Lacy, not Rodgers, key for Bears defense

Aaron Rodgers always presents a tough challenge for the Bears, but in order for Chicago's defense to have success on Monday, stopping Eddie Lacy has to be the top priority.

Don't look now Bears fans but the Green Bay Packers are ranked third in the league with 141.4 rushing yards per game. Yes, this is the same Packers organization whose run game has floundered seemingly since the days of Ahman Green. Yet with the addition of former Alabama running back Eddie Lacy this offseason, Green Bay instantly infused life into a once-dormant rushing attack.

Lacy has rushed for 90 yards or more in three of the Packers' last four contests and appears to be just now hitting his stride. Green Bay's offense – which has already lost Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley, and will likely be without James Jones for the second straight week – has been forced to lean on Lacy, who is averaging just under 25 carrier per game in September.

For a Chicago Bears defense that just surrendered 202 rushing yards to the Washington Redskins, this isn't good news. The Bears rank 25th in the league allowing 117.3 rushing yards per contest, due in large part to numerous injuries along the front seven. This includes Lance Briggs, who will be out for at least a month with a shoulder injury.

As a result, Chicago will start two rookie linebackers on Monday night, Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene, which should have Lacy licking his chops. As a between-the-tackles runner, one whose not afraid of contact, Lacy can where down an opposing defense, which makes them vulnerable to Aaron Rodgers and the play-action passing attack. And when a defense is forced to commit to the running back, Rodgers will eat them alive.

With injuries hampering the defense, and a pair of rookies starting for the first time together, the Bears have talked this week about simplifying things.

"I think the simpler you can keep it, the better it is for those guys," said James Anderson, the only linebacker on the team with any significant starting experience. "The coaches have done a great job of keeping the game plan – we actually haven't really started game-planning for Green Bay yet – we're working on ourselves, so the more simple we can keep it the better it'll be for these guys."

On the plus side for the Bears, Lacy is not much of a homerun threat. He has a season-long run of 37 yards and just three runs of 15 yards or more. According to Pro Football Focus, Lacy's "Breakaway Percentage" (runs of 15 yards or more divided by total carries) of 15.9 percent is 21st in the league out of 26 qualifying backs. He's not a speedster, so if the Bears crowd the line and slam bodies into the hole, they should be able to keep Lacy in check. But when you do that, you leave a lot of space down the field for Rodgers to exploit.

It's a tough situation for a depleted Bears defense, as the Packers have been mostly one-dimensional the past five years, allowing Chicago to limit Rodgers with the Cover 2 shell. Placing a safety in the box doesn't give them that option. If Lacy forces Major Wright to play near the line of scrimmage, that puts added pressure on Tim Jennings and a hobbled Charles Tillman in man coverage. And if Chris Conte somehow gets matched up man-to-man with a wide receiver, it's going to cost the Bears.

Coordinator Mel Tucker hasn't demonstrated consistently solid game plans this year and Monday night presents his toughest challenge to date. Having to stop both Lacy and Rodgers without four starters, one of which is a seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker, could be more than Tucker can handle scheme-wise. So it'll be up to Chicago's players to step and pull off an amazing upset at Lambeau Field.

"The No. 1 way we can improve is by guys just paying attention to their job and not trying to make up for a younger guy or trying to do too much," Trestman said. "If you'll do your job and continue to do it within the framework of the play called, you've got a chance to have success on that play. We really have to play together more than ever now."


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.

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