2011 NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears. | Getty
texans at saints
Noon, Ch. 2 | Saints by 4
Saints’ victory against the Bears last week was not as convincing at it looked. Mark Potash’s pick: Saints, 38-35.
Lions at vikings
Noon, Fox-32 | Lions by 31/2
Not many thought Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford still would be standing this late in the season. Potash’s pick: Lions, 24-14.
steelers at colts
7:20 p.m., Ch. 5 | PIt by 101/2
National game gives Colts a chance to show just how badly they want Andrew Luck. Potash’s pick: Steelers, 21-6.
redskins at cowboys
7:30 Mon., ESPN | DAL by 61/2
Tony Romo (bruised ribs) plays well when he’s banged up. But beware of Good Rex. Potash’s pick: Cowboys, 27-24.
Updated: December 1, 2011 5:27AM
Do the Green Bay Packers have the Bears’ number?
The historic rivalry peaked last season when the teams played three games that weren’t decided until the final minute, capped by the Packers’ 21-14 victory in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field in January. But as close as the teams were on the scoreboard, the Packers looked to be on the rise, with the Bears struggling to keep up.
The Bears (1-1) have a chance to refute that theory when they play the defending Super Bowl champion Packers (2-0) on Sunday at Soldier Field. It will be their first meeting since that game in January, when Jay Cutler missed most of the second half and the Bears still had a chance to tie until undrafted rookie safety Sam Shields intercepted a Caleb Hanie pass at the Packers’ 12-yard line with 37 seconds left
That game and that play typified the Bears-Packers series in 2010. When it really counted, it was the Packers who got the job done. The Bears had a chance to eliminate the Packers from playoff contention in the final game of the regular season but failed to land the knockout blow when Cutler, who had been sacked four times in the previous three games, was sacked six times by the Packers. Linebacker Erik Walden, who had been signed off the street eight weeks earlier, had three of them.
The Bears still feel the sting of that loss, but it’s not like vengeance has been a rallying cry this week at Halas Hall.
Rodgers among best in league
‘‘It was a long time ago, and we try to put that behind us and build off it at the same time,’’ linebacker Brian Urlacher said. ‘‘We feel we played good enough to win that game on defense. We didn’t make enough plays. It’s frustrating. You get [close] to your goal, and you don’t accomplish it. So congrats to them. They got it done, and we didn’t.
‘‘We have a chance to make up for it this weekend. It won’t be near the magnitude of that game, but it’s a start in the right direction.’’
The Packers have won five of seven games against the Bears with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. And the two Bears victories have had an above-normal fluke quotient: a 20-17 overtime victory in 2008 at Soldier Field, in which special-teams plays set up both Bears touchdowns and a blocked field goal by Alex Brown sent the game into overtime; and a 20-17 victory last season at Soldier Field, in which Devin Hester returned a punt for a touchdown and the Packers were called for 18 penalties, including one that wiped out a touchdown and two that nullified interceptions by Cutler.
The Bears won both those games fair and square. But as football games go, winning with punt returns, blocked kicks and turnovers doesn’t portend to future success as much as winning because Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in football.
That’s one critical area where the Packers trump the Bears. Rodgers might struggle against the Bears’ defense Sunday, throw a few more incompletions than normal and maybe even an interception, but he’s great against everybody else.
Making it look easy
Cutler is a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback with the wind at his back, but he’s a hit-or-miss proposition in almost any other situation. Every quarterback in Mike Martz’s offense has had a completion percentage of 62 percent or higher except J.T. O’Sullivan, who completed 58.2 percent in eight starts with the San Francisco 49ers in 2008.
In 19 games in Martz’s offense, Cutler is at 56.8 percent and falling. In his last eight games, his completion percentage is 52.4. He’s in a tough spot with a makeshift offensive line and average receivers, but not everybody has to be in a comfort zone to put a team on his back. Rodgers was sacked 50 times in 2009 (up from 34 the previous season), and his completion percentage, passing yards, touchdowns and passer rating went up. So did the Packers’ victory total — from six to 11.
That’s not all the Packers have going for them. Coach Mike McCarthy. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers. A state-of-the-art natural-grass turf at Lambeau Field. And, most of all, a player-personnel department headed by general manager Ted Thompson.
Fifteen of the Packers’ 22 starters in the Super Bowl and 31 of the 45 players on their active roster were drafted or signed as rookie free agents by the team since Thompson arrived from the Seattle Seahawks in 2005. They drafted Bryan Bulaga late in the first round in 2010, put him at right tackle five games into his rookie season and won the Super Bowl. It can’t be that easy.
It isn’t. But the Packers make it look that way. No matter what happens Sunday at Soldier Field, the Bears likely will have some catching up to do.