The Chicago Bears have historically struggled to move the ball against the Green Bay Packers defense. The Packers have won four straight over the Bears and six out of the last eight meetings. During that span, Chicago has averaged just 14 points per game.
Despite Green Bay's struggles on defense that past few years – they were dead last in total yards allowed and passing yards allowed last season – they've been able to consistently hold the Bears' offense in check, mainly due to turnovers.
"They give up some yards but they negate that with all the turnovers they create," Jay Cutler said today. "Whenever you get turnovers, it changes the whole mentality of the game, momentum and everything."
The Packers held a 4-2 edge over the Bears in turnovers last season. Not surprisingly, Chicago lost both contests.
"They didn't go 15-1 last year by luck," said Cutler. "They've got a great scheme. [Defensive coordinator] Dom [Capers] does a good job of dialing up stuff. He keeps teams uncomfortable. They're good. They're really good."
Yet the struggles on offense were in systems run by former coordinator Mike Martz and Ron Turner, offenses that lacked firepower and were mediocre at best. This season, under the direction of OC Mike Tice, the Bears have an explosive unit. The offense posted 41 points against the Colts in Week 1, the first time a Chicago team has scored 40 or more since Week 4 of 2009.
"There's a big difference in what we're doing offensively," said Cutler. "This is a totally different scheme and mentality and direction we're going offensively. There will be no advantage for them watching tape of last year what we did."
The biggest change has obviously been the addition of Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall. Against Indianapolis, Marshall was targeted 15 times – three times as many as any other wideout on the team. He ended the contest with nine catches for 119 yards and a TD.
"If we're nine out of 15 to [Marshall], I'll take that," Cutler said. "But 15 times a game, that's not going to happen. It's just not. There's going to be teams that take him away and we'll have to go to other guys and we'll have to run the ball. That game, they wanted to play man, and they were saying 'Hey, we're going to play man and you're going to have to beat us there. And, I guess we did."
The Packers may also employ a lot of man coverage, as they have one of the league's better cover corners in Tramon Williams, and a future Hall of Fame cornerback-turned-safety in Charles Woodson. In the past, Green Bay's strategy has been to be physical at the line of scrimmage. They might want to rethink that with a guy like Marshall.
"It's all about matchups," said Marshall. "I'm 6-5, 230 and there's not too many DBs walking around that are that big. If they want to get physical, I do welcome that."
Despite the past success of the Packers cornerbacks, Cutler welcomes the opportunity to throw against Green Bay's press coverage.
"Good luck," Cutler said. "We've got some dudes who will get up in their face. Even our speed guys are going to get around them and our big guys are going to throw-and-go. We invite press coverage. We invite man [coverage]. If we get in that type of game, our guys outside have to make some plays for us."
Beyond individual efforts, Cutler said some of the past game plans have been flawed in attempting to crack the Packers' defense.
"Just general scheme was a reason [the passing game struggled]," said Cutler. "There's a whole row of things we can go down of why we struggled against them. I think we've got a good idea. I think we've got a good scheme in a short amount of time and we've got some players who can make some plays. Hopefully it all adds up."
Typically, the goal against Green Bay has been to win the time of possession battle and keep Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' explosive offense off the field. This year, the Bears are confident they can keep pace if the game turns into a shootout.
"We're in the point-scoring business," Cutler said. "Time of possession, if we can grind it out we'll grind it out. We've got to score points. We've got to be explosive and that takes big plays and big chunks. Time of possession isn't really something that's on our mind. "
After beating up the Colts last week, Chicago's offense will be sky high rolling into Lambeau Field Thursday night, making overconfidence a potential stumbling block.
"There's a different energy in the locker room, especially offensively," said Cutler. "There's a different confidence in this group. But we have to be careful. We've only played one game. We don't have a lot on tape yet, so we've got to continue to work hard. But there's something to be said for being confident about what you're doing, and having a feel for what you're doing, and going out there and expecting to do good. That's what we try and install in these guys."
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.