Despite their .500 record, the Chicago Bears are still a solid football team. To be 2-2 at the quarter mark, they are more unhappy than they are disappointed. Last season the Bears won a number of games in the fourth quarter on their way to a 13-3 record. This season they have had two go against them. The bounces seem to have gone the other way, to a certain degree. But head coach Dick Jauron won't allow the Bears to get down on themselves. He will focus on applying the old adage, "Take one game at a time."
|Jaworski on the Bears|
The Bears enter the game with several injuries, especially on defense. They are missing four starters, but two -- Phillip Daniels and R.W. McQuarters -- could return Monday. But the Packers are just as banged up as the Bears. The outcome of the game could come down to which team's training staff is the best.
Five keys for the Bears:
2. Block the blitz: The Bears have to handle the Packers' blitz schemes. The Bills were successful against the Bears with their plethora of blitzes. The Packers will see the tape and, because the NFL is a copycat league, will integrate some of the successful schemes into their package. It will be important for the Bears to handle Green Bay's blitz schemes early in the game to negate the feeling they can work.
3. Middle pressure: I spoke to Brett Favre after last week's game against Carolina, and he said the Panthers did a terrific job of not giving him anywhere to escape the pocket. They had good initial outside pressure, but the Panthers didn't give him any lanes to step up and move around, creating problems for him in the pocket. The Bears will get the quick outside pressure because they like to blitz their linebackers, but the defensive linemen must maintain their gap discipline and get a strong push up the middle to keep Favre in the pocket.
4. Contain Ahman Green: Because the Packers are lean at the wide receiver spot, the offense will be built on Green's running to set up their play-action passing game. The Packers can't line up and throw the ball 45 times without having a run dimension. So the Bears have to control Green.
5. Quality from Caldwell: Warrick Holdman, sidelined for the rest of the season with a knee injury, was an every-down linebacker, playing in every situation. Mike Caldwell, a free-agent acquisition in the offseason, must come in and replace Holdman. Fortunately, Caldwell is a versatile player who can do a great job. He has to start doing it Monday.
1. Attack downfield: After breaking down their game last week against Buffalo, the Bears used a high-percentage, dink-and-dunk style for almost three quarters. In the fourth quarter they were more aggressive, and were effective, throwing the ball down the field. As well as being nicked up, the Packers' defense has been susceptible to big plays. The Bears can be aggressive against Green Bay.
Regardless of their talent, the Green Bay Packers are always as confident as any team in the league because they have Brett Favre. I spoke to defensive end Joe Johnson this week, and he couldn't put into words what it was like being on the same team as Favre.
|Salisbury on the Packers|
However, the Packers got away with a victory last week against Carolina when Shayne Graham missed a 24-yard field goal with 13 seconds left. The win was a positive sign; good teams win games when they don't play well. While the defense was improved last week, the Packers still gave up at least four big plays of 20 yards or more. The offense has been out of sync, especially without receivers Terry Glenn and rookie Javon Walker. They had already lost their three top receivers in the offseason before missing Glenn and Walker, who are now expected to return Monday against Chicago. Whoever the Packers put on the field, they always believe they are in the game with Favre at quarterback.
Five keys for the Packers:
2. Fabulous front four: The Packers need to get a strong rush from their front four, particularly Johnson, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Cletidus Hunt and rookie Aaron Kampman. Against Carolina, they had four sacks and nine tackles for a loss even though they were missing Vonnie Holliday and Gbaja-Biamila. The Packers have to get to the quarterback without blitzing. The Bears receivers are highly underrated and can hurt the Packers downfield. If the Packers can get to Jim Miller with their down four, Green Bay would have more options with its pass coverage.
3. Driver must deliver: The Packers' receiving corps has been questioned, but Donald Driver stepped up with two touchdown receptions last week. With Glenn's health still in question, Driver must assert himself as the No. 1 guy. He has to continue to elevate his play.
4. No Bear miracles: Green Bay can't allow the Bears to come up with a game-changing defensive play. The Bears are Johnny-on-the-spot; they are always around the ball. When the ball is fumbled, they usually find it. When it's in the air, Mike Brown seems to be around it. The Bears are great at making big defensive plays that turn the outcome of the game. That is how they won so many close games last year. If Favre throws an interception, it has to be one that keeps the Bears backed up in their own territory. The Packers can't allow the Bears to take a turnover to the house or to have a short field.
5. Create confusion: When a team suffers as many injuries as the Bears' defense has, it's tough to simulate game speed and situations in practice for the new players. So the Packers' offense should formation the Bears' defense to death. They should try to get the Bears' defenders to line up wrong and create mismatches off their confusion. Green Bay needs to make life as difficult as possible for the depleted Bears, who already have to contend with both Favre and Green.
1. Green's team: Ahman Green, not Favre, must carry the Packers' offense. Favre and Green are as good as any quarterback-running back tandem in the NFL. When Green rushes for 130 yards and catches passes for another 60 yards, the Packers are tough to beat. Plus, the Bears are playing a banged-up front seven. The Packers must hand the ball to Green.