- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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Admit it, you can’t get enough of the pre-game hype concerning the Chicago Bears’ matchup with the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game.
So here at ESPNChicago.com, we decided to feed the beast, kicking off a week of extensive coverage before one of the year’s biggest games. Here’s a potpourri of remarks from the Packers about Sunday’s game against the Bears:
CORNERBACK TRAMON WILLIAMS
How would you describe the Packers defense?
Williams: Relentless. We just finished watching the film. And as a [defensive back] you don't get to see the front seven doing their job because you are in coverage all the time. But when you come back and watch film and see the way those guys are playing up front, it's crazy. They've done a great job up there and kind of made our job easy in the back end.
How different will it be to play the Bears a third time?
Williams: It's not going to be much different. It's one of those deals to where you know someone so good that you know the game is going to be a battle. It's going to come down to the small details. When you play a team like that, you may not feel that you have to put in as much studying because you feel you know that team. But you don't take that approach. You have to go back in, pay attention to more details, and kind of go into Chicago Bears locker room and see [whether you] can understand their players like they understand it. That's something that my coach just finished telling me that he's going to do, detailing this work like that. That's something that our defense has been doing, detailing their work all year. I think that's what made us play the way we've been.
CENTER SCOTT WELLS
What’s it like to be the favorite after being considered underdogs most of the season?
Wells: No, we're going in this week, we're playing the Bears. Huge rivalry game. We have a lot of respect for them. I think they do for us as well. We're focused on what we have to do to go in there and get the win.
What’s the biggest challenge to neutralizing the Bears defense?
Wells: For us, we want to be a two dimensional offense, want to run the ball and pass the ball effectively. They use the front four, and two -- mainly [linebackers Lance] Briggs and [Brian] Urlacher -- and I guess all three of their linebackers to create penetration up front, try to funnel things up to their linebackers to eliminate explosive gains in the run game. So our key is going to be to eliminate that penetration, create some seams and try to be a two dimensional offense.
How much does the rivalry between the teams factor into this matchup?
Wells: For one, I think it's great for the fans. It's a huge rivalry game. There's some great history between these two teams. So we're familiar with them. They're familiar with us. So the preparation's really going to go back to trying to evaluate what we do and controlling what we do going into this game and being at our best effort to go out there and get the win.
How much mutual respect is there involved in this rivalry?
Wells: I think there's a lot of respect with that. But when it comes game time, there's some hatred and emotions that come up. You want to beat your opponent. The fact that we see them twice a year, you know, they see us, and they're always tight games. Our fans and their fans are so close geographically, I think adds to it. So there's as far as a rivalry goes -- yeah, there's some hatred there as far as the rivalry goes, but at the same time there's mutual respect in the fact that the games are so close, they're so physical, and there's outstanding players on both teams.
RECEIVER GREG JENNINGS
How aware of this rivalry were you growing up?
Jennings: Honestly, I didn't become aware of it until I got here. I could have cared less for the Bears, and should I say the Packers, too? I really didn't watch either the Packers or the Bears. I was a Barry Sanders follower. So whatever Barry did, I knew everything he did. But once I got here, I started to understand how in depth the rivalry was and how important it was to not only the players, the organization, but to the fans.
Are there any advantages or disadvantages to playing a team three times?
Jennings: Well, there are advantages and disadvantages. But the number one thing, I'll go with the disadvantages first. There are tons of disadvantages, just basically because they know you inside and out. You know them inside and out. But at the same time, you can flip that and that's an advantage at the same time. Obviously we know those guys. They know us. There's nothing that they're going to do different that we're going to be like, ‘Oh my gosh, where did that come from?’ And there's nothing that we're going to do that says, ‘wow we didn't prepare for that.’ They know what we are. They know how we operate. And we know who they are. We know how they operate. Obviously we've played them twice already. Two close games, two games that could have gone either way. And here we are again, when it really counts this time. Well, it really counted the last time we played, too.
Are the Bears the fastest defense you’ve faced all season?
Jennings: I would have to say yes. They do a great job of flowing to the ball. Obviously a lot of those guys, veteran guys, savvy guys. So they know what it takes to get wins. And that's why they're in the position they're in as well. Obviously what they bring to the table defensively is pretty much the ground and the foundation of their team.
LINEBACKER A.J. HAWK
Where does Devin Hester rank among the most elusive guys you’ve faced?
Hawk: He's right at the top of the list, I would say. For sure. He can do everything. Once he gets the ball in his hands, he's tough to stop. Tough to get down. He does a great job of especially returning punts. When he gets the ball, he might make a few moves, make the first guy miss. He gets vertical quick. When a guy does that, as you've seen against us, he got one earlier this year on us. They can crease you pretty quick and he can get in the end zone fast.
What will it be like to face the Bears a third time?
Hawk: It will be good. That's why I think it's going to be a great matchup, just because there's no secrets. They're not going to do anything new. We're probably not going to do anything new. It's going to be football. It's going to be up to the guys on the field, I think. I think coaches can sit back and sometimes try to complicate things and come up with new schemes and crazy situations, but when it comes down to it, it's the guys on the field that are playing the game. For us, we know each other so well that it's fun. It's football. This is how it should be. In Chicago, cold weather game. Big rivalry. It's going to be a good one.
What do you see from Bears quarterback Jay Cutler right now?
Hawk: I mean, I think he's the type of guy that his teammates, I can tell, I think they love having a guy like Jay Cutler, because he brings a lot of energy and big-play capability to the field. I think he's done a really good job all year of kind of capitalizing on the defense's mistakes. He seems like he just has great command of the offense, great command of the game. That's what you want out of a quarterback. Everyone knows he has a huge arm and can make all the throws, but I think he's really whoever he's working with over there -- I think they're doing a great job. He's just growing into being a great quarterback.