While the Green Bay Packers finished no. 2 in the NFL in scoring defense allowing only 15.0 points per game, their opponent in the NFC Championship game on Sunday wasn’t far off the mark.
The Chicago Bears finished ranked no. 4 in the NFL allowing 17.9 points per game. Perhaps even more impressive, they held Green Bay below that average in each of their two regular season meetings this season.
The Bears held the Packers to 17 points in a Week 3 win at Soldier Field and then limited them to only 10 points in the Week 17 loss at Lambeau. Not bad considering the Packers scored an average of 24.3 points per game.
“I think the statistics speaks for themselves,” said head coach Mike McCarthy on Monday. “It’s a system that’s been in place there for quite some time, I know since before I even arrived here. So they have better players, they have a very good understanding of their scheme.”
The Bears definitely have some star power on the defensive side of the football. Linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs were both voted to the Pro Bowl this season.
But as far as Scott Wells and the rest of the Packers offensive line is concerned, they’re focused on the players lined up directly across the line of scrimmage from them.
“Their starting four, they’re outstanding up front,” said Wells. “Anthony Adams I think is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league. If you watch film, he’s always around the pile.
“He does an excellent job playing with low pads, creating penetration, getting penetration, so he’s one player that I have to be familiar with, because he lines up over the center most of the time.”
The rest of the Packers offensive line will have their hands full as well. For Chad Clifton, he’s coming off one of his best performances of the season in the Jan. 2 win over the Bears when he effectively neutralized star defensive end Julius Peppers.
For rookie right tackle Bryan Bulaga, he looks to bounce back from the regular season finale when he was whistled for four penalties while frequently lined up face to face with defensive end Israel Idonije.
“The other guy, Idonije, does an excellent job on that side,” said Wells. “He kind of gets overlooked because of Peppers and what he brings to that package.
“Really their front four I think outstanding defensive line, well- coached. Tommie Harris is playing well here towards the end of the season. They do a great job holding their gaps and playing their scheme.”
Wide receiver Greg Jennings categorizes the Bears as the fastest defense he’s faced this season.
“I would have to say yes,” said Jennings. “They do a great job of flowing to the ball. Obviously a lot of those guys, veteran guys, savvy guys. So they know what it takes to get wins, and that’s why they’re in the position they’re in as well. Obviously what they bring to the table defensively is pretty much the ground and the foundation of their team.”
While not as highly regarded as their front seven counterparts, Jennings and the Packers wide receivers know all too well how dangerous the Bears secondary can be.
In Week 17 Bears cornerback Charles Tillman deftly made a diving interception on a Aaron Rodgers pass intended for Jennings. Earlier in the game, Donald Driver had a fumble caused by nickel cornerback D.J. Moore.
The defensive-minded, Lovie Smith-coached Bears are no slouches. Despite scoring a franchise playoff record 48 points on the road against the no. 1 seeded Atlanta Falcons a week ago, the Packers offense probably can’t afford to overlook almost any facet of the Chicago defense.
Especially in a game as meaningful as this one in which the winner will move on to play for football’s ultimate prize.
“They’re good football players across the board defensively,” said McCarthy. “They all tackle very well, they’re very fundamentally sound. They did a great job of recognizing your concepts. So they’re a challenge, and it will be a big challenge Sunday.”