running the football, but they look confident now. Lacy knows how to hit the holes. They list Lacy at 230 pounds but it looks like he could weigh a little more. He’s powerful and he’s quick. We really need to rally to the football on Monday night with a runner like that.”

However, Wootton was quick to point out Lacy can also make defenders miss in the open field.

“He’s not one of those guys that is going to break away for a 90-yard run, but he’s a guy that can break a few big runs,” Wootton said. “He can also cut back and run you over. And he’ll do it when you least expect it. That’s what we’ve seen from watching film is his ability to be versatile.”

Green Bay’s No. 2 tailback, James Starks, has carried the ball 41 times for 244 yards and two touchdowns.

The Bears will arrive at Lambeau Field ranked No. 24 in rushing defense (117.3) after getting chewed up by the Washington Redskins before the bye week to the tune of 209 yards on 43 attempts. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has preached all week for his players to “do your job” filling their gaps against the run.

That job gets harder without weakside linebacker Lance Briggs, who is expected to miss the next several weeks due to a small fracture in his left shoulder. While inured quarterback Jay Cutler traditionally struggles versus the Packers, Briggs is usually effective in the rivalry games, compiling 173 tackles, 2.5 sacks, three interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) and one forced fumble in 18 career starts against Green Bay.

“I’ll tell you what -- they’re doing a great job running the football,” Tucker said. “They’re above the league average in yards per carry. It’s really about everyone doing their job in run fits. Playing with great power (I think) and great technique up front. And rallying to the ball and not leaving it up to one guy. Everybody has to get to the ball. Eleven to the ball. Get as many guys there as possible. That’s really the key.”

Double Coverage: Bears at Packers

November, 1, 2013
11/01/13
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On the day former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith got the job, he said that one of his priorities was to beat the Green Bay Packers.

First-year Bears coach Marc Trestman made no such promises about this rivalry, but it goes without saying that he's eager to end Chicago's six-game losing streak to the Packers.

The last time Chicago beat Green Bay was on Sept. 27, 2010, on "Monday Night Football." The teams meet again in prime time Monday night at Lambeau Field.

ESPN.com's Packers reporter Rob Demovsky and Bears reporter Michael C. Wright break down the matchup.

Rob Demovsky: We all know how much Smith wanted to beat the Packers. He stated as much the day he got the head coaching job. What has Trestman's approach to this rivalry been like?

Wright: Rob, my man, you know that rivalries have to cut both ways in terms of wins and losses for it to be truly considered a rivalry. Counting the postseason, the Bears have lost six in a row and nine of the last 11. So, if anything, this is more Green Bay dominance than a rivalry. But the interesting thing about Trestman is he's a guy who likes to compartmentalize everything. He looks at today rather than the past or the future. So while it sounds cliché, Trestman is looking at the Packers as just another opponent on the schedule. That's just the way Trestman likes to operate, and I think for him it sort of makes things easier.

I keep looking at Green Bay's sack numbers, and I'm a little surprised the club is still in the top 10 in sacks with Clay Matthews out the last three games and other key members of the defense missing time. What is Dom Capers doing over there schematically to keep up the production?

Demovsky: I figured when Matthews broke his thumb, Capers would have to blitz like crazy. Now, he's picked his spots, but he hasn't gone blitz-happy like I thought he might. However, he has been sending different pass-rushers to keep offenses off guard. One game, against the Baltimore Ravens, linebacker A.J. Hawk came a bunch and sacked Joe Flacco three times. Also, they've finally found a defensive lineman with some rush ability in second-year pro Mike Daniels. Three of his team-leading four sacks have come in the past two games.

As long as we're on the topic of quarterbacks, in 2011, backup Josh McCown played a halfway decent game against the Packers on Christmas at Lambeau Field, but he threw a couple of interceptions. What do you expect from him this time around as he starts in place of the injured Jay Cutler?

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsThe Packers have limited Brandon Marshall to 8 catches for 80 yards in their past two meetings.
Wright: Believe it or not, I expect little to no drop-off from McCown in this game. The biggest difference between now and then is that in 2011, McCown joined the team in November, fresh from a stint as a high school football coach in North Carolina, and four weeks later became the starter. So he basically came in cold and still played relatively well. This time around, McCown has become immersed in the offense from the ground level, when Trestman first came on board, and even had some input as the team constructed the scheme. In fact, during the offseason, McCown was holding film sessions with all the club's new additions to teach everyone the new offense. So he's got complete mastery of the offense just like Cutler, which is why McCown came in against the Redskins and the offense didn't miss a beat. Obviously, McCown doesn't possess Cutler's arm strength. But he'll make up for that deficiency with anticipation. I'm quite sure the Bears won't scale down the offense to accommodate McCown at all, because they don't need to. So I expect McCown to play well. I'm just not sure Chicago's offense can keep up with Green Bay's in what I expect to be a high-scoring game.

Speaking of high scoring, the Packers put up 44 points on the Minnesota Vikings. How is Green Bay handling the preparation process for the Bears?

