Packers offense hopes for the best

Green Bay will be challenged by tough Bears defense

Mark Tauscher isn't ready to anoint the Chicago Bears defense as the greatest he's seen in his six years as a pro, much less one of the best in NFL lore.

The Packers right tackle said Wednesday that game film can reveal only so much about a group's merits. He'll be a better judge of the Bears' talent after he sees them up close Sunday at Chicago.

For the here and now, what Tauscher does know is if the Packers remain in their season-long funk of running the football, they'll be the latest punchless victim for the insatiable Bears.

"I'm going out on a limb and say if we can't run the football, it's going to be tough. We're going to need to be able to do that in order to move the ball," Tauscher said.

The Packers haven't done much advancing of late. They've mustered a grand total of 31 points in losing back-to-back games to Minnesota and Philadelphia - and just three of those points have come in the second half.

Now, they get to tangle with the Bears' top-rated defense, which has permitted only one touchdown in its last three games and all of four TDs during their seven-game winning streak.

Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who's had Chicago's number with a 21-5 record and piled up numerous passing yards (6,136) and touchdowns (51) at its expense, painted a bleak outlook.

"I'd like to think we can go in and be able to score two or three touchdowns," he said. "If that happens, great. But, realistically, it may be 10 points that we score."

How proficient, or deficient, the Packers are Sunday will hinge a great deal on the play of Favre. The notorious gunslinger has been his own and the team's worst enemy by occasionally making questionable passes into double and triple coverage, as he did last Sunday in a 19-14 loss at Philadelphia.

Favre had two interceptions against the Eagles, hiking his league-leading total to 19. That matches his touchdown output.

On Wednesday, Favre acknowledged he's been negligent in protecting the football. A cardinal sin, exacerbated by the fact that Favre has been robbed in this injury-marred season of the playmakers who have bailed him out in years past.

"His mentality is to try to win the football game. That has been his mentality, and that doesn't change," said Sherman, who danced around questions about having to rein in Favre.

Throwing the ball up and hoping an Antonio Chatman or an Andrae Thurman will come down with it against the Bears is inviting more trouble in an already ugly 2-9 season.

"Patience is a key word going against a defense like this," Favre said. "As opposed to playing an Indianapolis, where you feel like you have to score every time you take the field."

Getting into scoring range figures to be a chore for the Packers, however.

Even with two 100-yard games by unheralded rookie Samkon Gado in the last three weeks, the rushing offense still is hovering near the bottom of the league rankings. For every 33-yard touchdown run by Gado, there's a multitude of negligible runs of 1 yard, zero yards or minus yards that have invariably put the Packers in unfavorable second- and third-and-long situations.

Right up the feisty Bears' alley. They haven't allowed more than 285 total yards in 10 straight games. The Packers' offensive output the last two games - 236 and 292 yards.

"They get you into negative-yardage situations with negative-yardage runs or sacks on the quarterback," Sherman said of the Bears.

Despite its inadequacies in run blocking, the Packers' revamped offensive line has done a solid job of protecting Favre. He's been sacked only 14 times, second fewest in the league.

Keeping Favre upright will be a tall order with the frequency the Bears stunt and zone-blitz their way into the pocket. Of course, getting the running game on track can be the great neutralizer to those backfield incursions.

"We're not a team that's going to sit back and wing it 50, 60 yards and do it that way. We have to be crisp and in rhythm," Tauscher said. "When you're not running the ball, you can't get in a rhythm with your play-action and your keeps (bootlegs). Our keep passes and play-action have been pretty much null and void for a lot of (the season) because teams aren't respecting us running the football."


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