How the Green Bay Packers can defeat the Chicago Bears in Week 15
Sep 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) passes the ball during the second half against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Green Bay won 31-23. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Halfway there, the Green Bay Packers’ hopes of running the table goes through Soldier Field.Forget about the record. Nobody would love to crush the Packers’ playoff dreams more than the Chicago Bears.Green Bay has won as many games in the past three weeks as Chicago all season. Mike McCarthy’s team has won each of their past six trips to Soldier Field. All sounds good, right? Well this is the NFL. Anything and everything changes week-to-week in this league, which is why it’s no surprise the Packers spun a four-game losing skid into three straight wins.Anyone who thinks the Bears will rollover are mistaken. Despite only winning once in four games, all three losses were decided by a margin of six or fewer points. And there will be no shortage of motivation for John Fox’s team.How can the Packers follow up last week’s dominant victory over the Seattle Seahawks? Winning out might be Green Bay’s only hope of reaching the playoffs for an eighth straight year. To do so they must go through the Bears.Here’s three things the Packers must do to defeat their NFC North foes on Sunday.Next: Protecting the franchise Oct 20, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) gets a pass away in the fourth quarter during the game against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Give Rodgers time in the pocket
There might not be a better pass-protecting offensive line than the Packers’. They’ll need to be up against Chicago’s fierce pass rush. Vic Fangio’s defense has registered 33 sacks this year, and Football Outsiders ranks the Bears third in Adjusted Sack Rate.
Fangio regularly rushes with four, a tactic Seattle used in Green Bay last week. The Packers silenced the Seahawks’ rush, allowing Rodgers time to move around in the pocket. The offensive line will need similar success due to to Rodgers’ expected immobility.
Fangio may opt to dial up the pressure on the two-time MVP, whose ability to scramble outside of the pocket will be compromised due to nagging hamstring and calf injuries.
Should Chicago blitz Rodgers regularly, however, they will be playing with fire. The Bears’ secondary can be beaten, and the fewer bodies back there the more dangerous the Packers’ explosive passing attack can become.
Green Bay wants Chicago to blitz. This can be achieved by protecting Rodgers when Fangio rushes four.
Sep 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) passes the ball during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Build an early lead
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the Bears’ offensive gameplan for Sunday. Frozen temperatures. A third-string quarterback at the helm going one-on-one with a two-time MVP. Oh, and their biggest offensive weapon is a powerful, downhill runner in red-hot form.
John Fox will want his team to control the game on the ground with a heavy dose of Jordan Howard. The last time the rookie sensation played at home, he rushed 32 times for 117 yards and three touchdowns, albeit against a 49ers defense on pace to allow the most rushing yards in a season since the 0-16 Lions in 2008.
Fox wants his team to control the tempo of the game, keeping Aaron Rodgers on the sideline. That makes the gameplan simple for the Packers.
The best way to defeat a team looking to impose its will on the ground? Build an early lead.
Matt Barkley’s play at quarterback has been OK, yet far from mistake-free. He’s thrown four touchdowns with two interceptions in three starts. Barkley was fortunate to leave Detroit turnover-free last week, a couple of easy interceptions left on the field by the Lions.
Building an early lead puts the ball in the hands of Barkley. That’s how the Packers win.
Take away the Bears’ run game
It goes without saying, then, that the key to success on Sunday is to slow down Jordan Howard. While Alshon Jeffery’s return from suspension will add extra strain to Green Bay’s secondary, it’s Howard who will dominate Dom Capers’ gameplan.
Howard’s least-efficient outing came against the Packers in Week 7, Green Bay restricting him to just 22 yards from seven carries. Ka’Deem Carey led the backfield touches that week, however, averaging 4.8 yards per carry on 10 rushes.
The rookie Howard has since taken over the Chicago backfield for good and enters this game on a roll.
Matt Forte tormented Green Bay at Soldier Field, surpassing the 100-yard mark on each of the Packers’ last three trips to Chicago. He tallied 373 yards and three touchdowns in home meetings with the Pack between 2013 and 2015. Forte may be gone, but Howard aims to offer more of the same.
It’s no secret what the Bears’ biggest threat is. I’ll give you a clue. It’s not their passing game, which enters Week 15 with a touchdown-to-interception split of 14-9. It would be the NFL’s ninth-highest rusher, on pace for 1,211 rushing yards and six touchdowns, despite not making his first start until Week 4.
If Howard is allowed to weave his magic, it could be a long day for the Green Bay Packers.
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