Packers-Bears: Keys to the game

The Packers have no chance to beat the Chicago Bears on Christmas Day. Sorry to be a Scrooge, but the Packers can't possibly defeat savior quarterback Rex Grossman. Oh, wait, Grossman's passer rating was 47.1 last week against Atlanta, and if not for Grossman's interception being fumbled to set up an easy Bears touchdown, Chicago would have scored three points in his two quarters of action.

With that said, here are this week's five keys to the game.

1. Test Grossman
Grossman, a former first-round pick, remains an unproven commodity. In his first action this season, Grossman completed 9-of-16 passes for 93 yards with an interception vs. the Falcons. The numbers are hardly the stuff of legend, nor are his career numbers. In his injury-plagued career, the third-year player has a 68.9 passer rating, with three touchdowns and five interceptions.

Still, Grossman did provide a spark to an awful Bears offense last week. The downfield pass returned to the Bears' arsenal, and he got the forgotten star receiver, Muhsin Muhammad, involved in the offense.

The Packers must take away Chicago's decent running game, and let Savior Grossman try to put enough points on the board to win the game.

2. Harris vs. Muhammad
Muhammad looked rejuvenated last week, catching three passes for 40 yards. Nothing impressive, to be sure, but extrapolate those numbers over a complete game, and he would have finished with six catches for 80 yards. He's had only two better games this year.

Against Green Bay a few weeks ago, Muhammad was shut out for the first time since 2002. Packers cornerback Al Harris was glued to Muhammad during the Dec. 4 game, and he has extra motivation this week after being excluded from the Pro Bowl.

3. Somehow, establish a running game
The Packers' offense has played out like a horror story. When Brett Favre has had to carry the load, the Packers have flopped. That fact was especially true three weeks ago at Chicago.

Establishing a running game will be a huge challenge this week. First, the Bears' run defense ranks seventh in the league, and they allow a fourth-rated 3.4 yards per rush.

Meanwhile, with Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport, Samkon Gado, Walt Williams and ReShard Lee on injured reserve, it will be left for Tony Fisher and Noah Herron to carry the load for the running game. That not-so-dynamic duo has a combined 55 carries for 162 yards — that's 2.9 yards per attempt.

4. Can they recover?
The Packers hadn't been blown out all season until Monday's shellacking at Baltimore. Can the Packers recover, or will they go through the motions on a cold day in which many of the players would rather be home with their families?

One key that will show the team's mindset will be the run defense. Baltimore's horrendous running game piled up 182 yards last week, including 105 from former All-Pro Jamal Lewis. If Thomas Jones and Co. can approach that number for Chicago, the Packers will be snowed under again.

5. Turnovers and hidden yardage
It's safe to assume neither offense — Savior Grossman notwithstanding — will explode Sunday, which makes field position critical. Against the Bears earlier this month, the Packers turned it over four times to just one for Chicago. One Packers turnover led to a field goal and another was a Favre interception returned for the clinching touchdown.

Last week in the debacle against Baltimore, a long kickoff return by B.J. Sams set up a first-quarter Ravens touchdown and sparked the blowout. The Packers' coverage teams did a nice job against Chicago a few weeks ago, but the Bears' Bobby Wade (9.6 yards per punt return) and Jerry Azumah (22.1 yards per kickoff return) are a formidable duo. Plus, the Packers are breaking in a new punter, Ryan Finn, who has never punted during the regular season.

It would be helpful if the Packers could break a long return, but as the last several years have shown — the Packers haven't returned a kick for a touchdown since Allen Rossum on a punt in 2001 — that's simply wishful thinking.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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