What to Watch in Packers vs Bears: Run. The. Ball.

Five things to watch as the Packers host the rival Bears on Sunday Night Football.

The Packers may have a sense of déjà vu entering Week Two of the NFL season.

A year ago, Green Bay faced a lesser NFC North opponent in their home opener after being soundly beaten on the road the previous week, and got back on track with a win over the Detroit Lions. That same task faces Matt LaFleur’s squad as they welcome the Chicago Bears to Lambeau Field this Sunday.

Here are five things to watch as the Packers face their old rivals on Sunday Night Football:

Run. The. Ball.

LaFleur openly admitted to failing to get enough touches for Aaron Jones on A.J. Dillon against the Vikings, and this seemed to be a key factor in Green Bay’s lack of offensive production.

Jones racked up a whopping 9.8 yards per carry, but somehow ended the game with only five rushing attempts. Dillon also ran the ball efficiently at a 4.5-yard clip on his 10 carries and was the team’s leading receiver with five catches for 46 yards.

A theme of losses in the LaFleur era have been the abandoning of the game plan at the first sign of trouble, which usually means forsaking the run game and attempting to throw three touchdown passes on one drive.

Jones and Dillon are the Packers’ most talented skill position players, and their usage has to increase if the Packers are to be successful in 2022. It is therefore imperative LaFleur has the patience to stick with the run game, starting on Sunday.

Defensive adjustments

The Packers’ plan for Justin Jefferson last week was inadequate, to put it mildly, as the receiver exploded for 184 yards and two touchdowns against Joe Barry’s zone-heavy scheme.

Jaire Alexander has made his feelings known about his preference for man coverage over zone, and he told reporters on Friday that Eric Stokes also likes man coverage better.

Of course, Barry doesn’t need to throw out his entire philosophy because of one game. A lack of execution, particularly by safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage, was as much to blame for Jefferson’s big day.

There is also no Justin Jefferson on the Bears, or really any receiver worth worrying about taking away, so it may not especially matter whether the Packers decide to play more man or zone on the back end.

Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see if Barry somewhat indulges his star cornerback this week.

Who are the Bears?

If you were looking for an indication of what the 2022 Chicago Bears will be like, last Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers won’t help you much.

Effectively being played in a monsoon, the game devolved into a sloppy slugfest in which both offenses struggled to move the ball.

Credit must be given to the Bears for grinding out a tough, come from behind win over a team which went to the NFC Championship Game last season, but it’s hard to see any way the Bears would have won that game in normal conditions.

That means there are still plenty of unknowns about how the Bears will go about their new era under Matt Eberflus, particularly on offense under former Packer, Luke Getsy. Green Bay should expect to see some unscouted looks from Chicago’s offense, just as they did a week ago in Minnesota.

Pass rush discipline

Even taking into account the horrendous conditions, the Bears offense looked pretty putrid for large stretches of last week’s game. There were zero receptions by a wide receiver or tight end in the first half, and Justin Fields producing off-script magic was their only path to points.

Fields has struggled in his young NFL career, but he can create big plays with his legs or his arm if allowed to escape the pocket.

It will therefore be crucial for the Packers’ edge rushers to maintain their rush lanes and limit Fields’ opportunities to extend plays by breaking contain.

Who will make their first Lambeau Leap?

Several Packers will make their home debut on Sunday, with receivers Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Sammy Watkins chief among them.

Watkins was fairly pedestrian against the Vikings, but the rookies showed flashes of their potential and should see their opportunities increase in Week Two.

It is always a special moment when anyone gets their first touchdown in the NFL, and while Watson saw his first chance slip through his hands last week, there can be no better time or place for a Packer to get their first score than at Lambeau Field against the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football.

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Mark Oldacres is a sports writer from Birmingham, England and a Green Bay Packers fan. You can follow him on twitter at @Marko7LW

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Comments (17)

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splitpea1's picture

September 17, 2022 at 03:28 pm

Also, don't give the Bears any help by screwing up on special teams--that's one way they can even the odds. We gave up a 97-yard punt return last season, but "Mighty Mouse" is no longer on their roster, so we don't have to worry about him anymore.

And Barry would be wise to spy Fields with someone like Quay to contain those happy feet; if we can make the QB beat us from the behind the LOS, that's a recipe for success. We don't need to see any off-script magic.

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wildbill's picture

September 17, 2022 at 03:49 pm

The fact they elevated Taylor, I hope is a sign that there will be a lot of running from us. I’m always just happy to beat the bears so really not particular how it happens. But there isn’t anything more demoralizing, to a team, than to just run the ball down their throats.

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MooPack's picture

September 17, 2022 at 04:17 pm

I've never been a fan of zone defense in any sport. At least not as a defense you run the majority of the time. Statistically it may be better against most teams during the regular season that don't have really good threats to overcome it, but when they do it fails. You go against a lights out shooter and guess what? You get your lights shot out. Come playoff time when the best teams remain, you better find a way to at least deceive what you are lining up in. And Zone doesn't work if you don't get consistent pressure up front. That breaks down and zone breaks down. For goodness sake, at least throw in a corner or LB blitz to keep them honest.

I don't think Barry is playing to his strengths. Very good CB athleticism. LB athleticism. Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes are extremely fast athletic corners. They can play man-to-man better than zone. JA is a stud, let him be a stud. In Stokes case, if you don't think he has the intelligence, then man up is even more important. Zone takes more correct communication to pass off coverage in zones. Why not just let them lineup and take one receiver and press? They both have the speed and athleticism to do it. It's why they were drafted. I don't believe the BS that it's too hard to play man because it causes too much stress on the rest of the D. Guess what? That's your job. Rise to a championship level. Do the hard work to win.

