Weekend wrap: Respecting run and pass

December, 29, 2013
12/29/13
8:00
AM ET
CHICAGO -- Emptying out the notebook from the week that was with the Green Bay Packers before Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field:

Pick your poison: In the seven games that quarterback Aaron Rodgers started and finished this season, there was little change in the way opposing defensive coordinators played the Packers. Opposing defenses lined up seven or more players in the box on just 24.6 percent of the Packers' snaps, according to ESPN Stats & Information, essentially daring them to run the ball. In the eight game games after that, with Rodgers out for all but one series of them, the plan changed. The Packers saw seven or more defenders in the box on 39.8 percent of their snaps. With Rodgers back and Lacy still going strong despite a sprained right ankle, things might loosen up for Lacy and the running game. "They pretty much have to pick their poison," Lacy said, "and with 12 back there I think they'll chose to back up a little bit, which will in turn make it easier for me and [James] Starks to get rushing yards."

Speaking of Starks: The Packers may have found the perfect role for Starks, who has battled injury problems throughout his career. On Sunday, he will be active for his 10th straight game. It will be the second-longest active streak in his four-year career. It could be in part due to the fact that Starks has been reduced to a part-time role, but it has apparently suited him. In that stretch, he has averaged 5.0 yards on 44 carries and has a pair of rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown. "I think it's good for him," running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said of Starks' role. "I think it takes a little bit of the weight off his shoulders as far as carrying the load, but James has come a long way this year. He's matured, there's a maturity within the offense, when he's stepped in and fit into that role he's done a tremendous job."

Big challenge: The Packers don't have a cornerback taller than 6-feet or a safety taller than 6-2, yet they will have to cover a trio of Bears' receivers that tower over them. Tight end Martellus Bennett stands 6-6, while receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey stand 6-4 and 6-3, respectively. Perhaps the bigger concern is how physical they can be. "A lot of receivers are going to try to avoid collision; they're going to try to see collision because of their size," Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "They know that they've got a heck of a size advantage over most defensive backs that they play against. So if they can get their body between you and the ball, they're so doggone big it's like a basketball game."

QB comparison: Rodgers has a 9-3 record in 12 career starts (including the playoffs) against Chicago. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is just 1-8 in nine career starts (including playoffs) against the Packers.

Scoring comparison: The Packers averaged 21.7 points per game while Rodgers was out with his broken collarbone compared to 29.0 points per game with him this season.

Scoring comparison, part II: In the last four games, the Packers have allowed 33.8 points per game, third-most in the NFL over that stretch. For the season, they rank 24th in points allowed (26.7 ppg).

Scoring comparison, part III: The Packers have allowed at least two touchdown passes in four straight games, which is tied for their second-longest streak in the last 10 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Before that, they had only one stretch in which they allowed two or more touchdowns in three straight games this season. That came in Weeks 1-3.

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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