Bears Have Provided Stern Test For Rodgers

Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers is off to a hot start like many quarterbacks around the league. But the Bears seem to have him figured out to a degree. Here are the telling numbers and what Rodgers said about the Bears defense after practice on Wednesday.

The scoring and offensive production to start this NFL season has been dizzying.

All told, four records have been set for the first two weeks to a season — most points scored (1,502), most touchdowns (172), most net passing yards (15,771) and most 100-plus passer rating games (22).

That explosive trend could change this weekend — at least as it pertains to the 183th meeting between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field this Sunday.

The Packers have gotten the best of Jay Cutler (four passing touchdowns and 10 interceptions vs. the Packers) since the Bears' quarterback took over in Chicago in 2009. And the Bears have made game days a stern test for Aaron Rodgers (seven passing touchdowns and six interceptions vs. the Bears) since the Packers' quarterback took over as the starter in 2008.

Of the 11 teams Rodgers has made multiple starts against over his career (including the playoffs), the Bears have held Rodgers to his second-worst passer rating at 87.6 in seven games. Only the Buccaneers have stood up better to Rodgers, limiting him to a 54.6 rating in two games.

Not coincidentally, the Bears and Buccaneers like to play versions of the Cover 2, a defense that can be tough to crack with a well-versed middle linebacker and deep safeties that can cut off each half of the field. But this week's game will pit more than just Rodgers versus a scheme. It will be a battle of two opponents who know each other well with a few new personnel matchups.

"They have a very good defense," said Rodgers. "I think a couple things that have really helped them, if you look at when we first played them in 2008 to when we play them this week, (safety) Chris Harris coming back, I think, is big. (He) was maybe an underrated or underappreciated part of their defense because I think he brought a lot of stability on the back end and assignment stability. And then bringing in (cornerback) Tim Jennings — who came from the Colts — I think Tim has done a great job for them playing outside. He really understands the scheme, and he's making plays for them. D.J. Moore does a nice job in the slot. You're not overlooking Charles (Tillman) or Lance (Briggs) or Brian (Urlacher) or Nick (Roach) or any of those guys on the front four. But the biggest differences are obviously Julius (Peppers), who goes without saying because they get pressure from the front four now and don't have to bring pressure as much, but I think bringing Chris Harris back and Tim Jennings were big additions for them."

Jennings, in his second season with the Bears and sixth season overall, leads the team with 17 tackles. He started a career-high 13 games in 2010.

Harris, a seven-year veteran on his second tour of duty with the Bears (he spent 2007 through 2009 with the Panthers), is nursing a hamstring injury sustained in the season opener against the Falcons. He sat out last week at New Orleans and practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday. He says he is "50-50" to go on Sunday.

Regardless of whether Harris will play, Rodgers will see plenty of familiar faces. Though he is off to a great start to this season — he is No. 2 in the NFL in passer rating at 126.4 — patience, more than anything, will be paramount against the Bears.

Earlier this week on a local radio show, Rodgers said the Bears play their Cover 2 better than any team in the league. Keying that scheme is Urlacher in the middle, whom Rodgers said is his favorite player to compete against. The 33-year-old Urlacher is showing no signs of slowing down with 13 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in two games.

Urlacher's ability to patrol the middle of the field, coupled with a front four that can put pressure on the quarterback, allows the Bears to play pass coverage without sending extra rushers. That puts added pressure on Rodgers and his receivers to find precious open spots on the field versus those that become readily available when teams blitz. History shows that Rodgers is a better quarterback when teams blitz versus when they play coverage.

Perhaps added weapons to an already strong roster on offense will give Rodgers enough to forget his otherwise average outings the last two times out against the Bears. Though the Packers won both of those games — 10-3 in the 2010 season finale and 21-14 in the NFC Championship — Rodgers did not have tight end Jermichael Finley (injured), wide receiver Randall Cobb (in college), or running back Ryan Grant (injured) at his disposal. He completed 62 percent of his passes with just one touchdown and three interceptions in those contests.

Finley has been a force down the middle of the field thus far for the Packers with eight catches for 121 yards.

Cobb, a rookie second-round pick, gives the Packers another option in the slot. His 32-yard touchdown catch in the opener against the Saints highlighted a big night that included a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Regardless of how well Rodgers knows the Bears and what has worked and what has not worked, he will take nothing for granted this time around.

"We know it's going to be a tough game," he said. "That's about the only thing you can assume."

Aaron Rodgers vs. the Bears

Nov. 16, 2008, W, 37-3, at GB — 23 of 30, 227 yards, 2 TD's, 1 INT.

Dec. 22, 2008, L, 17-20 (OT) at Chi — 24 of 39, 260 yards, 2 TD's, 1 INT.

Sept. 13, 2009, W, 21-15, at GB — 17 of 28, 184 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, sacked 4 times.

Dec. 13, 2009, W, 21-14, at Chi — 16 of 24, 180 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, sacked 3 times.

Sept. 27, 2011, L, 17-20, at Chi — 34 of 45, 316 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.

Jan. 2, 2011, W, 10-3, at GB — 19 of 28, 229 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, sacked 2 times.

Jan. 23, 2011, W, 21-14, at Chi — 17 of 30, 244 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT, sacked 1 time.

Totals: 67% completions, 1,640 yards (234.3 yards per game), 7 TDs, 6 INTs, 10 sacks, 87.6 passer rating.

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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at

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