How have Packers players and coaches responded to the recent derogatory comments by Brandon Marshall and Lance Briggs? Are the Bears doing themselves a disservice by talking so much trash through the media?
On Wednesday, coach Mike McCarthy said he told his team "don't tell them nothing." So, it's been quiet. It's amazing, these guys must be hermits without any friends or any access to the outside world. Time and again, it was something along the lines of, "I haven't heard what he said" or "we don't have much time away from here."
So, it's been silence.
Of course, Packers tight end Jermichael Finley started a firestorm by saying Brian Urlacher has looked slow the last few weeks. Then again, Urlacher hasn't played the last few weeks. Finley showed amazing wheels today by running away from the oncoming media horde. If only he played that fast on Sundays …
The Packers' offense has toned down of late, relying less on the downfield passing attack and more on a methodical, balanced approach with a heavier dose of the run. Is this a matter of personnel dictating scheme or did opposing defenses force McCarthy to change?
Definitely both. They've seen a ton of Cover-2 this season as defenses have worked to take away the big play. It's a successful proposition because the key to a Cover-2 defense is having a four-man pass rush get to the quarterback before the receivers can get open. Aaron Rodgers has been sacked a whopping 42 times, so it's worked.
How do you beat Cover-2? It starts with the running game. With the two deep safeties, the defenses are a man short in the box. In effect, defenses are begging the Packers to run the ball. Almost incredibly, Green Bay ranks eighth in the NFL in rushing since Week 9. The Packers hope their running game will get that safety into the box and open up the downfield passing game, but that's not going to happen. Who are you scared of? Alex Green or Aaron Rodgers?
QB Aaron Rodgers
With all of that said, Green Bay leads the NFL in touchdowns and points scored from outside the red zone. So, the big play is there – just not like last year.
Green Bay has improved considerably on the defensive side of the ball this year, with their numbers up nearly across the board from last season. What has been the main reason for the defensive improvement this season?
Pass rush, tackling and depth. Before Clay Matthews missed four games, the Packers led the league in sacks. The pass rush evaporated without him but the defense has done a lot of little things well. They're stopping the run well enough on first down so they can get off the field on third down. Completions aren't turning into long plays because of blown tackles. Assignment-wise, they aren't making any crippling mistakes.
The talent is better, too. Even with first-round pick Nick Perry on injured reserve, they've had six rookie defenders on the field at once. Second-round pick Casey Hayward has allowed no touchdowns and picked off five passes. Second-round pick Jerel Worthy and fourth-round pick Mike Daniels have provided some interior pass rush and helped keep veterans B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett fresh.
The Packers held Brandon Marshall to two catches for 24 yards in the Week 2 contest, rolling coverage at him from every direction. Do you foresee them employing the same strategy on Sunday or will Capers mix it up to keep the Bears off balance?
Of course. Look at the stats. Marshall has 101 catches. The next four guys combined have 101 catches. Why on earth would anyone be scared of Earl Bennett and Devin Hester and the tight ends? Can they make some plays and move the chains? Sure. Can they win a game? No. If they could, Cutler would be throwing them the ball.
Clay Matthews is likely to play on Sunday for the first time in five weeks. He had 3.5 sacks of Cutler in the first meeting this year. Is he the key for Green Bay's defense against Chicago?
Absolutely, because he's their best defensive player. The last three weeks, the Packers had a total of two sacks. He's a beast against the run, too. He might be the best all-around outside linebacker in the game. Cutler's history against the Packers is he'll make some terrible decisions and use some horrendous fundamentals when pressured. Matthews gives the Packers that pass rush.
Beyond that, Tramon Williams will be matched against Marshall for most of the game. Williams is an outstanding cover guy. Can he match up with Marshall's physicality? And the Packers' coaches will be lobbying the officials to prevent Marshall from being too physical during his route.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com. Bill Huber is Publisher of PackerReport.com.