Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011
Posted: 12:11 p.m. Updated: 5:04 p.m.
By John Mullin
Much attention this week has been on defensive schemes, the Green Bay 3-4 and its myriad blitzing, the Bears Cover-2 and how much the Bears actually will play it. On offense, how will and can the Bears stop Dom Capers subterfuge, can the Packers run on the stout Bears.
But sometimes the over-thinking needs to pull back. Even in the most intricate scheming, once the ball will be snapped, it still comes down to a one-on-one football game, coach Lovie Smith said.
Then he revealed his game plan:
For the most part you know what were going to do, Smith said, and were just going to try to out-execute you.
Somehow that seems about right for a Bears-Packers game in January, doesnt it?
The Bears wouldnt be forced to endure the national Aaron RodgersPackers love-in if they had beaten Green Bay back on Jan. 2. And the Packers believe that may be in the backs of the Bears minds this weekend.
They didnt want us in the playoffs, said defensive tackle Ryan Pickett. They knew if they didnt knock us out theyd have to face us again. They wanted to win.
The health index continued to favor the Bears through Thursdays practices.
Safety Chris Harris (hip pointer) and Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) were the only Bears unable to practice. But cornerback Charles Woodson, the reigning NFL defensive player of the year, was limited in practice with a toe injury.
Defensive linemen Cullen Jenkins (calf) and Ryan Pickett (ankle) were limited, as were guard Jason Spitz (calf), linebacker Clay Matthews (shin) and running back John Kuhn (shoulder).
Left tackle Chad Clifton, who was forced out of the Atlanta game with knee problems, returned to full-practice status Thursday, as did cornerback Pat Lee.
The Big Fella
The legend of the Refrigerator was truly launched by a Bears-Packers game in Soldier Field in 1985 when William Perry lined up in the backfield and turned Green Bay linebacker George Cumby into road kill on behalf of a Walter Payton run.
Green Bay defensive tackle B.J. Raji has been lined up as a fullback lately in short yardage situations but he is not a serious student of football history. Was he familiar with Fridge?
Didnt they win the Super Bowl in 85? Raji asked. I was born in 86.
Perry eventually was handed the ball and even scored a touchdown in Super Bowl XX. Would Raji like the ball in his hands too?
"It came across my head, he said. Obviously Ive thought about it, yeah. Who hasnt?
The Packers have practiced inside their Hutson Center near Lambeau Field but they took the temperatures down below freezing to help acclimate to the real key to managing the football in cold weather.
We're working as much as we can handling the football in this type of weather, said Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy.
Cornerback Charles Tillman is rarely given to frivolous hyperbole. He has defended the best over the years, from Randy Moss in his prime to Calvin Johnson and just about everyone in between.
WATCH: Tillman calls Solder Field turf what?
So Tillmans assessment of the Green Bay Packers pass-catchers carries some cred:
I would say this receiving corps is the best in the NFL, Tillman said matter-of-factly.
Forget about flash. Forget about big numbers. No Packer receiver caught more than Greg Jennings 76, and that was only 18th in the NFL. No receiver other than Jennings (1,265) had even 700 receiving yards.
What makes the group of Jennings, Donald Driver (51), James Jones (50) and Jordy Nelson (45) dangerous is their ability to get a lot of yards after catch, Tillman said. They run hard. They make the difficult catch. They block well down the field.
Now, something really important
In the middle of Bear-Packer mania and the run-up to the biggest single event in Chicago sports history comes some important news.
The lovely wives of receiver Earl Bennett and cornerback Zackary Bowman delivered babies and their husbands were able get back to preparation for Sunday with certainly a little better focus. Congratulations to the new dads!
Safety Chris Harris was unable to practice for the second day because of the hip pointer he suffered in the Seattle game.
Back to the dad business for a moment:
Charles Tillman isnt really aware of the Bear-Packer cyclone bearing down on Soldier Field this weekend. And hes unaware for all the right reasons.
Because I havent been in bars and restaurants and things like that, Tillman said. Ive just been at home with my kids just trying to do the daddy thing.
