23

September

2011 NFL Season Week 3: Green Bay Packers vs Chicago Bears Preview: Chicago Can Hardly Bear It!

Yes, it’s the first Bear Week for the 2011 season.  The chance to once again rub salt in the wounds of Bears fans whilst polishing the Lombardi Trophy at the same time.  Life could not be any better if you are a Cheesehead.

That said, let’s stop picking on the infidels and focus on the game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears this Sunday at poorly renovated Soldier Field.

The Packers enter this game 2-0 after surviving a much tougher than expected battle with the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte.  The win was costly however as Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins was lost for the season (and perhaps longer) with a neck injury.  Running back James Starks continued to make his case to be the Packers featured back and despite the loss of Collins, the defense once again held tough when it counted and cornerback Charles Woodson intercepted two of rookie quarterback Cam Newton’s passes.

The Bears face their archrivals with a record of 1-1 after being beaten down by the New Orleans Saints 30-13.  Bears quarterback Jay Cutler once again was thrown around like a rag doll after being sacked five times behind a very leaky offensive line.   The Bears are also suffering a bought of injuries with tackler Gabe Carimi and wide receiver Earl Bennett missing practice time while receiver Roy Williams  and safety Chris Harris had limited participation this week.

Breaking down Da Bears

On offense, you have to start with their beleaguered field general.

Cutler has taken a merciless beating since January, both on and off the field.  After exiting the NFC Championship with a knee injury, many current and former players brought Cutler’s toughness into question and those questions lingered all through the lockout and into the preseason.   On the field, Cutler once again is falling prey to far too many sacks behind a wounded yet still poor offensive line.  The loss of Olin Kreutz in free agency to the Saints apparently did more damage to the team than originally thought.

On the bright side, running back Matt Forte is one of the best backs in the NFC and will provide the Packers defense a huge challenge.  Not only is he a strong runner, but Forte has proven to be lethal in the passing game particularly on screen routes.   Stopping Forte will be crucial to the Packers keeping the Bears out of the end zone on Sunday.

Cutler’s wide receivers are decent. Offseason acquisition Roy Williams has good athletic ability but has struggled in the mental part of the game as evidenced by his infamous amount of drops.  Devin Hester is deadly whenever he has the ball in his hands and Johnny Knox remains one of the most underrated receivers in the NFC.  When Cutler has time to set up, this passing attack can hurt people.

On defense, the Bears remain strong as has been their trademark for decades.  On the defensive line, Julius Peppers is the star of the show.   His freakish athletic skills make him a danger to any quarterback and he will put the Packers offensive line to the test early and often.

Behind Peppers and the defensive line is linebacking group led by veteran Brian Urlacher.  With the recent tragic news of the passing of his mother, Urlacher will be playing with a heavy heart for the remainder of the season and for a man already regarded as one of the best linebackers in NFL history, this is bad news for the rest of the league.  Joining Urlacher is the oft-disgruntled Lance Briggs and Nick Roach.

With Harris potentially out for Sunday, a big burden will fall on Charles Tillman’s shoulders on Sunday.  Given the amount of weapons the Packers offense possesses,  a very thin Bears secondary does not have the talent to cover everyone and Tillman cannot be in multiple places on the field at the same time.  If Harris can’t go,  Craig Steltz will get the start at free safety.  Major Wright is the other safety and  Tim Jennings is the other cornerback opposite Tillman.

When the Packers have the ball….

It’s quickly becoming Mike McCarthy’s first head scratching move of the 2011 season.

In two games so far, Starks has outperformed Ryan Grant yet Starks is season the lesser amount of carries.  I understand the idea behind a two-pronged rushing attack, but Starks has so many athletic gifts that it is unjustifiable for him to keep seeing a small workload.   Grant can still have his role, but Starks has to be the featured back of this offense if McCarthy wants some pressure taken off Rodgers and the passing attack.

Speaking of Rodgers, he simply has to keep doing his thing.  Spreading the ball around to his plethora of weapons will stretch the Bears thin and open things up for Jermichael Finley.  The offensive line must continue to keep Rodgers upright against what will undoubtedly be a relentless Bears pass rush.

Bottom Line: Protect Rodgers and get Starks going early. Use Grant in different scenarios to vary the tempo of the attack.

When Da Bears have Da Ball…..

The offense needs balance. There is no other way around it.  When mad scientist/offensive coordinator Mike Martz calls 52 pass plays to 11 rushing plays in a game, something  needs to change.  Cutler got pummeled last week and you have to believe Smith won’t allow Martz to expose his quarterback to that kind of beating for a second week in a row against another aggressive defense.

Instead, a return to “Lovie-ball” is in order.  Ride Forte into the ground or until the Packers stop him.  The Bears will need to utilize short passes to their tight ends (Cutler’s security blankets, dating back to his time in Denver) to help their quarterback and offensive line reestablish some kind of rhythm.

