Bears In-Foe: Aa-Rod and his 'R' words

Bears In-Foe: Aa-Rod and his 'R' words

Two years ago, after the Packers' 1-2 start, Aaron Rodgers famously called for their fans to "R-E-L-A-X" in a radio interview before heading to Soldier Field and torching the Bears, 38-17.

Three weeks ago, after a fourth straight loss on national TV in D.C. (and fifth in six games, broken up only by their Thursday night win over the Bears), he stated in his postgame press conference that, after dropping to 4-6, he felt good about his team's ability to "run the table."

Relax. Run. Rodgers.

Here come the Packers, winners of three straight, back in the NFC North mix, and suddenly looking scary again after (and still finding their way through) a series of defensive injuries. They come to town after their biggest shot in the arm, a 38-10 blowout of Seattle Sunday at Lambeau Field.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The Packers have been focusing on faster starts after getting punched in the mouth early (and sometimes often) during their slump. So there was Rodgers, on Sunday's third play from scrimmage, showing how much the Seahawks might miss Earl Thomas with a 66-yard touchdown strike to Davante Adams. But complicating matters on that play was Rodgers injuring his right calf to pair with the left hamstring he strained, and has been nursing, throughout this three-game win streak. 

Up 28-3 early in the fourth quarter, head coach Mike McCarthy got Rodgers off the field and out of further physical harm.

While Jordy Nelson's return from last year's torn ACL (leading all receivers with a dozen touchdown receptions among 75 catches), the oft-criticized and injured Adams has come into his own. The 2014 second-round draft pick has already established a career-high with 63 catches, 897 yards, a 14.2-yard average and nine TD's (after just four over his first two seasons). 

It may be a comparatively quiet year for Randall Cobb, but the slot weapon still has 60 catches. The rare splash in free agency by GM Ted Thompson for tight end Jared Cook has yet to pay off. He missed six games earlier in the season with an ankle injury, and is expected to play Sunday despite leaving early vs. Seattle with a chest injury. He and Richard Rodgers have combined for 43 catches and two touchdowns at the position.

[RELATED: Bears In-Foe: Pack 'D' coming off Lovie-like effort]

Elite right guard T.J. Lang returned Sunday after needing just a month to return from a broken foot, and helped keep the gimpy "Aa-Rod" clean (just one sack allowed) vs. that Seattle D. The season-opening line is back intact, having allowed 27 sacks.

Eddie Lacy lasted just five games in his contract year before it ended, while James Starks (2.3 average) hasn't gotten back on track after mid-season knee injury. So wideout Ty Montgomery remains the main ball-carrier, and after running nine times for 60 yards against the Bears, owns a 5.2-yard average on 44 rushes, while adding 35 receptions. 

Give McCarthy and company marks for ingenuity and enough balance while managing to average just under 100 yards on the ground per game. Former Seahawk Christine Michael (20-59) has yet to make an impact.

Oh. And Rodgers (Aaron, not Richard)? His 32 touchdown passes leads the NFL, while throwing just seven picks. That TD-to-INT ratio is 7/0 during the win streak, completing 74 percent of his passes with a 123.8 passer rating. 

With numbers like that, they might just "Run The Table" against each division rival down the stretch.  Let's see if the Bears can get in the way.

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

The Chicago Bears have a really good problem in their backfield. Both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will demand touches in 2018 and are each starting-quality running backs. Howard is the more traditional first and second-down back while Cohen offers top-tier playmaking ability.

The duo is so talented that they were recently ranked the fourth-best backfield in the NFL.

The Chicago Bears' Jordan Howard has emerged as one of the NFL's top rushers. He finished his rookie season with 1,313 yards, second-most in the NFL. Last season, he rushed for 1,122 yards and 4.1 yards per carry even though Chicago had the league's least threatening passing attack (175.7 yards per game).

Howard isn't the only standout back on the roster, though. Tarik Cohen is a supremely talented runner and receiver and a perfect complement to Howard. Last season, he amassed 370 rushing yards, 53 receptions and 353 receiving yards.

The Bears' backfield was behind only the Rams, Saints and Chiefs.

Howard set Chicago's rookie rushing record with 1,313 yards in 2016 and became the first Bears running back to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He should be the Bears' primary back, but coach Matt Nagy expressed genuine excitement over Cohen's skill set which suggests he plans on getting him the ball quite a bit this season.

Regardless of how the touches play out, the Bears will present opposing defenses with one of the most challenging ground games in the NFL.

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen's rookie season with the Chicago Bears was an impressive blend of running, receiving and special teams play. He quickly became a household name. The combination of his diminutive frame and oversized personality made him a fan favorite, especially when he started gaining yards in chunks.

    In fact, of all running backs with a minimum of 80 carries last season, Cohen had the highest percentage of runs that went for 15 or more yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Cohen will have a big role in new coach Matt Nagy's offense this season because of everything he offers a play-caller. He's a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield and can chew up yards on the ground like any traditional running back. He's a hold-your-breath talent who can turn a bad play into a touchdown in the blink of an eye.

    Cohen had 370 rushing yards, 353 receiving yards and three offensive touchdowns in what can be described as a limited role last year. John Fox and Dowell Loggains didn't seem to ever figure out how to best use Cohen's skill set. That should be no issue for Nagy and Mark Helfrich, the team's new offensive coordinator, who both bring a creative offensive approach to Chicago.

    Jordan Howard will be the starter and will do most of the heavy lifting. But Cohen is going to have a much bigger role than he had as a rookie, and that should result in more big plays and points on the board.