But Im sure its big. They said when I first got here that this was a Bears town, so Im sure everyone is extremely excited about this game. Ive heard its a Super Bowl within a Super Bowl and all the media and the hype. I think all of that is great, but I dont think you can get caught up in that. I try to stay out of that and just approach it as another game.
View from the Moon operatives thought that the super-shiny Halas Trophy unveiled Wednesday for the first time was possibly chrome. Our peeps report back that the NFL confirms: not chrome, but sterling silver. Nice, but not sure its as classic as the original.
Halas vs Lombardi?
By the way, ever wonder why the NFC trophy is named for George Halas while the Super Bowl trophy, the Lombardi Trophy, the award for the NFLs ultimate prize, is named after a coach?
View from the Moon has always considered that a mistake, since the Hall of Fame Packers coach was Mr. NFC and despised the AFC, and Halas obviously was the driving force behind a sport, not just a team.
The Super Bowl trophy was named for Vince, however, for a simple reason, as one insider said bluntly, because he died first. Lombardi, who won five NFL championships, including the first two NFC-AFC championship games, died of cancer in 1970; Halas, who won six NFL championships as a coach, died in 1983.
Oh well. The Bears still think those both would be nice thing to win no matter what the NFL chooses to call them.
Greg Olsen and Devin Hester were teammates at The U (Miami) and now theyre going to a Super Bowl together. As far as Olsen is concerned, this is Devin Time.
The Bears rank No. 2 in the NFL in starting field position after kickoffs (31.5 yard line) and they are No. 1 in punt returns (17.1-yard average), and Hester is the linchpin of the return game that sets all that up.
And Hester returned the opening kickoff of the Bears last Super Bowl for a touchdown, the same year that Olsen was the Bears first-round draft pick (2007). So now, This would be a typical Devin time to do it, right? Olsen said, smiling.
He's the one
Few picked the Bears to finish anywhere close to where they finished record-wise. For once, Brian Urlacher wants the experts to be considered experts, because that means that Lovie Smith did an even better job of coaching.
And Smith should be coach of the year, in Urlachers thinking.
I dont see how they cant give it to him, Urlacher said.
Charles Tillman doesnt see an advantage for anyone, including offense or defense, in the shaky condition of the Soldier Field turf. He almost, almost offered a no-no description of the sod.
People say its a sh--, Tillman started to say, then realized what he was about to say, went wide-eyed and self-corrected. Sorry, a bad field.
The censors exhaled.
Youre going to slip, linebacker Brian Urlacher said. Thats all there is to it. The faster you run, the more chance you have of slipping coming out of a break.
Good weekly visit at 10 a.m. on WSCR-AM 670s The Danny Mac Show and a chance to noodle over a few of the angles flying around this weekends game.
The thrust of thinking so much is Aaron Rodgers vs. Jay Cutler. Not so much head-to-head obviously, but how will each react to the moment. I mentioned the aspect of Rodgers that in each of his three playoff games, hes put up a significantly higher passer rating than hed had for the season. He topped this years regular-season rating of 101.2 with a 122 and then a 136 in Green Bay wins over Philadelphia and Atlanta.
LISTEN: John 'Moon' Mullin's complete appearance on "The Danny Mac Show"
Cutler was significantly better against Seattle (111.3) than he was on the season (86.3). The only qualifier to me, at this point, is that Cutlers was against the Seahawks, at home, and Rodgers were on the road against considerably better opposition.
The boys wanted a prediction and at this point, I am leaning toward a one-score win for the Packers, possibly a last-possession game. And the nub of it is that a scenario like that means that one turnover, one misplay will decide this game. Thats probably as it should be in a playoff, but if this is a 10-point win by either, Ill be very surprised.
That said, tune back in Sunday for what I finally decide. I saw the Bears at 10-6 or better this season and Im still not sure that this team doesnt get the Roman numeral game. I said a couple weeks ago that I did see the Bears going to the Super Bowl and my only hesitation now is how good Green Bay is.
In fact, the more I think about it...
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.