Bears defense has antidote against Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org September 23, 2011 10:06PM
Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (54) and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) have a lot of respect for each other. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: November 25, 2011 12:20AM
The way Brian Urlacher explains the Bears’ success against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers’ offense, it’s a wonder they can’t do that against everybody.
In three games against the Packers last season, the Bears’ defense allowed an average of 340 yards, but only 13.7 points a game — in a 20-17 victory and in 10-3 and 21-14 losses. The Packers have scored 21 points or fewer against the Bears in six of their seven games with Rodgers at quarterback.
“I think it’s because we’re patient,’’ Urlacher said. ‘‘We do play a lot of cover-2 against them. I think they get a little frustrated. I’m not sure they do, but we think they do, so we keep doing it.
‘‘We play the run good in our seven-man front. We play really solid up front. We’re patient, and we get a lot of guys to the football.’’
With Rodgers off to a fast start, the Bears’ defense will be put to the test Sunday, when the Bears (1-1) play the Packers (2-0) at 3:15 p.m. at Soldier Field. In victories against the Saints (42-34) and Panthers (30-23), Rodgers has thrown for 620 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions for an NFL-leading 126.4 passer rating.
But no matter how well Rodgers is playing, the Bears seem to find a way to contain him. Over the Packers’ last 12 games of last season, Rodgers threw 25 touchdown passes and one interception in 10 of them — but no touchdown passes and three interceptions in two games against the Bears.
He came into each game against the Bears off a big performance — a 116.3 rating against the Bills, 139.9 against the Giants and 136.8 against the Falcons. But in three games against the Bears, he threw two touchdown passes and four interceptions and had passer ratings of 92.5, 89.7 and 55.4 in the NFC title game.
‘‘We know them. They know us. It’s kind of like playing against your neighborhood bully,’’ Bears defensive tackle Anthony Adams said. ‘‘We’re the neighborhood bully. They’re the neighborhood bully, and we just go out and have a battle.
‘‘I think it’s going to be a great game because both teams do the small things very well. It’s not like we’re trying to trick them. They’re not going to trick us. We’ll go out and play smash-mouth football the way it’s supposed to be played.’’
Familiarity seems to be the reason both teams’ offenses usually struggle to run at peak efficiency.
‘‘It’s not like we put a different defense in,’’ coach Lovie Smith said. ‘‘We believe in what we do scheme-wise. We feel like it can match up against the offense coming in. It’s always a challenge, though, when you play the Packers with what they do offensively.
‘‘It’ll be a big challenge, but our guys are pretty excited about it. We have a couple of scholarship players on defense, and they’re looking forward to it.’’
The Packers’ and Bears’ familiarity with each other is never more evident than before the snap when the Packers have the ball. That’s when Rodgers and Urlacher engage in a game within the game — Urlacher setting the Bears’ defense, Rodgers countering with an audible, Urlacher responding and so forth.
As Rodgers said before the NFC title game, that’s part of the fun of this game — even though it makes his job tougher.
‘‘Brian is probably my favorite player to play against just because I enjoy the seconds between snaps,’’ Rodgers said. ‘‘He’s a very funny guy on the field. I know a lot of his calls probably don’t mean a lot, and he probably knows the same thing about some of my calls, so we have some fun with each other back and forth, not only between plays, TV timeouts, at the line of scrimmage. A lot of respect, definitely on my side. [He’s] somebody I really enjoy playing against.’’
Urlacher enjoys it just as well. But he knows what he’s up against.
‘‘[Rodgers has] got everything,’’ Urlacher said. ‘‘He knows what coverage you’re in. He knows when to run the ball, when to throw it, where to go with it, [and] he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes — especially this year so far. He’s just smart. He’s got everything you want in a quarterback.’’