Run Defense Dominates, Even in Nickel

The Bears set a 59-year mark for futility against a Green Bay defense hellbent on making a statement. Chicago's standout running back, Matt Forte, managed just 2 yards as B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett were impact players even without making an impact on the stat sheet.

CHICAGO – After a pass-to-run ratio of 29 to 2 in the second half of last week's blowout loss at New Orleans, the Chicago Bears talked as if Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers would be the day in which they re-established their run game.

"That means that they'll probably have to work on that for next week because it didn't work today," nose tackle B.J. Raji said with a laugh.

Even with the Packers using their nickel defense on all but about eight snaps on Sunday, the Bears' running game ran into a brick wall. Standout running back Matt Forte carried nine times for just 2 yards, and the Bears finished with 13 yards only because quarterback Jay Cutler had a 9-yard scramble on a botched snap on the second-to-last play of the game.

It was the worst rushing performance for the Bears in 59 years, when they gained just 1 yard against the Rams in 1952.

"Dang, that's amazing," defensive end Ryan Pickett said. "I didn't know that but I know we did a pretty decent job."

Pretty decent, indeed. Forte lost yardage on six of his rushing attempts. In all, the Packers dropped Bears runners for losses seven times. Three of those came by Clay Matthews, including the Bears' first play from scrimmage.

"Seriously, we played good backs this whole season," Raji, an impact player even while not showing up on the official stats, said after his dig at the Bears. "I knew it was an emphasis in the media about Forte getting the ball, but we knew if we took care of business that he wouldn't be a factor."

Forte most certainly was not a factor. While Forte, one of only two running backs in the NFL with 3,000 rushing yards and 1,500 receiving yards since the start of the 2008 season, finished with 80 catches on seven yards, his only impact play was a 28-yard reception in which the Packers blew the coverage.

The Packers' run defense was one of the black marks of a Super Bowl season, with a 28th-ranked 4.7 yards per carry last season. It's been an about-face this year, though. Even with the Packers frequently leaning on Raji and Pickett to hold the fort against teams lined up in traditional formations with a tight end, fullback and running back, they rank seventh in the league with 3.1 yards allowed per attempt.

"All of those guys up front today did a terrific job of playing their gaps, getting in the backfield, stopping Forte before he could get running – not allowing him to bounce any balls outside, not allowing him to run up between the tackles," cornerback Charles Woodson said. "You've got to take your hat off to our front guys. They stepped up to the challenge. The word coming out this week was they were going to try to run the ball. Those guys weren't having any of it."

The Packers' ability to stop the run with their pass-focused nickel defense is absolutely critical. If the Packers can stop the run with two linemen and four linebackers, they can keep five defensive backs on the field to concentrate on the pass.

"Me and B.J. are big and strong," said Pickett, whose only tackle was a 2-yard loss on Forte in the third quarter. "Any team that's going to try to run the ball up the middle, it's going to be tough. We both require two people to stay on us because if you don't have two people on either me or B.J., one of us is going to make the tackle. If they keep two on us, our ‘backers like (Desmond) Bishop and A.J. (Hawk) are going to hit the hole. It's a tough way to move the ball."

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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

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