This Weeks Excuse For Too Much Passing Already Prepared....................
Chicago Bears Bears tempted to go to the air
Demand for balance on offense comes as Packers bring shaky pass defense to town
By Brad Biggs, Tribune reporter
8:19 p.m. CDT, September 22, 2011
One more week.
Mike Martz has to wonder what it would be like to employ a wide-open passing attack for one more game now that he has had several days to digest the Packers on film.
Their vaunted pass defense has been shredded by Drew Brees, a Super Bowl MVP, and Cam Newton, a rookie who was playing in his second game. Surely, there is room for Jay Cutler to do damage. Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins is lost for the season with a neck injury, cornerback Tramon Williams has been nursing a shoulder injury and outside linebacker Clay Matthews doesn't look nearly as intimidating as he has in the past playing with a quad injury.
Two weeks doesn't qualify as much of a sample size, but the Packers are 32nd in pass defense, 32nd on third down and 30th in total defense, a sharp contrast to the quality defense played recently by Dom Capers' troops.
"It looks a little bit different," Bears wide receiver Devin Hester said of the film of the defense. "They've been giving up some big-time catches, chunks of yardage, not just 4- or 5-yard plays. We look forward to playing. Hopefully we can get a rhythm going with the situation we're in right now coming off the loss and this is a rival team."
If anything, the Packers could suddenly prove to be a solution for what ails Cutler and the Bears' passing game. From the sounds of things, Martz has strict marching orders to balance play calling. With the game at home, it should help many of the areas the Bears struggled to deal with last week at the Superdome. But the team is going to have to step up and make plays through the air to win.
Just once in the last nine meetings, including the NFC championship game a year ago, have the Packers scored more than 21 points. The Bears can't expect to keep Aaron Rodgers and his talented bunch of receivers in check forever. They're going to have to match some of the firepower, and that's where it gets tricky. Williams looks like he'll play after being missed last week at Carolina. The Packers still have Charles Woodson, a former defensive player of the year, and Sam Shields, who intercepted a pass from Cutler in the title game.
The problem is how do the Bears go about beating the Packers through the air? Cutler targeted Johnny Knox and Hester 34 times in the three meetings last season. They combined for eight receptions. Gone is tight end Greg Olsen, who was a dependable target against the Packers and Earl Bennett (chest) is out, taking away one of Cutler's middle-of-the-field options. Roy Williams participated fully in Thursday's practice and should play. It's going to be up to him to make some plays.
Going back to the days of Al Harris, Packers cornerbacks play an aggressive, in-your-face style of man-to-man coverage. It has been like throwing a blanket over the Bears at times. But the Packers haven't been able to match the pass rush with the coverage this season and something is off. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, an interior pass rusher who gave the Bears fits, left the Packers for the Eagles. Gone, too, is talented linebacker Nick Barnett.
Bennett's absence may rob Cutler of the ability to stretch the middle of the field and give the linebackers something to worry about downfield. The other wide receivers haven't shown the ability to make plays across the middle with any consistency.
Matt Forte hasn't had many big games running the ball against the Packers. Beating the Super Bowl champions will require a complete offensive effort.
"They're a man team," Knox said. "Martz says when we get the one-on-one battles we've got to win 100 percent of the time. We've got to execute."
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