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Friday, September 23, 2011
Bears defend Aaron Rodgers differently


From the moment he became the Green Bay Packers' starting quarterback, Aaron Rodgers has consistently excelled against opponents' blitz packages. Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette detailed that history this week, and according to ESPN Stats & Information, Rodgers leads the NFL with 372 passing yards (and a 71.9 completion percentage) this season against a rush of five or more defenders.

But the team Rodgers will face this Sunday at Soldier Field rarely blitzes, at least since the start of the 2010 season. And for reasons that are at least partially related, Rodgers hasn't had much success in his career getting the ball downfield against the Chicago Bears.

It's a dynamic we started tracking last December as the Packers prepared for a Week 17 showdown with the Bears. As the chart shows, Rodgers' downfield production against them stands in marked contrast to what he's done against the rest of the NFL.

Six of his seven career touchdown passes against the Bears have come on passes that traveled 11 or fewer yards in the air. Three of his four interceptions, meanwhile, came on passes that traveled more than 11 yards downfield. He has one 300-yard game against the Bears, but that 2010 performance came only after he completed 34 of 45 passes for a relatively low average of 7.0 yards per attempt.

To be clear, saying that Rodgers has had trouble getting the ball downfield against the Bears isn't the same as saying he has struggled against them. The Packers are 4-2 against the Bears since the start of the 2008 season and also won the 2010 NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field. His career passer rating against the Bears is 92.6.

But after three years, I think we can agree that the Bears play Rodgers a little differently than most teams. Their version of the Cover 2 defense is designed to keep the ball in front of their secondary. If Sunday's game holds to form, the Packers will have better success on underneath routes than they will trying to get downfield. Adjust your sights, and your fantasy teams, accordingly.