Last year, in the aftermath of a 51-45 OT playoff loss to the Cardinals, Cheeseheads across the nation dreamt of the heights their team could achieve if they only had a defense.
Flash forward to 2010 – the Pack has the #2 ranked scoring defense in the league, allowing only 15 points per game. Not surprisingly, with almost everyone returning from ‘09’s prolific offense (minus Finley and Grant) Green Bay is one win from the Super Bowl.
Mike Martz knows it won’t be easy putting up points on Green Bay’s attacking 3-4 defense. Dom Capers’ unit, led by All-Pros Charles Woodson and Clay Mathews, sacked Jay Cutler 6 times in their 10-3 playoff-clinching victory of the Bears in Lambeau.
Besides executing basic offensive fundamentals – like blocking oncoming defenders, running the football and minimizing mistakes – the Bears would be wise to take advantage of these 3 key offensive wildcards if they want to touch the Halas Trophy early Sunday evening…
G-reg is coming off his best game as a Bear – 3 catches for 113 yards and an explosive 58-yard TD reception on the 3rd play of the game vs. the Seahawks. With a talented Green Bay secondary that includes Tramon Williams, safety Nick Collins and the aforementioned Woodson, the Bears would benefit from moving Olsen around to create mismatches. Don’t be surprised to see him split wide, where he’ll have the size advantage against smaller cornerbacks, especially in the red zone.
If the Packers bring as much pressure as they did in their last meeting, Cutler will look for the quick dumpoff to Olsen over the middle – a la his TD catch and run vs. the Cowboys in Week 2.
But Olsen will be equally as important in the running game as a blocker for Matt Forte and Chester Taylor. It doesn’t take defensive mastermind to realize that when massive (overpaid) tight end Brandon Manumaleuna is in the game, he’s in there for one reason, and it’s not to stretch the field as a vertical receiving threat. It’s to lead block for Forte and serve as a double teamer against an onrushing Mathews or any other outside edge rusher.
Olsen’s improved blocking skills mean he can stay in for more plays, which means Martz doesn’t have to tip his hand to running plays like he does when Manumaleuna is in the lineup.
Five Bears have 40 or more catches. The least heralded one – Earl Bennett – could have the biggest receiving impact for the Bears on Sunday. Especially if Mike Martz follows through on his promise to stay committed to the run game.
With a steady dose of early down runs, the Bears will likely find themselves in third-and-short and third-and-medium yardage downs. When that happens, Cutler will often look for his old Vanderbilt teammate to make some big conversions. The modern day Tom Waddle has made big third-down catches all season long. His play has kept Devin Aromashodu, last season’s late-season wonder, on the sidelines.
While GB’s physical corner combo of Woodson and Williams will try to bully Johnny Knox and Devin Hester, Bennett could often find himself in a favorable matchup with third corner, Sam Shields. And with the aforementioned Olsen demanding attention in the secondary, Bennett will have plenty of opportunities to be Cutler’s go-to guy.
He also gives the Bears another running threat, as evidence by his red zone carry out of the Wildcat formation last week against Seattle.
Bear Nation doesn’t need anything special from Robbie Gould this week. We just need him to continue being Robbie.
For the season, Gould is perfect on extra points (40-40) while converting 25-30 field goals (that’s 83%), including a career long of 54 yards.
In what will likely be a stomach-churning, down-to-the-wire slugfest, the golden foot of #9 could be called upon for a game-winner, a la his Week 3 clincher vs. Green Bay. And kicking game-winning field goals in pressure-packed, windy conditions in the playoffs is nothing new to him. His clutch 49-yarder against the Seahawks in the wind in 2006 sent the Bears to the NFC Championship game.
With a Super Bowl berth on the line in Soldier Field, I can’t think of another kicker I’d rather have toeing it up (somewhere Rex Ryan is drooling).