Chicago Bears

Bears-Packers preview Part I: Matchups

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Bears-Packers preview Part I: Matchups

Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011
Posted: 10:23 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Bears have battled Packers since theres been an NFL; 181 games, in fact. But few have approached the magnitude of the one set to play out next Sunday in Soldier Field at 2 p.m.

It will be a game in which two NFC North powers face off with decided strengths and advantages over the other.

In a special three-part series, CSNChicago.com takes a look at the Packers No. 1 advantage; the No. 1 factor favoring the Bears; and the critical third area is virtually a coin-toss as to who really has the edge in a dream matchup.

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers over Jay Cutler

Aaron Rodgers directed the Green Bay offense to 45 points in his first playoff game, the 2009 loss to Arizona. He one-upped that Saturday with 48 points against the Atlanta Falcons, the No. 5 scoring defense in the NFL this season, and that was without Rodgers playing most of the fourth quarter.

Rodgers is starting on a course that could well surpass what Brett Favre did in Green Bay, which was winning one Super Bowl and losing a second.

Aaron Rodgers was on fire vs. Atlanta, said cornerback Charles Tillman. If Green Bay comes out and plays like they played against Atlanta, its going to be a tough day for us.

Better vs. Bears than Favre?

Two particularly ominous aspects of Rodgers stand out as far as the Bears and the NFC Championship are concerned:

Rodgers has shown himself to be better in the biggest games. He finished this season with a passer rating of 101.2, third in the NFL, then flew past that with a 122.5 against Philadelphia and 136.8 in the Atlanta game. His 2009 regular-season rating was 103.2. Against Arizona in his first playoff game, he threw four touchdown passes and finished with a 122.4 rating.

In his three career playoff games Rodgers has thrown 10 touchdown passes, one interception and nearly 73.3 percent completions.

And he is the anti-Favre with respect to Lovie Smith. For all of his Bear-killer mystique, Favre fattened his Bears record over Dave Wannstedt and Dick Jauron teams. But Favre was a combined 3-9 against the Smith Bears playing as a Packer, Jet and Viking.

Rodgers is 4-2 against the Smith Bears. He lost once in OT in 2008 and again in the opener this season, when his team was charged for 18 penalties.

Cutler rising?
After a six-sack pummeling in Green Bay with his offense scoring just three points, Jay Cutler re-grouped against the Seattle Seahawks and got the offense dialed up sufficiently for five touchdowns and 261 passing yards. And zero interceptions.

Awesome, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. Cutler played great. I dont think he had any turnovers or anything like that. He threw the ball when he had to, threw it away when he had to, ran it when he had to. Awesome, for his first playoff start.

Cutler has improved as a quarterback, still with perceived potential of near mythical proportions in his right arm. He had a solid performance against Green Bay in Game 3 (82.5 rating) but lapsed to a 43.5 mark in Game 16 when he threw zero TD passes, two interceptions and contributed to his being sacked six times.

More to the playoff point, while he guided the Bears past Seattle in his first NFL playoff game, Cutler has never developed the reputation as a big-game quarterback. Big-play QB, yes; big-game QB, no, extending back to his time with Denver.

Cutler did win his first playoff game, so thats one place hes ahead of Rodgers. There are not many others. He cut down dramatically on interceptions, from 26 last season to 16 (in 14-12 games) and his play improved perceptibly after the off week when Mike Martz was directed to have Cutler throw the ball less.

Conclusion:

Cutler has the potential to produce an epic performance. Rodgers, however, has a growing history of them. Advantage: Green Bay.

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

Marcus Cooper, Bears move on from viral mistake: ‘We’re not firing him’

Marcus Cooper, Bears move on from viral mistake: ‘We’re not firing him’

Marcus Cooper’s viral mistake on Sunday was so blatantly embarrassing, did special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers even have to say anything to the Bears cornerback on the sideline after it?

“Sure,” Rodgers said. “Score."

That'll do from a brevity standpoint. Continued Rodgers: "I mean, there's not much to add. He knows he made a mistake and he obviously knows the rules.”

The Bears aren’t dwelling on what Cooper did at the end of the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers, partly because it didn’t cost them a win. It very well could’ve, though, and is one of those things that never should’ve happened, to say the least. 

“With a loss, maybe it’d be a lot worse,” Cooper said. “But (I need to) just finish the play and make sure Thursday we come out and play (well).”

Cooper, for what it’s worth, responded well in the second half with a few pass-break ups. Even with Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara playing well, the Bears didn’t consider benching Cooper — or, drastically, eating $8 million in guaranteed money to cut him — after his gaffe. 

“I mean, we’re not firing him,” coach John Fox said. “He’s too much a part of our team.”

How the Bears' receivers helped beat Pittsburgh while only catching one pass

How the Bears' receivers helped beat Pittsburgh while only catching one pass

Mike Glennon didn’t complete a pass to a wide receiver until he found Deonte Thompson for a nine-yard gain with just under six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter on Sunday. That was the only of Glennon's 15 completions that went to a wide receiver in a 23-17 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

But the Bears’ receivers weren’t necessarily invisible on Sunday, frequently showing up on tape delivering solid blocks that helped spring second-level gains by running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Most notably, Deonte Thompson was key in making a path for Howard to score his game-ending touchdown in overtime. 

“We got a rule in our room, make sure your guy doesn't make the tackle,” Thompson said. “… We take pride in it. Our coaches make sure we take pride in blocking. We just go what we gotta do to win. Whatever the job description is, we do.”

This isn’t to say that everything is fine with the Bears’ receivers because they can block. Their primary jobs are to get open and catch the football, and this unit hasn’t done enough of that through three games. In total, Bears receivers are averaging about 14 targets, nine receptions per game and 98 yards per game. Since the beginning of the 2016 season, 26 times has an individual wide receiver had at least 14 targets, nine receptions and 98 yards in a game (including Cameron Meredith last October). 

And being a productive receiver doesn’t have to mean that player isn’t a good blocker. SB Nation listed familiar names as its best blocking receivers: Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans, Los Angeles’ Robert Woods, Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, Miami’s Jarvis Landry and New York’s Brandon Marshall. 

But for the Bears, if Sunday’s offensive plan — for a game in which the team was never losing — is what future wins could look like, this receiver unit will be asked to do quite a bit of blocking. 

“We haven’t won as much as we want to around here, and when you see that (blocking effort), you see these guys are fully invested and they care, and they care about the guy next to him,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said, “and not about their own individual stats because it would’ve been real easy to sit on the sideline and pout and say hey, I’m not getting the ball — like, one receiver caught a ball in the whole game out of 22 passes, 15 completions, one guy catches a ball. But you know what, they’re a huge part of those wins.”

Howard had seven carries of five or more yards that went toward the sideline, while Cohen had two explosive gains into the second level and beyond. Runs like those are where blocking from guys like Thompson, Bellamy, Kendall Wright and Marcus Wheaton are important. 

“Those are the blocks that spring us to the next level,” Cohen said. “Without the receiver blocks, there would be a lot of 10-yard gains, 9-yard gains, but the bigger gains are the receivers blocking down field.”

The Bears still need more out of their receivers, but their blocking success on Sunday was a contributing factor to beating one of the better teams in the AFC. And it didn’t go unnoticed inside Halas Hall, especially the block Thompson threw to end the game. 

“They know who we have in the backfield, they know who we’ve got up front,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said. “And they know that if we want to have success at an elite level running the ball they need to do their part too and that’s just what he was doing. He was doing his job.”