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Bears Playbook - Running Over the Packers

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Chicago's 2013 run defense took a trip up north for this season. Here's why Marc Trestman should be running early and often.

Jonathan Daniel

The Green Bay Packers have the statistically worst run defense in the NFL this season, giving up over 150 yards a game on the ground.  Conveniently enough, the Bears happen to feature the NFL's third best player in total yards from scrimmage, one Mr. Matt Forte, who is on pace to hit 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving. This very lopsided matchup in the run game was readily apparent in the first half of the Bears' first bout against the Packers:

CHI offense vs GB, Week 4, 2014

If the Packers are showing seven in the box, like this play above, Cutler should be handing it off every time.  The good news for Green Bay is that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a stout tackler in the run game; the bad news is that he's the one making tackles after Forte has already chipped off solid yardage.  With Green Bay playing pass, Dante Rosario leading the way, and Jordan Mills coming across the formation, the Green Bay linebackers are either running themselves out of the play or getting pushed out if it.  Either way, Forte had a nice hole right up the middle.

The other time the Bears should run the ball?  When the Packers show eight in the box:

CHI offense vs GB, Week 4, 2014

While Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall have had underwhelming seasons as receivers, their blocking ability is still some of the best around.  Cutler motioned Jeffery in to the strong side of the formation before the snap, and Jeffery does a great job of sealing off the Green Bay DBs and giving Forte a wide-open lane to slam into.  Not much to say beyond that, other than to underline the fact that Green Bay can't stop the run game even with an extra man in box.

With election season in Chicago just having wrapped up, the "early and often" adage should still be in effect when it comes to the Bears and the run game.  Not only is Matt Forte the best thing the Bears have going on offense, but he is also far less likely to throw a back-breaking interception than the quarterback.  That said, once the Bears do force the Packers to sell out to the run game, they should take to the air and look for those middle-of-the-field passing routes that will open up.

Enter Martellus Bennett.  He racked up 134 yards against the Packers last time, and that is a number he could easily surpass if the Bears commit to the run and consistently draw that extra Green Bay defender into the box.

Case in point:

CHI offense vs GB, Week 4, 2014

Here, the Packers show eight in the box pre-snap, but bail into a Cover 2 at the last second.  Man or zone, however, there's no way that A.J. Hawk is going to slow the Unicorn down.  Bennett runs a great route on this one, getting great separation off his break.  First down Bears, and a low-risk throw with high reward.

My dream game plan would be for the Bears to knock the dust off of a 1980s Ditka-era Bears playbook and play this one like Walter Payton, Jim McMahon, Emery Moorehead, and Willie Gault are taking the field.  Give the Packers a heavy dose of the run, look for the tight end on short-yardage pass plays, and take those deep shots to your WR to take advantage of man coverage and to force the defense to play back.

Can the Bears defense stop Aaron Rodgers?  Nope. But if the Bears defense can at force Green Bay to tap the breaks once and a while - and the Bears offense can be who we thought they were - this can be a game the Bears will be in for both halves.