In the Week 17 meeting between the Packers and the Bears, Bears head coach Lovie Smith and his right hand man and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli sent a blitz at Aaron Rodgers on a bit more than 20 percent of his dropbacks.
I expect that number to be even lower on Sunday.
While he wavered a bit at the beginning of the year, Rodgers is back to his blitz-beating ways, especially when presented with pressure off the edge. His ability to see/feel the cornerback or linebacker coming free outside is unlike anything I've seen. He put on an absolute clinic on Saturday night and you can bet Lovie and Rod have reviewed that tape and decided they want no part of that.
The Bears will undoubtedly lean on their favorite defensive set, the Tampa 2 (you can find an excellent overview of the principals involved here from Matt Bowen, who played for Lovie in St. Louis) for the majority of the time. The entire idea of Lovie's defense is to make the opposing offense execute their offense on long sustained drives.
In the first matchup, Rodgers was absolutely brilliant at this. He played a textbook game, taking what the defense gave him and repeatedly got the offense into scoring position. (Where they continually shot themselves in the foot)
In the Week 17 rematch, Rodgers started well but began to press as his receivers kept letting him down. He reverted to holding the ball waiting for things to develop downfield (one sack came on a play where he held the ball for over 5 seconds) and when he wasn't holding the ball he was darting around for no reason, much like the game against Miami earlier in the year. I have no doubt McCarthy, quarterbacks coach Tom Clements and Rodgers have addressed this - Rodgers simply has to play his game, regardless of mitigating factors.
Of course, just because the Bears show a two deep safety look doesn't mean they're locked in to their Tampa 2 - and when they have tried to surprise Rodgers by bringing guys from the slot, Rodgers has made them pay. Look at the play below - you see the safety charge down at the snap of the ball to cover the area vacated by the blitzing corner (picked up by Brandon Jackson). Rodgers focuses on the other safety rotating into the center of the field. By keep his eyes on the safety he is holding him there - knowing he can then turn and hit Jennings on the "In" route. (Interestingly enough, if Rodgers looks back he could have probably hit Driver for a touchdown, but these things are always easy to diagnose after the fact looking from the vantage point of the eye-in-the-sky)
One way to get the Bears out of that two deep shell is to run the ball. The Packers were abysmal at it the first time and weren't much better the second - although I think McCarthy didn't really give the running game much of a chance. (If it doesn't work early, he rarely does.) A healthy does of James Starks might be in order Sunday but only if the interior of the Packers' offensive line can make anything happen on the second level in the zone blocking scheme. Too many times against the Bears we've seen Urlacher and Briggs running free to the ball carrier. (Which is why McCarthy has utilized so much roll out stuff for Rodgers early in these contests).
The key to Sunday's game on offense will be patience - from both McCarthy and Rodgers. No matter how the game begins, if they can both stay patient and work the offense into a rhythm, they should come away with plenty of scoring opportunities - they then, of course, will be to capitalize on them.
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