When these two teams met up five weeks ago, the Green Bay Packers demoralized the Chicago Bears 41 to 25 in a game that wasn’t even that close. The score was 41-10 in the third quarter, so those 15 garbage time points by the Bears were just to save face.
That embarrassing loss came after the Bears bye week and it was their fifth loss in a row. The seats of general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy were never hotter, as losing to the rival Packers in that fashion brought ripples of discontent from Halas Hall.
The narrow loss the following week to the Detroit Lions was painful, and at that point it truly seemed like a housecleaning was inevitable.
With the worst the Bears can finish now being an even 8-8, it seems like at least one job is likely to be saved, but what would a win on Sunday do for the franchise?
Let’s run through some keys from the WCG staff on how they think the Bears can win.
The Bears spent the entire Jacksonville game showing off new and diverse play-action route packages and they’ll need to run the ball well if they’re going to use them all game long. Thankfully, the Packers are one of the worst run-stuffing teams in the league, so David Montgomery (who’s playing phenomenal football) should get his chances. The run has helped the Bears gain consistent yardage for weeks while sheltering Trubisky from feeling the need to “do too much”, so in the shootout that’s likely coming the run can’t stall — if it stays productive, the Bears should stay effective.
Defense: Do something else.
Back in 2018 Vic Fangio only blitzed on 20.3% of plays and still generated “hurries” (per PFR) on 13.5% using a dominant front 4. That’s all well and good, but with drastic officiating changes to offensive holding in 2020 (read: it’s legal now) pressure from the edge is harder than ever to generate — that’s why Chuck Pagano’s Bears defense that blitzes at a 21.5% rate is only generating “hurries” on 8.4% of plays, and it’s why it feels like opposing QBs have all day to throw against us. Bears need to blitz more if they want to beat the Packers, probably with 5 rushers but not 6 so Rodgers doesn’t have too many open options. Between blitzing more often to “scheme” pressure and bracketing Davante Adams I think the Bears’ defense will give themselves the best chance possible to make change on Sunday.
Offense: Let’s go over 4 keys for the Bears to keep this game interesting. Third down efficiency is the first and most important key. According to ESPN the Bears are 31st in the league at a pathetic 34.2% 3rd down conversion rate. Third-and-long must be avoided. Stay on the field. Avoiding dumb incompletions is the second key. Trubisky currently sits at 65.1% completion percentage, not bad... if it were 1995. Hit your targets when they’re open, and hit your checkdowns when they aren’t. The third key is run block design. David Montgomery currently averages 1.9 yards before contact, ranking 34th among qualifying running backs per Pro Football Reference. That means the Bears aren’t very good at getting him running lanes, and he’s gotten a lot of his 1001 yards after contact. Get the man a hole to run through! The fourth and final key, and this should go without saying, is don’t outsmart yourself. 1st and goal on the half-yard line and you run a jet sweep with Cole Kmet? I’m still angry. Don’t do that ever again.
Defense: Three keys for this squad to keep Rodgers & Co. from running up the score. Firstly, thank your lucky stars Akiem Hicks is healthy for this one, and use him to plug the holes which were wide open in the first matchup with Green Bay. The Bears are pretty middle-of-the-road in run defense, sitting at 15th in average rushing yards allowed per game. Aaron Jones will feast if you focus all your efforts on stopping Rodgers. The second key is to disrupt the pocket. The duo of Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn never quite flourished as it should have in 2020, but Quinn’s name has been called more often of late, logging 2 solo tackles against Jacksonville and recording his 2nd sack of the year the week before in Minnesota. Those edges need to collapse for Rodgers to get uncomfortable. The third key on defense, like offense should go without saying, is hustle on and off the field. Rodgers is very good about rushing his guys to the line and snapping the ball while the defense still has a 12th man subbing out. Some of that is coaching, knowing your personnel subs beforehand. Some of it is mental lapses, jogging instead of running. In either case, I hope Nick Foles and the scout team has adequately prepared this Bears defense for the chance that Rodgers will try to catch them with their pants down.
