Senior writer jclombardi previews Packers vs Bears game.
Bears Scouting report: Rushing offense:OC Martz has curbed his pass-first play and has a 54-to-46 pass-to-run ratio. The Bears are tied for No. 24 in rushing yards. Yet, RB Forte finds a way to make a couple plays most games with a nice combination of power and burst. He’s a complete back who ranks No. 12 in the NFL in yards from scrimmage and No. 14 in rushing. Forte plays behind an offensive line that plays much better than its pedestrian personnel. Passing offense: The Bears have the NFL’s 30th-ranked offense, so they’re obviously not putting up big numbers, but they’ve been much better since Martz adjusted his pass game early in the season from the deeper drops. Martz went to more quicker-read play calls and Cutler’s been sacked only 19 times in the nine games since. In the last five games, the Bears have averaged 28 points. They’ve won the NFC North Division and seven of their last eight games. His passer rating of 90.6 points ranks No. 13 in the NFL. Cutler can stretch defenses with two deep threats, Johnny Knox and Devin Hester. Knox has great straight-line speed and the ability to make big plays. Hester is a premier playmaker with the ball in his hands and has become a competent receiver to go with his game-changing abilities as a return man. Tight end Greg Olsen still is an excellent receiver. Rushing defense: The Bears are one of the hardest teams to run the ball on in the league. Their excellent front seven features playmakers on the defensive line and at linebacker for the NFL’s third-ranked rush defense. Passing defense: Chicago still plays coach Lovie Smith’s Tampa-2 defense, though on early downs the Bears are just as likely to bring up a safety to play the run. They rank No. 17 in passing yards allowed and No. 20 in sacks percentage, so they’re not shutting teams down. But that’s part of the signature of the Tampa-2 scheme. They’re going to make teams execute over and over to get the ball in the end zone. Though their secondary isn’t overly talented, it can make plays on the ball. Special teams: The Bears win this battle every week because they have perhaps the best return man ever in Hester. Punter Maynard at age 36 has lost the pop in his leg, but he places the ball well. K Gould is an accurate, dependable cold-weather kicker.
Packers defense seeks more pressure: If the Green Bay Packers can get by the Chicago Bears Sunday, they may be able to return to the pass rushing force they were in the first half of the season. Their fearsome twosome of linebacker Clay Matthews (12 sacks) and Cullen Jenkins (seven sacks) would have a chance to reunite and become a terrifying triangle featuring emerging second-year nose tackle B.J. Raji (6.5 sacks). There’s even a chance it could become a fearless foursome if linebacker Frank Zombo (four sacks) picks up where he left off before suffering a knee injury. “We definitely have our hands full,” linebacker Desmond Bishop said of facing the Bears. “We just have to do what we normally do, and that’s play Packer defense.” Of late, the Packers defense has consisted of staying back in coverage the majority of the time, using well-timed blitzes to add pressure and relying on the likes of Matthews and Raji to provide the pass rush. From a personnel standpoint, Jenkins (calf) looks doubtful for Sunday and Zombo (knee) is questionable. The Packers will probably have to wait at least a week before they are at full strength. The emergence of Raji and the improving healthy of Matthews have kept their sack game existent (10 in the last four games). It’s not the 10 they had in two games before facing the Bears Sept. 27 or the 21 they had after five games, but the arrow appears to be moving upward. They still rank tied for fifth in the NFL with 41.
Commentary: For the playoffs, the Packers must beat the Bears in the final home game. Fate and destiny have smiled on the Pack. It’s payback time!