Bears’ revamped offense makes Packers’ prep difficult
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org September 12, 2012 10:34PM
Bears receiver Brandon Marshall celebrates as he comes off the field after the Chicago Bears 41-21 win over the Indianapolis Colts Sunday September 9, 2012 at Soldier Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
The Bears lead the all-time series against the Packers 92-86-6. But the Packers have won six of the last seven.
D ec. 25 at GB 35, CHI 21
Sept. 25 GB 27, at CHI 17
Jan. 23* GB 21, at CHI 14
Jan. 2 at GB 10, CHI 3
Sept. 27 at CHI 20, GB 17
Dec. 13 GB 21, at CHI 14
Sept. 13 at GB 21, CHI 15
*NFC Championship Game
Updated: October 15, 2012 9:41AM
When he explored his options in free agency, Kellen Davis longed to distance himself from the scheme employed by former Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz.
Frustrated by his role last season, Davis fulfilled his free-agent goal, even though he didn’t have to call a moving company.
Asked why he re-signed with the Bears on a two-year contract in March, Davis said, “Coach [Mike] Tice, a new offense and to have more opportunities in the pass game.”
Those opportunities didn’t come in the opener because Davis was targeted just once by quarterback Jay Cutler. But the dynamic of the Bears’ offense has changed dramatically, even though nine starters from 2011 return to the lineup.
No team exposed the Bears’ offensive deficiencies more in recent seasons than the Packers, winners of six of the last seven meetings in this storied rivalry, including the NFC Championship Game at the end of the 2010 season. While the Bears’ defense has performed admirably against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the offense has mustered an average of 14.85 points during that 1-6 stretch.
But an offseason, offensive makeover has changed all that — or so the Bears hope.
In essence, receiver Brandon Marshall and running back Michael Bush replace Roy Williams and Marion Barber, both of whom are now retired. Marshall provides the consistent downfield threat to complement Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte, and Bush provides a capable, versatile backup with a knack for converting in short-yardage situations.
That’s not all. The Bears also upgraded their depth with rookies Alshon Jeffery and Evan Rodriguez, who both made significant contributions in their pro debuts.
“You can’t compare it,” Davis said of the Bears offense from 2011 to 2012. “We’re in a different offense, we got different personnel, so it’s a whole different animal then we’ve had in the past. Our firepower on offense is unlimited. It’s, ‘Who is going to get the ball and when?’ There’s just not enough balls to go around.”
Packers and Bears coaches and players alike have suggested that the familiarity of the two teams makes it easier to prepare during a shortened week.
“I don’t know if anyone has the advantage,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said Monday. “We do know — I’m talking both teams — do know each other well.”
Except for the Bears’ offense.
“They’re definitely different this year on offense than prior years. That starts with the offensive coordinator, the philosophical approach that we feel they’re going to take into this game compared to prior years,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “The addition of Brandon Marshall… I think their wide receiver corps is definitely going to have more of an impact.”
McCarthy, in fact, seemed to express some frustration at the lack of information about the Bears’ offense.
“They’ve played one game. They’ve played one real football game,” McCarthy said. “They’ve showed very little in the preseason. So that’s really part of playing the first three or four games of the season.
“There’ll be some unscouted looks for sure; there’ll be some things that we haven’t seen the Bears do. I feel safe in saying that.”
Added Cutler, “This is a totally different scheme and mentality and direction. There will be no advantage for them watching tape of last year what we did.’’
The Packers defense plummeted from fifth in the NFL to last from 2010 to 2011. But, they still were effective against the Bears last season.
Even if you overlook the Christmas Day game — one in which Josh McCown and Kahlil Bell started at quarterback and running back, respectively — the September game followed a pattern. The Packers jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, Forte struggled to get going (six carries for two yards in the first half) and Cutler’s arm failed to bail his team out (302 passing yards and two touchdowns, but two interceptions).
But the bottom line is this: in the last seven meetings between the teams, the Bears’ highest scoring output was 21 points — and that was with McCown playing quarterback.
The Packers typically pressed the Bears’ receivers in recent years, but Cutler dared them to try that now.
“Good luck,” Cutler said. “We’ve got some dudes who will get up in their face. We invite press coverage. We invite man.”
In the third quarter against the Colts, the Bears offense was rolling, both through the air and on the ground.
“Once we got our offense going, it became a guessing game [for the Colts],” Bears guard Chris Spencer said. “That’s why adding those pieces makes our offense pretty dangerous.”