GREEN BAY—When I arrived in Green Bay the week after the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, I was given a tutorial on the Packers-Bears rivalry by no fewer than every Packers fan I met. Of course, the two teams had met most recently in the NFC title game.
I couldn’t wait to cover my first Packers-Bears game. Three years later, I’m still waiting to have covered a good one. The Packers have won the last six in a row, the last four of which I witnessed and, frankly, they weren’t very good games.
Rivalry? What rivalry?
So I decided to do a little homework on the history of this esteemed series, with the idea I might find the flavor that has escaped me in my first four journeys into Packers-Bears week. I found some stuff I like.
For example, in 1941 the Packers upset a Bears team considered to be unbeatable. The Bears had won their first five games of the season by a combined margin of 157 points. By comparison, the 1976 Tampa Bucs scored 125 points in the whole season. Bears fans whined and cried so hard about having lost this game to the Packers that they claimed the Packers used a secret defensive strategy.
I like that.
Here’s something I didn’t know. The Packers beat the Bears in 1964 when Paul Hornung booted a field goal on a fair-catch kick at the end of the first half. Elijah Pitts made a fair catch of a punt at the Bears 48-yard line. Vince Lombardi ordered a fair catch kick, but there was only one problem: Nobody knew what it was. After Coach Lombardi explained it to his team, Bart Starr held and Paul Hornung knocked it between the uprights.
That’s cool, but this is really cool.
Four years later, the Bears beat the Packers, 13-10, with a fair catch kick following a Packers punt with 26 seconds left to play. Gotcha!
Now I’m starting to get it, and here’s the kicker.
In 1985, the Packers put horse manure in the Bears locker room. I guess the message was “you stink,” except the Bears didn’t stink; they won the Super Bowl that season.
A year later, Packers defensive tackle Charles Martin wore a towel that bore the numbers of players Martin had designated for limited participation in that game. Jim McMahon was one of them, and Martin achieved his goal by body-slamming McMahon and incurring a two-game suspension.
Hey, these things will happen. Why don’t they happen when I’m watching?
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Bears.
1. Run the ball—The Bears hate when teams do that to them. It’s just not Bears football. They’re not even the Bears when that happens, and somebody has been doing it to them because they’re No. 25 in the league against the run.
2. Deny big plays—The Bears can’t win this game without Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte and/or Devin Hester making big plays.
3. Play to your rankings—The Packers are No. 2 in overall offense, No. 3 in rushing (did the earth just move?), No. 5 in passing (I’m OK with that), No. 11 in total defense and No. 4 against the run. Are those great numbers or what?
4. Stop the pass—The Packers are No. 21 against the pass. That needs to change.
5. Rush the passer—The Bears are No. 22 in sacks allowed per pass play.
6. Protect the ball—The Bears are No. 4 in the league in takeaways. That’s how they win.
7. Start getting healthy—This is a long week and it should help James Jones and Nick Perry recover from their injuries. The Packers need to start getting some of their starters back.
8. Don’t try the fake field goal play on fourth-and-26—That can only work once a century.
9. Look at the tape from last year’s Jaguars game—Bears Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker was the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator for that game, and he had a good scheme. He’ll likely use it again.
10. Let it rip—Hey, it’s Monday night. Show the country what you got. Most of all, show Seattle and San Francisco what you got. Additional coverage - Oct. 31