Erik Christopher Duerrwaechter:
Offense: Remain Balanced. The Bears’ offense has exploded over the past four games, primarily because of their efforts in pounding the rock. Green Bay’s defense, still, can’t truly stop the run. Keep punching them in their noses and use play-action to free up the receivers down field. Mitchell Trubisky must play the best, most disciplined game of his career.
Defense: Show up, and show out. They should be playing pissed off football after what happened at Green Bay weeks ago. There’s no excuse for that effort. Prove to the Green Bay Packers you’re, still, a unit worthy of respect.
Special Teams: Again, keep on keeping on. Special Teams has played relatively well during the three-game winning streak. Just don’t commit any stupid penalties, or give anyone a reason to tweet #BearsSpecialTeams.
Once again, I better not see any BS from the refs in this game. With playoff ramifications a-plenty in this game alone, we don’t need for the zebras to go blind and remember what a catch is, or what isn’t a catch, or what happens when a player steps out of bounds...etc. I’m openly challenging the NFL Officiating Association/Committee to hold these refs accountable.
Offense: Run the ball, and keep running the ball. Time of possession is a big deal, so limit penalties and RUN. Oh, yeah, and Mitch, that whole “just kinda throw it in the direction of a bunch of guys in the end zone” thing you seem to like to do once or twice a game? Don’t do that. Please.
Defense: This game is pretty much up to the Bears getting pressure with the front 4, because you blitz Rodgers and bad things happen. Hit him early and often, he doesn’t like that and you can shake him.
Will Robinson II:
Offense: Last time out vs the Packers, David Montgomery averaged 9.4 yards per carry. Nine. Point. Four. Maybe get him more than 11 carries this time. Look. The game plan has been working. Run the ball (with a heavy focus on David Montgomery), focus on play-action, boots, high percentage throws and plays that exploit defensive tendencies in the passing game (though, maybe have a bit more consistency than last week). The Packers defense isn’t bad, but it’s not great either. Hero ball isn’t going to win you this one. Stick to the script. It’s gotten you 30+ points 4 weeks in a row.
Defense: I mean, it’s generally down to pressure, right? Rodgers is gonna get his. So is Aaron Jones (and keep an eye out for Dillon). Limit them as best you can, disrupt when possible, and keep plays in front of you. If Jaylon Johnson is back, this should help matters. DO NOT JUMP. The Refs love giving Rodgers free plays instead of blowing it dead. Don’t give him a risk free opportunity to sling it deep. Probably gonna need some turnovers to tip the scales in this one. Roquan delivered last week. Someone’s gonna need to step up this week.
Special Teams: There was some coverage issues last week, as well as some hesitation on the part of Carter. Maybe move back to Anthony Miller for punt returns. He’s being out-snapped by Wims on offense anyway. Santos, you just keep being awesome.
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.:
I don’t want to be that guy, but I’m gonna be that guy. The Bears have lost all 5 week 17 matchups against the Packers. The last time they beat Green Bay was 2018 when the Packers were 5-7-1 with interim head coach Joe Philbin leading the way. Since the 2010 season, the Bears are 4-18 against the Packers.
The Bears will need to play a near perfect game in all three phases and hope Aaron Rodgers has an off day.
I hope I’m wrong, but Aaron Rodgers has been terrorizing the Bears his entire career. He truly understands the rivalry and he makes it a point to stick it to the Bears every chance he gets.
And that’s what I wrote before I saw that Green Bay left tackle David Bakhtiari tore his ACL and will be out.
With Rodgers missing his blindside protector, and quite possibly the best left tackle in the game today, the Bears’ chances have gone up a smidge.
If the Bears can abuse his replacement, either with Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, or via some interesting stunts and blitzes dialed up from Chuck Pagano, then maybe they can slow Rodgers down just enough for Trubisky and the offense to score enough points to get the Bears their 9th win and a trip to the postseason.
DAMN YOU FOOTBALL GODS FOR GIVING ME HOPE!
What are your keys for a Bears win?
And check out my latest spot guesting on this podcast talking Bears.