12

September

Packers-Bears Video: Jermichael Finley, Bear Killer

Jermichael Finley has been at his best against Chicago

Jermichael Finley has been at his best against the Bears

Packers tight end Jermichael Finley is perhaps the most scrutinized player on the Packers’ roster.

As a former Division I basketball recruit, Finley possesses as much athletic ability as any tight end in the league, but dropped passes and mental lapses seem to overshadow his on-field production. However, the 6’5″ 247-pound freak always seems to be at his best against the Packers’ top rival, the Chicago Bears.

Finley’s best regular season game as a professional came last season at Chicago, catching a season-high seven passes for 85 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. Of Finley’s eight total touchdowns last season, four came against the Bears. Oh, and of Finley’s fourteen drops last season, zero came against Chicago.

In the Packers’ Super Bowl season in 2010, Finley torched Chicago on Monday night for nine catches and 115 yards without dropping a pass. Finley missed the Bears game at Lambeau Field after suffering a season-ending knee injury against the Washington Redskins, but going back to the final Packers-Bears game a season earlier, Finley again brought his best, catching five balls for 70 yards.

There’s been an obvious theme for Finley against the Bears lately–consistent production, and more importantly, no dropped passes.

In his last four appearances against the Chicago Bears, Finley has posted 24 catches for 290 yards and four touchdowns, all without a single drop. Over a 16-game season, those numbers would equate to 96 catches for 1,160 yards and 16 touchdowns. Now, that’s the level of play Packers fans have been hoping to see from No. 88.

Despite dropping a pair of passes, Finley enters “Bear Week” fresh off a solid showing against the San Francisco 49ers, in which he caught seven passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. The 49ers were able to limit Finley, and the rest of the Packers for that matter, from producing “big plays,” but it’s pretty clear that the Bears struggled to find a favorable matchup against Finley last season.

Let’s put each of Finley’s four touchdowns against the Bears under the microscope for a closer look.

In an effort to isolate Finley one-on-one, the Packers split Finley wide to the left of their formation. When quarterback Aaron Rodgers sees newly signed safety Brandon Meriweather lined up across from No. 88, it’s game over. Finley simply beats Meriweather to the middle of the field, crosses his face and catches the touchdown.

22

September

Jermichael Finley Needs to Kick Down the Door Against the Chicago Bears on Sunday

If Jermichael Finley has a big game on Sunday, the Packers will be 3-0.

Through the season’s first two games, Jermichael Finley has been knocking on the door. But in the words of Bum Phillips, he has yet to kick the son of a bitch in. That needs to change on Sunday against the Bears.

I had an 800-word post drafted on how the Packers offense should attack the Bears and their Cover-2 defense, but I scrapped it because overanalyzing this game is a waste of time. Whenever the Packers play the Bears recently, all of us armchair QBs try to come up with intricate strategies to beat Lovie Smith’s defense, but nothing seems to ever work.

The game plan for Sunday should be to get Finley the ball early and often. If he has a big game, and the Packers finish long drives with TDs, Green Bay will win.

Easily.

Finley had nine catches for 115 yards the last time he was on the field agaisnt the Bears. The Packers used him to carve up the Bears cover-2 defense and would have won the game if not for 18 drive-killing penalties and a couple of silly turnovers.

I realize the Packers beat the Bears twice last season without Finley, but moving the ball in both of those games was a chore. Packers tight ends managed only two catches for 19 yards in those contests.

Tight ends are usually successful against the Bears. Lovie Smith’s cover-2 defense prevents big plays from WRs and allows TEs to catch the ball underneath. Finley needs to take advantage of this early and open up the offense for Aaron Rodgers, James Starks and the WRs.

Finley has shown flashes of breaking out through the season’s first two games. If he breaks out against the Bears, the Packers will be 3-0.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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2

January

Hey Lovie Smith, Play With Your Best (Packers Will Win Anyway)

The Green Bay Packers will defeat the Chicago Bears today – I just hope it’s the REAL Chicago Bears.

Bring your best, Lovie. Go all out for the win. Don’t rest anybody. It will make the Packers win that much sweeter.

I firmly believe the Packers are a better team than the Bears.

That doesn’t mean I’m disparaging the Bears, though. While we all know they have had lady luck on their side this year, that’s immaterial.

I expounded the virtues of the Bears’ defensive front seven in preseason. The pressure provided by Julius Peppers was exactly what the Bears needed  to allow them to play their cover two and mask some weaknesses in their secondary. All the attention paid to Peppers has helped the “other” defensive end, Israel Idonije, who has as many sacks as Peppers (8).

On the offensive side, Mike Martz learned from his early season mistakes. You can not give Jay Cutler free reign to throw on almost every down. Run the ball effectively, force opposing safeties to move up and then take some shots downfield to your deep threats.

The Bears have done a good job of figuring out who they are and playing within their means. Having veteran assistant coaches like Mike Martz, Rod Marinelli, and Mike Tice has certainly helped Lovie Smith in this regard.