IMO zone is a level or two short of the prevent defense. We all know what the prevent defense prevents. Let the stat geeks holler. How many more times do you want to see it against a team that has nothing to lose? Again it may work statistically in the regular season and against teams that don't challenge it, but when they do. Think playoffs. They are shocked it didn't work. But it worked most of the season?? Why wouldn't it work against better talent and in the playoffs in a one and done scenario? If you can't get consistent pressure to alter the throw, then adjust. Is it that hard? Is it not practiced? I'm looking at you ML. Challenge the DC Barry.

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PackyCheese500's picture

September 17, 2022 at 07:07 pm

Totally agree - the coaches should be willing to do whatever it takes to put the Pack in the best position to win.

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marpag1's picture

September 18, 2022 at 07:23 am

Virtually all casual NFL fans will beat the drum in favor of man coverage.

Virtually all NFL teams which are coached by life-long students of football will lean overwhelmingly to the side of cover 2, Tampa 2, cover 3, "cloud," soft coverage, off coverage, keep it all in front, quarters, cover zero ... or whatever other zone coverage shell or name you prefer.

This is a league wide phenomenon. It has little to do with Green Bay except for the fact that Green Bay is a part of the league. It has been this way for some time now. If we're not seeing that the entire league emphasizes zone coverage schemes, we're not paying attention.

Man coverage can only work if your cover men (all of them) are physically and athletically much superior to the wide receivers. I say they need to be "MUCH superior" because the defenders need to make up for huge disadvantages. The receiver obviously knows where he's going and proactively does it, while the defender must always be reactive. In addition to that, teams from high school on up are now putting their best athletes at the receiver position, so it's hard to find even better athletes who can match up. Perhaps even more troublesome is that NFL PI rules clearly put the defender at such a great disadvantage that it's almost impossible to find corners who are SO MUCH athletically superior that they are able to overcome all of these disadvantages and stay in the same ZIP code as the wideout.

All of these teams are playing zone coverage because NFL pass interference rules practically demand it. You simply can't ask your cover guys to man up every play against 3 to 5 (or more) available pass catchers and to win consistently under such disadvantages.

If zone concepts suck so much, why are they so ubiquitous at virtually every level of football? Do only fans understand the reality and not coaches? Or is it perhaps that many NFL fans don't really get it?

Or at least they don't get it until Tom Brady lobs an easy 39 yard touchdown to Scotty Miller over the head of Kevin King with less than 10 seconds remaining in the first half of the NFCCG....

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 18, 2022 at 11:04 am

Well said. Barry played a lot more man last week than they averaged last year.

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PackyCheese500's picture

September 17, 2022 at 07:09 pm

Hopefully the coaches - both MLF and Barry - will prepare and run whatever schemes that put the Packers in the best position to win, even if it goes against a certain coaching “philosophy.” Do what’s best for the team.

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wildbill's picture

September 18, 2022 at 09:42 am

You scheme to the strengths of your players, and weakness of the opposition

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Savage57's picture

September 18, 2022 at 05:43 am

Mark, larger font please.

Look at the copy in your article. Now look at the copy in the comments section. Which one's easier on the eyes?

I imagine you write interesting stuff, but I wouldn't know. At 6:00 in the morning dusting my first cup of coffee while perusing CHTV, I skip right over your stuff because of the teeny font you insist on using.

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Rarescope's picture

September 18, 2022 at 08:36 am

I’m not sure if this is a recurring joke or you really don’t know to web browsers work. In case it’s the latter this should help: https://lmgtfy.app/?q=how+to+increase+the+font+in+your+browser

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Savage57's picture

September 18, 2022 at 08:42 am

Or, just use a larger, more legible font without requiring a workaround so as to encourage more readership and dwell time.

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Rarescope's picture

September 18, 2022 at 09:34 am

Or you could recognize that websites aren’t like Microsoft word where you pick the size of the font when you start typing something. When was the last time you changed the size of your comment’s font here on cheeseheadtv? Same thing for the author of this article. It’s not up to him how this website displays on your browser.

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stockholder's picture

September 18, 2022 at 08:21 am

They have to run the ball. Because this OL can't pass block. And if you look at the stats after week one. The Bears Lead the packers in every trench stat available.
The packers are on the wrong track. - If they don't protect Rodgers. To move forward they must protect him.

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BaldingersBentDigit's picture

September 18, 2022 at 08:59 am

MLF can say that they must run the football but if you are running RPO's and Aaron Rodgers sees a mismatch he can exploit he will defer to his ability to exploit that match-up. When he does this he will, again default to his preferred option of the chunk play, which needs time to develop. He holds the ball longer and if the receiver does not become clear he will throw the ball away or get sacked while waiting. This being a contributing factor on the way to a 3 and out. In the end Rodgers believes more in his ability to recognize defenses and exploiting them than in the running game or the running play he has just audibles out of. Sadly he makes it work more often than not.

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jlc1's picture

September 18, 2022 at 01:15 pm

Sadly? You a Bears/Vike/Lions fan?

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Tundraboy's picture

September 18, 2022 at 09:05 am

Great Special Teams play?

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jlc1's picture

September 18, 2022 at 01:14 pm

Getting away from the running game often happens when you play from behind. Don't defer MLF. That way the ST is not given a chance to give up points or field position and the D can maybe play more downhill with a possible lead. Just don't defer.

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