Demovsky: Well, they certainly don't have as much time as the Bears do, considering the Bears are coming off their bye week. But the Packers have gotten themselves into a rhythm. They've won four in a row after their 1-2 start and look like a different team than they did the first three weeks of the season. Mike McCarthy probably doesn't get enough credit nationally, but show me another coach who has stared injuries in the face and hasn't blinked. What other team could lose playmakers like Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jermichael Finley and Matthews and still keep winning? That's a testament to the program he has established here. You can argue with some of his in-game coaching decisions, but you can do that with every coach. What you can't question, though, is the team's preparation.

The Bears, obviously, have had their share of injuries, too, losing Cutler and linebacker Lance Briggs. What's a bigger loss -- Cutler to the offense or Briggs to the defense?

Wright: Well, Cutler's replacement is a veteran in McCown who has plenty of experience and a ton of weapons surrounding him on offense, while rookie Khaseem Greene will likely fill in for Briggs on a bad defense that will also feature rookie Jon Bostic in the middle. From my vantage point, losing Briggs is much more significant. The Bears have already proved to be horrible against the run (ranked 25th), and that issue certainly won't improve with two rookies at linebacker and a defensive line decimated by injury. It's also worth noting that Briggs made all the defensive calls and served as somewhat of a coach on the field for Bostic. Given that Green Bay seems to be running the ball so well, the current situation with Chicago's front seven could be devastating.

Now that the Packers are running the ball so well, how has that changed the way the offense is called? It seems Green Bay runs well regardless of which running back they line up in the backfield.

Demovsky: It's remarkable -- and even a bit stunning -- to see Aaron Rodgers check out of a pass play and in to a run play at the line of scrimmage. That kind of thing hasn't happened around here in a long, long time -- probably not since Ahman Green was piling up 1,000-yard seasons nearly a decade ago. Teams no longer can sit back in a Cover-2 look and dare the Packers to run. Because guess what? The Packers can finally do it. It also has given the receivers more one-on-one opportunities, so it's helped the passing game, too. Right now, this offense almost looks unstoppable.

If the Packers keep playing like this, they might be tough to catch in the NFC North. What are the Bears' prospects for staying in the NFC North race until Cutler and Briggs return?

Wright: To me, this game is the measuring stick for making that determination. But I'm not really confident about Chicago's chances, and that has more to do with the team's struggling defense than Cutler's absence. There have been conflicting statements made about Cutler's recovery time frame. Some teammates think he'll be ready to return by the time the Bears face Detroit on Nov. 4, while Trestman said the plan is to stick to the minimum four-week time frame prescribed by the doctors. Either way, if the Bears lose to the Lions you can kiss their prospects for the playoffs goodbye. The Bears might be able to afford a loss to the Packers because they'll face them again on Dec. 29. But a sweep by the Lions kills Chicago's chances to me because just from what we've seen so far, it appears one of the wild cards will come out of the NFC North with the other coming from the NFC West. Obviously it's too early to predict that, but that's the way things seem to be shaking out.

Without two of his top receivers and tight end Finley, Rogers still hit 83 percent of his passes against the Vikings. Is that success a product of the system, a bad Minnesota defense, or is Rodgers just that good at this point?

Demovsky: The more I see other quarterbacks play, the more I'm convinced it's Rodgers. For example, seldom-used receiver Jarrett Boykin makes his first NFL start two weeks ago against the Cleveland Browns, and he ends up with eight catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. How many catches do you think he would have had if he were playing for the Browns that day? Their quarterback, Brandon Weeden, completed only 17-of-42 passes. That's not to minimize what Boykin did or what players like Jordy Nelson do week in and week out, but Rodgers is special, and special players elevate the play of those around them. Look at what Greg Jennings has done since he left for the Vikings. Now tell me the quarterback doesn't make the receiver, not vice versa.

Speaking of receivers, other than Anquan Boldin, who lit up the Packers in the opener at San Francisco, they've done a solid job shutting down other team's No. 1 receivers -- most recently Jennings and Cincinnati's A.J. Green. How do you think the Bears will try to get Brandon Marshall involved against what has been a pretty good Packers secondary?

Wright: This question brings me back to the 2012 massacre at Lambeau Field on Sept. 13. The Packers bracketed Marshall with two-man coverage, and the Bears struggled tremendously. Shoot, cornerback Tramon Williams caught as many of Cutler's passes as Marshall, who finished the game with two grabs for 24 yards. Obviously, this offensive coaching staff is a lot different than last year's group. So the Bears will go into this game with a lot more answers for that coverage. I definitely see McCown leaning on Marshall and trying to get him involved as early as possible, but the only way he'll be able to do that is for the Bears to establish the rushing attack with Matt Forte so the quarterback can operate off play action. When the Bears go to Marshall early, expect to see a lot of short passes that will enable the receiver to gain some yardage after the catch.

Over the years, Green Bay has been pretty successful at limiting the impact of return man Devin Hester. So I was a little shocked to see the Packers give up a kickoff return for a touchdown to Cordarrelle Patterson. As you probably know, Hester is coming off a pretty strong return game against the Redskins. Do you think the Packers fix the problems they encountered last week, and minimize Hester's impact?