And then, of course, there’s Devin Hester.

But you know what?  IT DOESN”T MATTER.

The Packers are the better team. The key to a Packers win will be the offensive line. They’re not going to dominate the Chicago DL, but they don’t need to. Like last week against the Giants, they just have to hold them off long enough to give Rodgers some clear looks in the Bears secondary. Some semblance of a running game will also help, letting the Packers use play action to slow down the rush, as they did against the Giants.

On the defensive side, the Packers need to make Jay Cutler nervous with a variety of pressures. No need to go into great detail here, as this point has already been covered very nicely this week by Aaron Nagler of CheeseheadTV ( Capers needs to keep Cutler guessing ).

The wild card, of course, is  Devin Hester. With the Packer’s struggles on special teams, Hester is the one factor that could ruin Green Bay’s day. This is perhaps my only area of concern for this game.

1

January

NFL Week 17: Packers-Bears Preview: Packing for the Playoffs?

The Green Bay Packers defeated the New York Giants 45-17 last Sunday to set up what is basically a “win or go home” game against the Chicago Bears this Sunday at Lambeau Field.

The Packers can still make the playoffs with a Giants loss to the Redskins and a Buccaneers loss to the Saints if they lose to the Bears, but the Packers and their fans know the best way for them to take care of business is do beat their arch rivals and not rely on other teams for help.

The Bears, meanwhile, have wrapped up at least the No. 2 seed and in theory could get home field advantage should the Saints and Falcons both lose and they beat the Packers. Atlanta plays the Panthers, so that scenario is incredibly unlikely but again “any given Sunday.” You never know.

Breaking down Da Bears

The big, no HUGE, question is how long Bears coach Lovie Smith will play his starters. If he is anything like mentor Tony Dungy, the odds are they will play very little in a meaningless game. That said, when Smith took the Bears job he swore that beating the Packers would be his number one priority so the Packers could see the Bears first unit for a good chunk of if not the entire game.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has never played in a playoff game, so perhaps offensive coordinator Mike Martz will want to keep his arm fresh and have him sit most of the game. Or, on the flip side, Martz wants Cutler to remain hot and will keep him in the game for the majority of it.

Cutler has been playing very smart football as of late and his trademark interceptions have been on the decline. Still, it seems like everyone is waiting for one of those boneheaded Cutler throws that tips the outcome of a game in favor of the opponent. If one defense will do that, it’s the Packers who lead the NFL in scoring defense.
The Bears defense has played lights out all year and it’s highly unlikely Smith would want to subject any of his players to injury. If the starters do end up playing a majority of the game, that’s bad news for the Packers. Defensive end Julius Peppers leads a superb pass rush and linebacker Brian Urlacher is returning to the Pro Bowl after missing all of last season with a wrist injury. The Packers offensive line will have their hands full again. They handled the Giants so they should be able to handle the Bears.

24

September

Packers-Bears Preview: 2010 NFL Week 3: Black and Blue All Over

Now THAT was more like it.

Despite getting off to a sluggish start in the first half and after a fiery speech by a supposed red-faced Mike McCarthy, the Green Bay Packers ran over the Buffalo Bills 34-7.

This week, the Packers won’t be afforded the luxury of a slow start as they head to Soldier Field to face the Chicago Bears Monday night with first place in the NFC North on the line.

With two weeks of the 2010 NFL season now in the books, some trends are beginning to emerge. The Packer offense is every bit as potent as expected and the defense, despite some occasional shakiness, looks to have rebounded from the debacle that was last year’s playoff loss in Arizona.

Clay Matthews continues his torrid pace recording his second consecutive three sack game, a first in Packers history. Aaron Rodgers recovered nicely from a shaky game against the Philadelphia Eagles and the offense didn’t seem to miss a step without running back Ryan Grant who is out for the season on injured reserve.

The Chicago Bears enter this game as one of the biggest surprises of this young season. The Bears sit at 2-0 after a win over what could be a worse than expected Dallas Cowboys team and an incredibly lucky Week 1 win over the Detroit Lions when Calvin Johnson’s obvious touchdown catch as time expired was overturned by the officials.

With first place on the line and a potential three game lead over the Minnesota Vikings hanging in the balance, this is a very important game for both teams despite it being only Week 3.

Breaking Down Da Bears

I can’t believe I am typing this sentence, but Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is actually playing sound football. Thus far he has meshed nicely with new offensive coordinator Mike Martz and both men have been able to keep their bigger than average egos in check. Cutler has thrown only one interception thus far which is much lower than where he was at this time last season.

Cutler, to the surprise of no one, has found a reliable target in tight end Greg Olson despite the fact that tight ends usually don’t feature much in Martz’s offensive packages. He usually likes to stretch the field but with Chicago lacking in the wide receiver department (Johnny Knox aside, and I am still not convinced about Devin Hester), Martz obviously has decided to play to Cutler’s strengths.