Nuts And Bolts: Bears Vs. Packers
THREE KEYS FOR THE BEARS
Left tackle Chad Clifton participated in the Packers' last two practice sessions leading into the game, but his sore knee has been a well-documented cause for his struggles over the last two weeks. The Bears need to line up Julius Peppers on Clifton's side often and have the defensive end try a variety of pass-rush tactics ranging from finesse moves to the full-on bull rush to see if Clifton's injured knee holds up. If it doesn't, the Packers will likely insert inexperienced Bryan Bulaga, which means the Bears should be able to pressure Aaron Rodgers.
Go after the rookie
Green Bay's first two opponents interestingly stayed away from rookie cornerback Sam Shields, but you can count on the Bears directing a few passes his way to see what he's got. The Packers' No. 3 cornerback, Shields has had just two balls thrown his way in the first two games. That number should go way up in Monday night's game. Shields (5-11, 184 pounds) will likely be matched against Earl Bennett in the slot. Bennett lacks big-play speed, but you can't discount his route-running ability and chemistry with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
Be patient; don't take chances
Cutler struggles against the Packers historically. In three games against them, he's thrown four touchdown passes and six interceptions for a passer rating of 68.5. The Bears need to give the Packers the 2010 version of Cutler, the quarterback who has done a masterful job of taking what the defense gives while not forcing throws into traffic. It's almost a given the Packers will confuse Cutler early. But the quarterback needs to exercise patience and make smart decisions to prevent the Packers from gaining unnecessary field position from turnovers.
THREE KEYS FOR THE PACKERS
Make Urlacher play the pass
The area between the safeties in the seams is one of the most vulnerable in Chicago's Tampa-2 based scheme because there's so much ground for Urlacher to cover. While Urlacher is one of the league's most athletic middle linebackers, it won't hurt to send tight end Jermichael Finley in Urlacher's zone as much as possible to test him. Defenders all around the league struggle to cover Finley one on one. So it's worth it to see if the Bears will be any different.
Attack the tackles
Take advantage of the fact the Bears are using a pair of back-ups in right tackle Kevin Shaffer and left tackle Frank Omiyale by making sure both of them spend some time lined up across from Clay Matthews. A savvy veteran, Shaffer lacks range and is somewhat short-armed, which can be a major disadvantage on the edge. Omiyale possesses the most athleticism between himself and Shaffer, but could be susceptible to the bull rush. The Packers need to keep the Bears guessing in the protection by moving around Matthews.
Get Jackson going
Aaron Rodgers can't win this game by himself, so it's important to find some semblance of a running game to complement the pass. Packers coach Mike McCarthy admits the club's passing game is set up by the run. So if Jackson isn't effective, Green Bay's passing game is sure to take a hit as the offense becomes one-dimensional. Jackson currently averages 3.2 yards per carry, but needs to find a way to rip off larger chunks against the Bears' top-ranked rush defense. Without the threat of a viable running game, the Bears will basically pin back their ears and invest significantly in pressuring Rodgers.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: BRIAN URLACHER VS. JERMICHAEL FINLEY
Coming off a game against Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher didn't make too much of his pending matchup with Jermichael Finley, one of the league's most dangerous pass-catching tight ends.
In fact, Urlacher matter-of-factly lumped in Finley with the rest of the league's best.
"He's a big tight end who runs well and catches the ball [well]," Urlacher said. "He's like [San Diego tight end Antonio] Gates and those guys. They run well and know how to get open. [Bears tight end] Greg Olsen is the same way."
One of the main keys to coverage in the middle of Chicago's defensive scheme, Urlacher still possesses plenty of range to handle the middle zones underneath the safeties. He and Finley also possess similar size, which should give Urlacher an edge that most defenders don't have against the tight end.
Because of Urlacher's skill set, it's unlikely the Bears will have to resort to the same tactics (doubling Finley) employed by the rest of the Packers' opponents.
"They're so good at throwing the football. Their routes are tough," Urlacher said. "They have the [Cover 2] beaters, the man [coverage] beaters. They have everything. They have a lot of personnel groups, too. They change personnel like crazy. It keeps you on your toes."
BEARS BY THE NUMBERS
6: Takeaways forced by the Bears so far this season.
86: Victories by the Monsters of the Midway Bears teams in the 1940s. The Bears will pay homage to that era in Bears history against the Packers when they wear throwback uniforms.
8: Passes of 20 yards or more this season, which ties for first in the NFL. The club also has three touchdown passes this season of 20 yards or more.
771: Yards gained by the Bears offense through the first two games, which ranks second in franchise history (since at least 1960) behind the 805 yards put up by the 1985 Bears through the first two games.
10.14: Yards per pass play for the Bears, which ranks as tops in the league.