The three teams who have defeated the Bears have something in common: a top-10 passing offense. Detroit (No. 5); New Orleans (No. 6); and Washington (No. 9). Now the Bears draw No. 1. To be clear: This is not a good thing.
Not surprisingly, the legions of doubters have grown as the defensive struggles have worsened.
The Green Bay Packers don’t have two of their leading wide receivers (Randall Cobb, James Jones) and their No. 1 tight end. And they are still a prohibitive (10/11-point) favorite over the Bears, with oddsmakers saying that Aaron Rodgers will throw more than two touchdown passes.
“That’s cool,” said cornerback Charles Tillman (whose odds of playing this entire game after not accomplishing that in four games are problematic). “Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion, so it’s fine. I’m OK with it. I’m OK with it.
Everybody has their own opinion. We obviously must have given them reason to think that, so until we start to make some plays and win games, then maybe we turn some heads.”
The abiding problem with the defense, however, is its members having their heads turned. The Bears went into the weekend allowing a league-worst 8.7 yards per pass attempt; allowing opponents to convert 44.4 percent of third downs; and 34 pass completions of 20 yards or more, after just 47 all last season.
They also are allowing opposing offenses to complete 66.4 percent of their passes, which accounts in large part for allowing 19 scoring drives of 70 yards or longer through just seven games – five of them in the debacle in Washington.
Safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright have struggled behind a non-existent pass rush.
And now the secondary is tasked with contending with Rodgers, who has completed 69.6 percent of his passes and thrown for 12 touchdowns in his last four games against the Bears. And Jordy Nelson, who has averaged 18.2 yards per catch over his last 10 games, scoring nine times.
The core of the problem for the Bears is Rodgers:
“He knows exactly where to go with the ball. and if you’re not where you’re supposed to be, he’s going to make you pay,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.
What to watch for: How the Bears defend Nelson. The simple solution to most No. 1 receivers for the many years has been to assign Tillman to shut them down or at least play them to a stalemate.
But Tillman has been beset by knee soreness, and the Packers have gotten impact play from rookie Jarrett Boykin (13 catches in the last two games) and the running of Eddie Lacy and James Starks that there may not be a lot of help available for Tillman. If the Bears are forced to bring a safety up to deal with the Green Bay run game, Rodgers will eventually find Nelson.