The way the Bears defeated the Green Bay Packers last Thanksgiving came about because the Bears broke one of the “Rodgers Rules,” the book of do’s and don’t’s for coping with Aaron Rodgers. Bears defensive linemen and linebackers met as a group and with the blessing of coaches, agreed that rushing Rodgers with a first rule of not letting him escape the pocket might not be the way to go.
Instead, the decision was made to sell out situationally, even risk losing containment in exchange for the heightened chance to disrupt the Green Bay quarterback, force him off his spot and out of his comfort zone.
In simplest terms: Just rush him. Rush him.
“It was about bringing the pressure and getting him off that spot,” said defensive end Willie Young, who was credited with a sack among his 3 hits of Rodgers, plus a tackle for loss. The result was Rodgers being harassed into 22-for-43 passing and his second-poorest passer rating (62.4) since the end of the 2010 season. Rogers was forced to run four times, and what looked at times like poor fundamentals was an exercise in calculated risk-reward.
That game was part of a half-season slump by Rodgers in which he finished throwing an interception in five of his final six games, and which has continued into the 2016 season. Whether that continues on Thursday is problematic but Rodgers testified to the effectiveness of what the Bears brought to bear on the Green Bay offense.
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“I just think they had a good combination of very solid pass rush,” Rodgers said, “and they did a good job against the run. It’s kind of a recipe for success if you’re getting pressure with just your front four and you’re stopping the run pretty well, too. It’s going to get you position to be in the game or win the game every week.”
The pressure from the front is arguably even more paramount on Thursday because of issues within the secondary. Injuries may deprive the Bears of both starting corners (Bryce Callahan, Tracy Porter), and if Rodgers has time while Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and the rest of the receivers are working against an undermanned secondary, the game may tilt toward the 2014 iteration in which Rodgers threw six touchdown passes in just 27 attempts.
“We’re going to come after him,” Young said. “It’s never a case where the front seven should rush any quarterback like he’s, I don’t know, he’s special. But we can’t approach this game like we’re concerned about what he could do.”
And the winner is...
Two of the last three times the Bears journeyed north to Lambeau Field they returned with Packer pelts. The time they didn’t was in 2014, a game awash in infamy that saw the Bears fall behind 42-0 in the first half and the tenures of Phil Emery and Marc Trestman nose over in their final dive.
Neither of those outcomes are unlikely Thursday night, not a Bears victory or a Bears slaughter at the hands of Rodgers and his mates. The Packers have been stung by losses to Minnesota and Dallas, with the net effect of positioning them two full games behind the Vikings and in a dog pile of nine NFC teams with two or three losses in what will turn into a wild-card race within eight weeks.
The Bears are rushing and passing the football better than the Packers at this point. But they are not able to establish a consistent touchdown-scoring mentality, and until that happens, they may have stats but they won’t have wins.
Packers 27, Bears 20