Cutler will face a defense looking to break him.  He was beaten senseless the last two times the Packers and Bears played and there is no doubt that Dom Capers thinks he has Cutler’s number.  Look for the Packers to continue to throw the sink at the Bears quarterback all game long.

Three Keys to Da Game:

1. Give Starks a spark: Mike, you have a gifted athlete in the backfield now.  USE HIM!

2. Break Cutler’s spirit: It’s becoming increasingly obvious Cutler’s confidence that once bordered on arrogance is fading rapidly.  Much like what they did to Brett Favre last year, the Packers have an opportunity to make another division quarterback a shell of his former self.  You don’t get these chances too often.

3. Stay healthy:  It bears repeating.  It was in Week 3 last year at Soldier Field that the Packers started suffering their long string of injuries.  With Collins already gone, the Packers can’t afford to get much thinner in the secondary.

 

 

Prediction:

Packers 17, Bears 13

These games have become low scoring nail biters in recent memory and this game will be no exception.   Rodgers will put up solid numbers, but points will be hard to come by as Cutler’s struggles continue as do the Packers  in the red zone.

It will also be interesting to watch the special teams matchup.  Despite kickoffs now being made from the 35, there have still been a fair amount of returns the past two weeks.  Now that the Packers have their answer to Hester in Randall Cobb, special teams could play a big role in this game.

All in all, it says here that the defense makes another late game stand as the Packers move to 3-0 on the year to return home next week to face the Denver Broncos.

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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8 Responses to “2011 NFL Season Week 3: Green Bay Packers vs Chicago Bears Preview: Chicago Can Hardly Bear It!”

  1. BTF says:

    Nice article Kris,

    Apologies for being a pedant (or if I have misunderstood) but Starks IS seeing the majority of carries 21 to 15 for Grant and snaps 37 to 16 last week IIRC. Grsnt may have been the starter -and he is running ok in fairness but Starks is the number 1 back. Yes I’d like to see both RB’s more in the 1st half Sunday but guess we need time with the ball for that…

    Be interesting to see if Martz is chastened by last week and whether he or Lovie wins out. If we can get an early lead I think Martz will revert to type very quickly and hopefully we can take advantage of the Bears o-line. If we can’t I’ll start to worry.

    Head says we are the better team and should win, and win well, but can’t quite shake a feeling of disquiet…going for a nerve shredding 21-19 Packers

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. no team scares me like the bears,as the usuaul underdog to the packers this team always steps it up against us on a regular basis and im all to sure the a+ game will meet us on sunday. remember when the bears of the mid 80s were awesome,but the packers bears game was always tight and we were pretty bad back then.that being said….23-13 pack IF we dont turn the ball over and get to cutlet….if we flop it will be because of turnovers and cutlet having time to throw

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  3. Ron LC says:

    Forte – control him and there will be a Packer victory. That means the Packer LB’s have to do something they haven’t done this year. Control the short passing game.

    Oh,and start tackling.

    Peppers – on the other side of the ball. The tackles have to recover from their whipping in Carolina. If AR gets beat up, season long issues will result. Running Starks and Grant more will help keep the defense honest. So run more, 30 carries between them would go a long way to beating them.

    The Bear DB’s are short in stature. Finley, Nelson and Jones should cause the Bears to change coverage packages to compenstae. If they do too much of that look for DD and Jennings to have big days.

    Go Pack!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. ELong says:

    Not as worried as the rest of you. I see a blowout in the making. Having S’Oto ans Tramon back will be a big factor. No way the Bears can keep up I’m calling Packers 35-13.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  5. Packers Fan in Atlanta says:

    Personally, if I’m Dom, Woodson is shadowing Forte. I too see a blowout. Once Forte is contained, Cuter will be forced to find passes to Williams (LOL) and Hester behind that swiss cheese we call an offensive line and force him into mistakes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  6. Kevin says:

    I don’t think this game will be low-scoring at all. I think it will be kind of like the Ravens-Steelers game that everyone thought would be a low-scoring nailbiter because of previous games but ended up being a blowout. There hasn’t been much defense in the NFL this year. Finley + Starks = much better production against Bears D. And no Nick Collins will hurt the Packers D. SHOOTOUT!!!! Packers 35 Bears 24

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. Oppy says:

    Dom Capers knows he can trust Charlie Peprah to be assignment sure and to make the right adjustments and calls in the secondary.

    I’m betting that Dom DOESN’T feel quite the same sense of security with the still-quite-green Morgan Burnett.

    Solution: Leave Peprah back in coverage over the top and put Burnett where he can be most disruptive with the fewest chances of compromising coverage: In the box around the LOS.

    Perhaps we see Burnett in more run support and blitz schemes than we’ve seen..

    Just a thought

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    • Micah says:

      Hmmm….Burnett had a pick last week…is solid in coverage and is being used in the box. Morgan has not only picked up from last year but has made significant strides from them it seems. Safe to say Morgan Burnett is not a concern for Dom. Here is the concern…consistent pass rush without having to bring DB’s….Neal out is biggest issue right now.
      Pack 26 – Bears 20

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