GREEN BAY—There wasn’t much said about it at the time, but the first Packers-Bears meeting of 2014 produced a rare result.
Green Bay’s 38-17 victory marked the first time in 13 meetings this rivalry was decided by more than 14 points. The previous Packers-Bears game with that size margin was all the way back on Nov. 16, 2008, a 37-3 Green Bay triumph.
That’s not the only reason to expect a tooth-and-nail battle when the teams reunite on Sunday night at Lambeau Field, but it’s as good as any. Add to that the current state of the Bears’ season and the fact that the Packers were literally inches – and perhaps a blocked camera angle – from trailing the Bears at halftime six weeks ago, and there’s plenty of evidence pointing to a chilly four-quarter tussle.
“Being in the league long enough, you know every game is different, especially in the division,” Packers receiver Jordy Nelson said. “They’re going to be tough no matter what.
“I think the (first) game got a little out of hand in the second half just based off turnovers, but in the first half it was back and forth, they were making plays the same as we were.”
For what it’s worth, the only two times in the Mike McCarthy era the first Packers-Bears meeting in a season was lopsided, the other team won the rematch.
McCarthy’s first game as a head coach in 2006 was a 26-0 Bears victory, but the Packers came back to win in Week 17 that year, 26-7, with the game firmly in hand before the Bears pulled their starters to rest for the playoffs.
The aforementioned 37-3 Packers blowout in 2008 was followed five weeks later by a 20-17 Bears win in overtime.
Those results don’t really mean anything, though, having occurred so long ago. The rivalry’s recent hard-fought history and the must-win situation the Bears find themselves in mean far more.
The Bears, currently 3-5, won’t be mathematically eliminated from NFC North contention with a loss, but they’ll be as close to seeing the curtain drop on their season as any team could be after nine games.
A loss to the Packers would drop the Bears to 3-6, three games behind Green Bay with just seven to play, while having been swept by the Packers to boot. Without even taking into consideration the Lions’ status, making up four games in the standings in seven weeks on a division rival no longer on the schedule is a tall, tall order.
For the second straight game, the Packers are playing a team looking for a season-saving, jump-starting win. The Saints were 2-4 two weeks ago and beat the Packers in New Orleans four days before posting another win over NFC South rival Carolina, and they’re now the favorites to win their division.
The 2-1 record the Bears sported before the Packers visited Soldier Field at the end of September is ancient history. They’ve lost four of five, but the Packers are reading into their 3-5 mark “probably about as much as we put into New Orleans’ record,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said this week.
“There’s got to be a little desperation in there,” Rodgers continued. “They need to turn things around, get back into the race, and we’d like to put more space between us and them.”
That might be tough to do on the scoreboard, as the Packers did last time, but in the end the margin will matter as little as Chicago’s record coming in. The Packers have said all week they need this win, too, to get to 3-1 in the division and start a stretch of four home games in five weeks off right.
“I’m not in their camp and I’m not listening to what they’re saying, but I can tell you they think they’re better than their record is,” Packers safety Micah Hyde said. “That’s evident. If we were 3-5, I’d say the same thing.”
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