Countdown to the NFC Championship Game: 4 Days
Today we will go over the matchup between the Packers’ defense and the Bears’ offense, along with some thoughts on which matchups the Bears will try to exploit. In the previous two matchups, the Packers held the Bears to 20 points and 3 points; and 7 of those come from a Devin Hester punt return. I feel like this is a different Bears offense than the Packers faced in both of those games—the first game, we were still shuffling the line and Matt Forte was not being used enough; and the second game, the Bears were not showing to much schematically in anticipation of a possible playoff meeting—but the Packers did have the 2nd-ranked scoring defense in the NFL this season. So lets look at the matchups.
The Bears’ offensive line versus the Packers’ Defensive Line/ Rush LBs: This is probably the most important battle for the Bears to win on Sunday afternoon. In the first meeting, Matt Forte was held to 29 yards on 11 carries and Jay Cutler was sacked 3 times. If the stats are duplicated on Sunday, the Bears will lose. In the second meeting, Matt Forte carried 15 times for 91 yards. Running the ball effectively will give us more manageable 3rd-down plays, and will take some steam out of the Green Bay pass rush, allowing our WRs and TEs to utilize their speed in man-on-man matchups.
Green Bay X-Factor: Cullen Jenkins and BJ Raji. For the Green Bay defense to stop the Bears, they must be able to get the Bears into 3rd-and-longs. Which means they must be able to hold Matt Forte to less than 6 yards per carry.
Chicago X-Factor: Jay Cutler. Green Bay’s pass rush is much better than the Bears’ ability to pass protect. So Cutler has to be smart, as he has been the last half of the season—running when he has to; throwing the ball away when he has to.
The Bears’ RBs/TEs/WRs versus the Packers’ LBs and secondary: This is a matchup that the Bears stack up much better than most so-called ‘experts’ would have you believe. The Packers’ back, from a size-speed standpoint, are not much different than the Cowboys and Jets, who also play in a base 3-4, and both teams which the Bears had some success against this season. 3-4 LBs Desmond Bishop, AJ Hawk, and Clay Mathews will have a hard time keeping up with RBs Matt Forte and TE Greg Olsen, who combined for 20 catches in the 2 meetings this season. CBs Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams are not particularly fast, but can be physical. In the first meeting, Johnny Knox, Devin Hester, and Earl Bennett combined for 7 catches for 131 yards. In the Week 17 game, the Packers’ CBs jammed our WRs at the line, and Knox and Hester caught 1 BALL COMBINED for 16 yards (Bennett missed the game due to injury). Alot of the WRs success will be predicated upon the pass protecton, but if Cutler gets time, expect alot of WR crossing routes to take advantage of their speed; and alot of isolation plays for Olsen and Forte out in space against LBs.
Green Bay X-factor: CB Charles Woodson. The Packers had success with secondary blitzes in the Week 17 game, so expect it to continue in Sunday’s game. And Woodson will not only be responsible for rushing the passer, but also covering the Bears’ speedy WRs.
Chicago X-Factor: OTs Frank Omiyale & JMarcus Webb, and TE Brandon Manumaleuna. The Bears’ passing scheme puts these three players in one-on-one matchups with the rushing OLBs and CBs of the Packers. The Packers had 3 sacks (2 by outside rushers) in the first meeting, and 6 (5 by outside rushers) in the second meeting.
I expect a couple differences in the Bears’ offensive scheme from the previous two meetings:
1) In the first game with Green Bay, the Bears called 18 runs and 30 pass plays. In the Week 17 meeting, the Bears called 20 runs and 45 passes. Thats 38 runs and 75 passes in two games, or 35% runs and 65% passes. In the Bears 9 other games since the bye week, the Bears have called 273 run plays and 271 pass plays–almost a perfect 50-50 balance. I expect alot more runs in Sunday’s game, as Matt Forte ran for 6 yards per carry in the last meeting.
2) As the season progressed, the Bears began attacking outside blitzes with short passes to TE Greg Olsen and WR Earl Bennett. As this season progressed, Bennett slowly became Cutler’s favorite target on 3rd downs. And while being relatively quiet all season long, Olsen has caught 8 passes for 142 yards in the past two games. I expect both of them to play a big role this Sunday.