When the Washington Redskins were piling up more than 200 yards rushing last week, it appeared there was little hope for the Chicago Bears defense. The front seven has been depleted due to injury and the Skins had their way for most of the contest, particularly after Lance Briggs exited the game.
Enter the Green Bay Packers, whose resurgent rushing attack, led by rookie Eddie Lacy, ranks third in the league in yards per game (141.4). Lacy and James Starks present a one-two power punch that has carried the Packers' offense in the wake of numerous injuries to the receiving corps.
"They're doing a great job running the football," said Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. "They're above the league average in yards per carry (4.8 ypc, 3rd highest in the league)."
Yet Tucker doesn't believe anything needs to change schematically in order to shut down Green Bay's rushing attack.
"It's really about everyone doing their job in run fits. Playing with great power and great technique up front, and rallying to the ball and not leaving it up to one guy. Everybody's got to get to the ball. Eleven to the ball. Get as many guys there as possible. That's really the key."
"We're really not worried about inexperience," said Tucker. "It's next man up. Guys have a role to play. Guys know what's expected. It's our job to get them ready to play. I feel good about what we've done so far in preparation. We're not worried about experience or inexperience."
To help simplify things for a patchwork front seven, Tucker is emphasizing gap discipline as the key for his unit on Monday night. Again, it's easier said than done, especially after Washington gashed Chicago's run defense like they were a high school team.
"[It takes] a lot of practice, a lot of critical film study," Tucker said. "Just hammering guys on doing their jobs. Being more detailed in everything we do — coaches and players. More repetitions, faster repetitions, a lot of film study and just making sure everyone understands where they fit in the defense. And understand that ‘hey, I need to do my job and trust that the guy next to me is going to do his job and nobody ever has to do too much.' That's the main thing. And sometimes when you have guys out or different guys in there, sometimes you have a tendency to try to do too much and do more than what your job requires you to do. That's one of the points of emphasis for us: do your job."
If Lacy and Starks cut up the Bears on the ground, it could force a safety into the box. If that happens, it leaves the secondary thin, which is like handing touchdowns to Aaron Rodgers on a platter. If the threat of play-action gives Rodgers an extra second or two to find his receivers down the field, he'll systematically dismantle the Bears in a primetime game at Lambeau Field, as he's done so many times before.
"Do your job. Do your job. That's the main thing," said Tucker. "Don't try to do too much. Just be where you're supposed to be. Trust the defense, trust your teammates, trust your training and then read your keys and go. That's the biggest thing."
With the Packers severely banged up at wide receiver and tight end, Rodgers doesn't have his typically set of weapons. As such, if the Bears can stifle Green Bay's running backs, it could put Rodgers in some unfavorable down-and-distance situations. If that happens, turnovers become more likely. If Chicago can get multiple takeaways, and possibly a touchdown off a turnover, the team has a chance of pulling off the upset.
That winning formula starts up front.
"The No. 1 thing is we have to be able to do our assignments correctly and not get caught up in the chaos or thinking we've got to help somebody else out," Marc Trestman said. "We've just got to be in that place, know where to line up, know where to go and know how to adjust when things change on the run."
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.