In the days before Thursday’s throwdown against the Green Bay Packers, Bears defensive linemen and linebackers got together for a talk. That talk was about Aaron Rodgers and what amounted to concluding that the reigning NFL MVP was just another guy.
In Week 1 the Bears had managed not only zero sacks, but also not even a hit on Rodgers, who’d completed 18 of 23 unhurried passes for three touchdowns and a rating of 140.5.
“We met and told each other, ‘Don’t try doing anything you haven’t been doing these past couple weeks, just go out there and play,'" defensive end Jarvis Jenkins said.
“We’re not playing Superman ... We’ve got to go out and rush him like he’s just another quarterback and not worry about the outside stuff, because if you think too much on that, he can hurt you.”
Instead, the Bears set out to bring the hurt. If that involved some risk and defying convention, so be it.
With the secondary locking down on an under-performing Green Bay receiver group, Rodgers was badgered into 22-for-43 passing and his second-poorest passer rating (62.4) since the end of the 2010 season.
The point was to make Rodgers uncomfortable.
“It was about bringing the pressure and getting him off that spot,” said defensive end Willie Young, credited with a sack among his three hits of Rodgers, plus a tackle for loss.
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Ironically, some of what might have appeared at the time to be poor fundamentals against Rodgers was a calculated strategy with a measured degree of risk. Instead of a “safe” rush intent on keeping Rodgers from escaping the pocket, the Bears defensive line sold out and went hard after the Packers quarterback.
“We were asked to just rush him,” Jenkins said.
The risk lay in losing containment to the outside and leaving gaps inside, and Rodgers did escape four times for 33 yards. But 18 of those yards came on one scramble.
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Meanwhile, however, the Bears registered a total of six hits on Rodgers, in addition to the rush-and-cover combination forcing him to run those four times. Meaning: of the Packers’ 49 pass plays, 10 went off with some sort of Rodgers discomfort, whether sack, hit or forced run.
“In the first game we were a little bit cautious, worried about him not getting out of the pocket,” Jenkins said. “We didn’t worry about that [Thursday]; we just cut it loose, got after him and made him very uncomfortable and it worked.”