GREEN BAY—The Bears have opened the season against three teams that like to run the ball. This week, the Bears will face a Packers team that beat the Bears last year with the pass.
“If you’re two dimensional, they have to defend more things,” Packers Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements said when asked if the Bears defense might favor the pass this Sunday, as the Lions did last Sunday.
“You have to plan for both. They’ve played more running teams than passing teams, so they’ve played more one-high (safety). We have to be ready for whatever the game turns into,” Clements said.
The likelihood is the Bears will challenge the Packers to run the ball by flooding the passing lanes with defenders, as the Lions did. Get ready for “Cover Two, Part II.”
“Often times, great running teams start out not running well, but you have to have attempts. We’d like to see more attempts and more yards,” Clements said.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, no doubt, would like to see fewer defenders in the passing lanes. A strong running game on Sunday would help balance the field.
“We need to play better as an offense. You want positive yardage, no penalties. You want to get into makeable third-down situations and, when you do, convert. Everybody has to do better. We have to block better, we have to run better,” Clements said.
The Bears defense was rebuilt during the offseason, following a year in which they were No. 30 in yardage and points allowed. Through three games this season, the Bears are No. 23 in yards and No. 11 in points allowed.
“They give you a few different wrinkles, a few blitzes they hadn’t in the past, but they’re not a team that tries to scheme you or confuse you,” Clements said.
Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers is being challenged by a Bears offense that features the potential for balance between run and pass, though the early stats are not indicative of balance. Running back Matt Forte is off to a slow start, having rushed for just 136 yards and a 3.2 yards-per-carry average through three games.
“They’re very talented. They’ve got experienced players. Any time a team has balance, it makes your job tougher. Forte is a multi-talented guy,” Capers said.
The No. 1 challenge for the Packers defense is to deny big plays to tall and explosive wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Add to that mix tight end Martellus Bennett, who leads the Bears in receptions and is tied with Marshall for the team lead in touchdowns, four.
“(Jay) Cutler is off to his best start,” Capers said of the Bears quarterback, who’s thrown eight touchdown passes and carries a 98.2 passer rating into this weekend. “He’s not just zeroing in on any one guy that you can take away.”
The Packers defense was at its best last week in the 19-7 loss to the Lions. It held Calvin Johnson to a mere 82 yards in receiving and intercepted Matt Stafford twice without allowing a touchdown pass. It was an effort wasted.
“There’s always a sense of urgency. We didn’t play as well as we wanted to last week,” Clements said.
ADDITIONAL COVERAGE - SEPT. 26