Demovsky: Part of the Packers' problem on special teams has been that all the injuries have created a trickle-down effect. Here's what I mean: On the kickoff coverage until they gave up the 109-yard return to Patterson, they lined up six rookies, two of whom weren't even on the opening day roster. The Packers always have feared Hester, as they should, and in various games in recent years have shown they'd almost rather kick the ball out of bounds than give him any return opportunities. He's one of those special players who make rivalry games so entertaining.

Anderson to call defense vs. Packers

October, 31, 2013
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LAKE FORERST, Ill. -- With Lance Briggs expected to be sidelined for the next several weeks with a small fracture in his left shoulder, veteran strong side linebacker James Anderson has assumed the role of on-field defensive signal caller leading up to the Chicago Bears road game versus the Green Bay Packers on Monday night.

“James has done it this week so far and it’s looked good,” Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said on Thursday. “He’s done it before. [Rookie middle linebacker] Jon [Bostic] will also have a role in it, helping us get lined up. So we won’t have any issues getting lined up.”

An eight-year NFL veteran, Anderson has proven to be one of the defense’s most consistent performers after the club signed him to a one-year deal in the offseason. Anderson is currently third on the team with 54 tackles. Before arriving in Chicago, Anderson started 53 games for the Carolina Panthers from 2006-2012 -- 43 of those starts occurred over the last three seasons.

“I’m completely comfortable [calling the plays],” Anderson said. “I did it in Carolina so it’s nothing that is new to me. For the most part during the year I’ve been helping Lance make the calls, so it’s not like I’m totally new to the situation.”

Anderson went on to say he embraces the opportunity to call the signals because the act itself makes him a better player.

“I think it helps me to call plays because it reiterates in my mind what the call is and what we are trying to do,” Anderson said. “When I’m telling them what the call is, I’m also telling myself as well.”

This is an important week for Anderson. As the last veteran linebacker standing, until Briggs returns, he will be responsible for properly aligning the defense against one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL: Aaron Rodgers. The No. 1 career passer in terms of quarterback rating (105.2) in NFL history, Rodgers is having another All-Pro caliber year in 2013, completing 167 of 249 passes for 2,191 yards and 15 touchdowns with just four interceptions -- 108.0 quarterback rating.

“I don’t think it’s more a teaching role, I think we just have to make sure we improve our communication on the field,” Anderson said. “I just have to make sure I talk to these young guys more on the field so they feel comfortable.”

Privately, Rodgers is likely relishing the chance to face a Bears’ defense without Briggs and with a pair of rookie linebackers (Bostic and Khaseem Greene) in the starting lineup. However, Rodgers downplayed the changes the Bears have undergone this week at linebacker during a conference call on Thursday with members of the Chicago media.

“I’m sure anybody who’s making those calls, regardless of who they put the helmet on, will be ready to go,” Rodgers said. “Those guys have been in that defense for a while so the faces may change, but schematically it’s not going to be a lot of huge changes. It always comes down to execution in these matchups.

It’s been down-to-the-wire games; we’ve gotten the best of them the last few games but we don’t take this game lightly ever.”

Video: NFC North prediction

July, 31, 2013
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Herm Edwards and Merril Hoge break down the NFC North, and make their predictions for the 2013 season.

Rodgers: Urlacher was my favorite foe

May, 24, 2013
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A member of the Green Bay Packers is going to miss Brian Urlacher? That's right.

Aaron Rodgers said on The Jim Rose Show that the Bears middle linebacker, who retired Wednesday, was his "favorite player to play against."

Read the entire story.

Source: Clements to interview Thursday

January, 10, 2013
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The latest turn in the search for a new head coach of the Chicago Bears pointed to Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements, who is scheduled to interview Thursday with general manager Phil Emery, sources confirmed.

Read the entire story.

Emery: Search 'fast, furious and thorough'

January, 3, 2013
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Saints OffenseDerick E. Hingle/US PresswireSaints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael is scheduled to interview with Bears GM Phil Emery on Thursday, according to sources.
Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery on Thursday characterized his state of mind during the team's search for a head coach as "fast, furious and thorough" after conducting the initial round of interviews with prospective candidates.

Despite having a target date in mind for the hire, Emery stressed the importance of remaining patient throughout the process.

"A position like this, we've reached out to all the people, and we've had a lot of people reach out to us," Emery told WBBM-AM 780. "We're working through that, and like good scouts do, also making sure we do our homework and know the candidates well. It's not just an interview, it's a thorough evaluation process."

According to sources, Emery was scheduled to conduct an interview with New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. on Thursday. On Wednesday, Emery met with Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan in Atlanta, according to a source, who also said Emery interviewed Atlanta Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong on Tuesday in Atlanta.

(Read full post)

Clements 'flattered' by Bears' interest

January, 2, 2013
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements says he's "flattered" to be drawing interest from other teams. He says his focus remains on the Minnesota Vikings.

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