The Green Bay Packers have absolutely dominated the Chicago Bears since Aaron Rodgers became the starting quarterback, and once again this year there is a huge gap in talent between the two teams. The Bears haven’t beaten a healthy Rodgers since 2010 and it won’t be any easier this year between a lack of talent and learning new systems on both sides of the ball, which can be very tough early in the season.
However, the only real matchup advantage the Bears have in this game is Matt Forte against a Green Bay run defense that will be without two contributors and is suspect to begin with. Everyone remembers how Rodgers torched the Bears in Chicago last year after his famous “r-e-l-a-x” line, but what gets lost in the shuffle is how Forte was absolutely wearing down the Green Bay defense early in the game.
The only thing that stopped Forte was when the Bears got behind because of a Tramon Williams tip that went into the arms of Clay Matthews and the Packers ended up going ahead. Thus, Chicago had to abandon the running game with the pace Green Bay was scoring at. Forte had ran for 122 yards and 5.3 yards per carry in that game, and it seemed even worse than that in the first half. To Green Bay’s credit, Forte was shut down in the second matchup with Clay Matthews in the middle, but again the Packers went up huge early.
The Chicago offensive line is different than from last year with Will Montgomery at center, Vladamir Ducasse at right guard and Kyle Long moving from right guard to right tackle. Long hasn’t played tackle since college and Ducasse is nothing more than a backup at best, so it’s difficult to know if it will be a better unit than last year. You can expect the Bears to challenge the Green Bay run defense to try to keep Rodgers on the sideline as long as possible and to wear down a defensive line that will be playing shorthanded with Letroy Guion and Datone Jones suspended. Mike Pennel will be a big factor and will have to play as well as he did in the preseason. If the Bears do have early running success Dom Capers might have to go to the base defense earlier than he did in that first game.
In addition to stopping Forte on the ground, he will have to be contained coming out of the backfield in the pass game. Forte caught over 100 passes last year, which is incredible for a running back. Although, a lot of it had to do with Marc Trestman’s system, so don’t expect the same volume this season. However, Forte has always been dangerous catching passes, and it should be a big part of the game plan for the Bears in this matchup. Sam Barrington matched up against Forte one-on-one in the open field won’t end well for the Packers, just as it didn’t against Darren Sproles and company in the third preseason game against Philadelphia.
If the Bears can force Clay Matthews into pass coverage to stop Forte and Martellus Bennett that’s a huge win for them to take pressure off a suspect offensive line by having Green Bay’s best pass rusher in coverage more often.
Forte is really the only hope for the Bears in this game. They have no matchup advantages anywhere on the field. Especially on defense, where they just don’t have the horses to contain the high-powered Packers attack. If the Packers can contain Forte they will win the game going away. But, if Forte goes off in both the running and passing game the Bears should be able to make it a competitive game.