They wouldn’t have to face him head-to-head for the most part, except for the occasional chipping or blocking for the run. But Bears receivers understand the importance of Green Bay rush linebacker Clay Matthews being gone with a season-ending thumb injury.
Matthews has played eight games against the Bears and has a better winning record (7-1) than even Aaron Rodgers (8-3). Matthews has 7.5 sacks through those games in addition to 28 tackles.
He was missing from the first Bears game and the Packers were able to sack Josh McCown just once in the Bears’ win. His unavailability Sunday projects to allow Jay Cutler time to find receivers who understand that for them this is addition by subtraction.
“It helps out a lot,” said tight end Martellus Bennett. “Clay’s a great pass rusher. We didn’t have to face him last time. It was fortunate for us, unfortunate for them, that he’s not out there. He’s a difference maker. I’d rather not play against Clay when I don’t get a chance, but we’re always looking for a challenge. It’s a good week for him not to be there, being hurt.”
The Bears got a combined 12 catches and 187 yards from Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, plus another four by Bennett. It was uncertain whether the offense would have Earl Bennett, listed as questionable after being excused all week to attend to a family matter. Earl has caught 18 passes over the last five games after just 14 over the first 10.
“Eric [Weems] and Marquess [Wilson] both would be in position to get more work if Earl doesn’t get back,” said coach Marc Trestman. “They’ve got to know where to line up, and they’ve got to know what to do, and we assume that they are capable of doing that.”
What to look for: The Packers have not stopped the pass a whole lot better than the run, and being without their top pass rusher, the Bears may have time to exploit a unit that ranks 27th in interception percentage. In the NFC only the Atlanta Falcons (nine) have fewer interceptions than Green Bay (10).
Turnovers decide games and if the Packers cannot force Cutler into some, the Bears’ chances go up exponentially.