12.28.2010

Bear Down! A South of the Border Perspective.




This is it!! This weekend, this Sunday, this showdown between the Bears and the Pack! This may well be the marquee matchup that rekindles the fire that once blazed so ferociously in the NFL's most storied rivalry. Earlier this year before the Bears squeaked by the Pack thanks to an undisciplined Packers squad that was flagged for over 100 yards in penalties, the article penned by Dick Bauhs of W.S.T. claimed the Bears-Packers rivalry wasn't the same as it used to be. He said it had lost much of the energy or for lack of a better term "hatred" that festered and bubbled between the two teams back in the 80's as when Charles Martin body slammed Jim McMahon or when the Fridge barreled into the endzone on a fullback dive for a TD essentially flattening George Cumby and his career. Upon reading that article I had to agree. It has been several years since I went out of my way to snag as many tickets as I could for the annual "invasion" of both the hated Pack and my rabid Packer fan inlaws. Also since the Brett "please pay attention to me and only me" Favre drama began, Bear and Packer fans alike have had a common ground; an even more intense distaste for everything purple and Nordic! Bear and Packer fans cringed evenly at the obnoxious blare of the Viking horn! The point was well noted, 'the rivalry just aint what it used to be.' It's been since 2005 that both teams were in the playoffs at the same time let alone a real shot at a post season meeting between the two.

There is alot on the line Sunday afternoon for both teams. The Bears need the win to maintain momentum and secure a first round bye. True the Monsters of the Midway are only 5-3 at home but the difficulty of winning on the road in the playoffs increases exponentially. For the Pack, win and they're in. Simple as that. They could still find their way to the post season despite a loss with some help but I'd bet my Rex Grossman Super Bowl jersey (not much to put up, I know!) that the Pack would rather take care of business by themselves Sunday afternoon. A victory over the Bears would be HUGE for several reasons; not only launching a team that was floundering just 2 weeks ago into the playoffs but providing a huge emotional and motivational lift over their despised divisional rivals. Throw all this into a bowl and mix on high for 5 minutes and you have the recipe for a rivalry revived!!

Keys to Sunday's game:

This matchup is a schedule makers dream and exactly what the league hopes for; divisional rivals battling for playoff position. True the division is decided, (2010 NFC North Champion Chicago Bears in case you'd forgotten) but as I previously mentioned there is alot to play for. It would seem Green Bay will have the emotional edge and will want this game more, but don't count the Bears out. The drubbing suffered at the hands of the Brady bunch may have happened at exactly the right time. The Bears seem like a completely different team since then. The defense is bending more than I'd like, but It's been forever since our offense has clicked like it has the last 2 weeks. The Pack is riding a similar wave of 'Mo' since Sunday's beat down of the lesser Manning and his teammates. Will this game be the springboard the Pack hopes and wants it to be? Here is what the answer to that question hinges upon:

Bears 'D' vs. Packers 'O'
The Lovie cover 2 although effective overall, ie. Chris Harris' pick to seal Sunday's win over the Jets, will definitely need to be adjusted hopefully before halftime or Aaron Rodgers will pick it apart as easy as a vulture snacking on roadkill. I'm not quite confident the Bears backfield can keep up with the Packer receiving corps. The Bears will need to implement varying line stunts and attempt to pressure Rodgers into dumping the ball off quickly. Containing John Kuhn and his bulldog running style while getting pressure on Rodgers early in the game is the key to grabbing the momentum. If Rodgers relies on his instinct for avoiding sacks and remembering to slide at the end of runs he will have a good chance at driving the Bears D nuts. Pressure from Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije may well be the determining factor to shutting down the potent Packers offense.

Bears 'O' vs. Packers 'D'
What Packers fans have taken for granted for so long the Bears fans see as a shiny new bike we've always wanted and finally have; a talented gunslinger quarterback!! When Cutler surpassed 3,000 yards passing this year making it 2 in a row (2 not 20!) for the first time ever It gives us cause to be optimistic! The Bears run game has been solid after a shaky start, Matt Forte 978 yards and a 4.4 yard average while second year man Johnny Knox is developing into a prime time pass catcher 960 yards with an 18.8 yard average. Sunday's contest may well depend on how 'smartly' Cutler plays. After he was picked clean on a stupid throw for a defensive TD vs the Jets Sunday he seemed to settle down and make better choices ie. eating the ball or throwing it away when his receivers weren't open. If the game grinds down to a defensive struggle his game managing skills will be the key to Bears O finishing the game well. The Bears offensive line which has seemed to get better every week has seemed to gel yet must find a way to control the likes of Clay Matthews and BJ Raji. Clay Matthews has seemed to cool off the second half of the season thanks to a slew of double teams. But Raji, as tall as he is wide, has been a violent force. I do not envy Olin Kreutz and company trying to unwedge this guy! Matt Forte is going to find it slow going early on and will have to fight for the last 22 yards to break the 1k mark for the year. Cutler will need to find a way to attack the Packers secondary. The quick slant, the screen and utilizing Greg Olsen, who could not find a way to catch anything last week, will be the way to finding their way downfield.

Special Teams;
Two words, Devin Hester. Enough said. If The Packers are dumb enough to kick to him they will pay the price. He was a large factor in the Bears beating the Jets. When you kick away from him you give up field position. When you actually kick to him as the Jets did three times he burned them both time and time again yielding a great field position for the offense. All other factors aside, if Hester has a great game the Bears stand a great chance to win the game.

Prediction;
This is the most anticipated Bears-Packers game in a long time! Many are calling for an offensive shootout based on both teams offensive momentum coming in. There will be some fireworks early, but I look to both Dom Capers and Rod Marinelli to make solid adjustments to their defensive units slowing the tempo of the game. I see the Bears ahead late with the Pack driving to tie the game.... 12 seconds on the clock....Has McCarthy learned his lesson on late game clock management?? I think he has...Hold on........Robbie Gould nails the game winner in OT from 47 yards out!! Same score as September...Bears 20 Packers 17.

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