Aaron Rodgers: 10 Reasons the Bears Will Shut Down the Pack's Passing Attack
Aaron Rodgers has been nearly unstoppable so far in these playoffs, and has looked like the best quarterback on any of the four remaining teams. His career playoff numbers so far of 10 touchdowns against just 1 interception, while completing 73 percent of his passes for a passer rating of nearly 130, are staggering.
But while he may truly be the next great NFL quarterback, there are reasons to believe that his hot streak might come to an end this Sunday in Chicago. The Bears have a formidable defense, and are hungry for a Super Bowl appearance themselves.
Here are 10 reasons why Soldier Field could prove to be anything but Mr. Rodgers' neighborhood.
10) The Law Of Averages
It seems simple, but Rodgers simply can't possibly keep playing as well as he's been playing. Even the best players have a bad game every now and then. And he's overdue for one.
Over his last nine games, Rodgers has thrown 22 touchdowns against just 2 picks, and has an astronomical cumulative passer rating of 125.0. It's unsustainable.
He's good, he's very good, but nobody's that good.
9) The Ghost Of Brett Favre
OK, I'll admit, this one's kinda silly, but you have to admit, too: you're intrigued by the idea.
Brett Favre was the last quarterback to lead Green Bay to both a Super Bowl appearance and a Super Bowl win. The last time the Packers made it this far into the playoffs was three years ago, when they lost in overtime, with a Favre interception looming large.
But Favre's acrimonious split from the team in 2008 cast a hex on the club. His spirit will be putting bad juju on Green Bay's effort from the outset in this one.
All sports have their curses. Why can't this be football's?
8) The Bears Ball-Control Offense
Sure, Jay Cutler played well last week against Seattle, but the Bears turned their season around in the second half because they balanced things out.
Chicago started the season 3-0, but lost three of their next four games and stood at just 4-3 going into their bye week. In those first seven games, part of their undoing was their reliance on Cutler's arm, as he was called on to throw the ball more than 60 percent of the time, and the offensive line had trouble protecting him as defenses keyed in on the pass rush.
After the bye, Chicago ripped off five straight wins and went 7-2 down the stretch. They have a more efficient Cutler, and also a more prominent running game to thank, as play calls during those nine games were almost 50/50. Cutler was asked more to manage the game, and let Matt Forte's legs carry them to victory.
Count on the Bears looking to continue that trend on Sunday. Establishing the run early will run the clock and keep Rodgers and the explosive Packer offense off the field.
7) Recent History
The Packer offense has struggled mightily this season against the Bears, including just three weeks ago in the regular season finale.
Green Bay won that game, but they did it while scoring just 10 points, and were shut out in the first half. In a game that was meaningless for Chicago, and essentially a playoff game for Green Bay, Rodgers' offense looked disjointed and confused.
And in the two teams' first meeting this season, at the same Soldier Field that the teams will play on Sunday, the Bears won, 20-17.
8) Not So Recent History
This matchup doesn't constitute just any old rivalry. This is the Bears and Packers. This is George Halas and Vince Lombardi. This is the Monsters of the Midway. This is two of the most storied franchises in NFL history.
And if one thing has been a constant over the 181 games they've played against each other dating back to 1921, it's been that these two teams don't win against each other with speed, or grace, or beauty. They beat each other with strength and muscle and toughness.
How many other NFL teams have a history of games with final scores like 0-0? Or 2-0? Or 6-3? With that history, don't count on this game bucking the trend.
5) The Weather
The forecast for Chicago, Illinois on Sunday afternoon calls for temperatures in the teens, with winds gusting up to 15 miles per hour, and the possibility of lake effect snow.
While that kind of a weather outlook makes true fans of the classic NFL, of real Green Bay and Chicago football, warm and happy, it's a downright miserable forecast for any offensive player looking to put up big numbers.
Remember, Aaron Rodgers' game last week, one he called the best of his career, where he completed 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, was helped by the conditions. Those conditions were a perfect 72 degrees, with no wind, no rain or snow on the fast turf inside Atlanta's Georgia Dome.
The conditions in this game will be very different.
4) Terry McAulay
The officiating crew for the NFC Championship game will be that of veteran referee Terry McAulay.
Why is that relevant here? Well, in the first game the Packers played against the Bears this season, back on September 27th, a game the Bears won 20-17, McAulay's crew was also there. And one of the deciding factors that swung the game in Chicago's favor that night was the fact that Green Bay was flagged a team-record 18 times, giving the Bears 152 yards.
Now they're behind the 8-ball. If they play more carefully to avoid penalties, they risk giving the Bears openings all night. If they don't change the way they play, the could suffer the same fate.
If the Pack gets whistled early on, look for head coach Mike McCarthy to start getting very grumpy.
3) Rod Marinelli's Pressure Defense
Bears' defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli likes to use the weapons he has at his disposal and bring a lot of pressure throughout the game. His exotic blitz packages wreaked havoc in the divisional round against Atlanta, and got Matt Ryan off his game early on.
He'll look to do the same thing against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The Bears defense ranked fourth in the league in points allowed this season, and gave up just 14 passing touchdowns all season, second best in the league.
They attack you early and often, and force you to make quick adjustments on the fly. Perhaps Rodgers will be able to make those adjustments, but it will be a more difficult task than he's faced so far in this postseason.
2) Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs
The Bears linebackers will have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders on Sunday, trying to slow down Green Bay's slot receivers and tight ends across the middle, while at the same time keeping the Packers' running game in check.
Good thing their up to the challenge. Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs are two of the best there are, and have only gotten stronger as the season has progressed. They take pride in being the backbone of this defensive unit, and in what it means to have that 'C' on their helmets.
Urlacher and Briggs led the Bears in tackles this season, and Rodgers will be hard pressed to keep them from blanketing his underneath options all game.
1) Julius Peppers
Peppers finished the season with just eight sacks, but don't let that number fool you. He was as disruptive a presence as ever as a defensive end.
Peppers hasn't recorded a sack against Green Bay yet this year, so he'll be hungry to get off the schnide. He'll be lined up mostly against left tackle Chad Clifton, who's performed admirably but will need help to keep Peppers in check.
This is another double edged sword for Green Bay. If they double team Peppers, it frees up other pass rushers, like defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who had two sacks last week against Seattle. If they try to block him one-on-one, he could have a field day.