GREEN BAY—It says everything about a coaching staff’s ability to break down an opponent and know exactly what it is they’ll be facing on Sunday, that two days after having closed the book on their last opponent, a new book has been written about the next opponent.
“Since we played them last, the commitment to the run has gone up quite a bit. Aside from that, I see the same (team),” Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith said of the Packers on Wednesday.
Yeah, you are being watched. These guys don’t miss a thing. By the time the advance scout has finished his report and the video department has supplied cut-ups to all of the coaches, everything that needs to be known about the next opponent is, in fact, known.
Smith only needed to know one thing about the Packers: They’ve committed to the running game.
Everything else about the Packers is old news to Smith, who gets a double dose of the team from the north every year, and two years ago it was a triple dose. Division foes know each other perfectly.
The only question to ask when preparing for a division foe is this: Is there anything about them that’s new? In the Packers’ case, the answer is yes.
What’s new about the Packers is they want to run the ball. They want to be a more balanced offense. Smith has taken note of that fact, and that’s exactly what Mike McCarthy wants Smith and every other coach the Packers will face in what remains of this season to do; McCarthy wants his opponents to respect the Packers’ intent to run the ball.
You know the drill. Get a defense to play the run and you buy more time for your quarterback to throw. Smith knows that’s the intrigue in all of this. He knows the Packers want to throw the ball and the run is meant merely as a diversion, but it’s a diversion that can’t be ignored because sound defense always begins with stopping the run.
Smith’s comment on Wednesday, that the Packers’ commitment to the run has gone up quite a bit, is music to McCarthy’s ears. It’s exactly what he wants his opponents to see when they look at the tape. The bait has been taken.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Bears.
1. Match their energy—This is THE GAME for the Bears. Their season is on the line. The Packers will be facing a desperate team.
2. Be patient, be methodical—The Bears are one of the league’s masters of “cover two.” It’s more than something they wheel out for the Packers; it’s the Bears’ base defense and they play it well. They make you drive the ball long distances and in small chunks.
3. Do what you did—The Packers held Brandon Marshall to two catches for 24 yards in the Week 2 game. That’ll work.
4. Unleash Clay Matthews—He’s back and that’s bad news for Cutler, who was sacked 3.5 times by Matthews in the Week 2 game. Matthews also had three tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries and a pass-defensed.
5. Stop the run—The Bears want to beat you with Matt Forte and Michael Bush. That’s their game. Forte and Bush have combined for 1,245 yards rushing.
6. Make Jay Cutler win the game—He admitted on Wednesday that he hasn’t played well against the Packers.
7. Tackle Devin Hester—He doesn’t have a return for a touchdown this season, and that makes him especially dangerous. Hester and Randall Cobb are X-factor players. They’re game-changers.
8. Win at quarterback—The Packers have a star passer, a player who usually overmatches his counterpart. It’s how the Packers win.
9. Run the ball—It doesn’t have to be for a lot of yards, but it must be with a commitment future opponents will recognize. It’s working for this team.
10. Think clinch—This is it. Win and in. Additional coverage - Dec. 13