Bad Matchup: Running vs. Bears

Green Bay's rushing offense performed poorly last week without Ryan Grant while Chicago's run defense has been an indomitable force through two games. Nonetheless, for the Packers' offense to function, they'll have to find a way to run the ball.

It might seem like a losing proposition, but the Green Bay Packers are going to have to run the ball against the Chicago Bears on Monday night.

In their first game without Ryan Grant last week, Packers running backs Brandon Jackson (11 carries, 29 yards) and John Kuhn (nine carries, 36 yards) combined for 65 yards on 20 attempts — a paltry 3.3 yards per attempt.

That dubious ground game will be running into the teeth of a Bears defense that — for two games, anyway — looks like the Monsters of the Midway circa Singletary and Butkus. The numbers look like mistakes: 41 carries for 56 yards, a 1.4-yard average and a long run of 8 yards.

"It's gaudy, I guess would be the right word," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said.

The big names are linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, defensive end Julius Peppers and defensive tackle Tommie Harris. Urlacher and Briggs are stalwarts, to be sure, but Harris' knees have taken away his quickness and Peppers would rather rush the passer. Up front, Harris' sidekick at defensive tackle, Anthony Adams, is a 310-pound bulldog and backup Matt Toeaina relishes the dirty work.

"I think the challenge is to find one soft spot on it," left guard Daryn Colledge said of the Bears' front four. "They've got talent all the way across the board. You think it's just Peppers and then it's Tommie and Adams and (Mark) Anderson. It's just hard to find a soft spot, so we've got to find a way to compete with them at their speed. They're a speed-oriented defense. They do a great job of gouging offensive lines and making plays and freeing up those linebackers."

It's not like the Bears have been beating up on the Sisters of the Poor. Detroit rookie Jahvid Best, who ran circles around Philadelphia last week, was held to 20 yards on 14 rushes in Week 1. Last week, Dallas' vaunted trio of Marion Barber (11 carries, 31 yards), Felix Jones (seven carries, 7 yards) and Tashard Choice (one carry, minus-1 yard) combined for 37 yards on 19 attempts.

Nonetheless, balance remains the watchword.

"I think we have a chance to run the ball against them," Philbin said. "I don't think you want to be one-dimensional. If they can make you one-dimensional, it's going to make it awful tough. We've got to have some balance."

In fact, the Packers had that balance against the Bills. Aaron Rodgers threw 29 passes to counter 27 total rushes (25, if you throw out two game-ending kneeldowns). That doesn't mean the Packers need to be 50-50 or even 60 percent pass-40 percent run. As Philbin likes to say, there's no sense beating your head against the wall. Nonetheless, something resembling a balanced run-pass ratio will take some of the startch out of the Bears' pass rush — and that pass rush is what makes Bears coach Lovie Smith's Cover-2 scheme flourish.

"If you don't run the football effectively, on paper, it affects half of your passing game," coach Mike McCarthy said. "Because as we plan and game-plan for teams, you start with your run game and then you go through your (play-)action passing game and then you have your dropback game. It's no different going into a team that we're getting ready to play with Chicago. You have to have the ability to run the football, because they do a very good job the way their defense is built against dropback passing.

"I'm not looking to run the ball just to set up the pass. I'm sure some of you may disagree with me. When we run it, we want to run it very well. When we want to throw it, we want to throw it well. But you talk to any offensive lineman, when you're kicking and sitting, doing dropback all day and don't have any threat of play-action or any attempts of (play-)action passing game in your game plan, that's tough duty for an offensive lineman."

In the end, though, all of the talk about scheme means little. The Packers' linemen have to keep the Bears' linemen out of the backfield and prevent Urlacher and Briggs from piling up tackles at the line of scrimmage.

In other words, just like many of the previous 179 meetings in this series, it will come down to winning enough one-on-one battles so the team wins the war.

"It'll be a good challenge for our guys," Philbin said. "I don't think their game plan is going to be, ‘Let's trick Green Bay with a lot of different fronts and different defenses that we haven't run before.' We're certainly not sitting up here in the middle of the night drawing up a bunch of new run plays that we're going to run agaisnt them. I think it's going to come down to execution. I think we're going to know where they're at and I think they're going to know where we're at. Our guys have got to do a good job."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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