First shall be last; Last shall be first
Teams with the lowest passer rating in the first quarter.
Teams with the highest passer rating in the fourth quarter
There is good and bad news for the Green Bay Packers regarding their game against the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field.
The good news: the Bears’ passer rating in the first quarter is the lowest in the NFL. Perhaps Green Bay might jump to a lead and take the crowd out of the game early.
The bad news: the Bears’ passer rating in the fourth quarter is the highest in the NFL. Should Green Bay allow Chicago to hang around, the Packers might return home without the NFC North Division title in tow.
Like television sets of old, the Bears’ passing game takes time to warm up. If recent history holds, Jay Cutler and his receivers won’t be fully operational until after play-by-play man Joe Buck and color analyst Troy Aikman return from commercial at the start of the second quarter.
For Chicago, little happens through the air in the opening 15 minutes. The team has produced an NFL-low 294 net passing yards in the first quarter.
The Bears have earned more than 40 net yards passing in the quarter just once. They’ve gone negative three times, with Green Bay, Carolina and San Francisco holding them down.
Of the three, the Packers were the most effective. They sacked Cutler twice for 23 yards in September and allowed him one completion of minus-2 yards to running back Matt Forte.
That was an all-time, first-quarter low for Chicago in the rivalry. It broke the previous record of minus-15 in the Bears’ 28-7 loss in 1975.
Cutler’s numbers reflect Chicago’s first-quarter struggles. The quarterback has completed 49 of 91 passes for 371 yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions for a rating of 47.5.
His backup, Jason Campbell, has one 9-yard completion in three attempts. Together, the two have combined for a first-quarter rating of 47.3, well behind the 66.1 of the Jets, who rank second-to-last.
The Bears have just one completion of more than 18 yards in the first quarter. Brandon Marshall caught a 29-yarder from Cutler in a 23-17 loss to Seattle, but he had to recover his own fumble to make the gain stand.
Marshall, who leads the league with 101 receptions, has been Chicago’s No. 1 target in the opening period. He’s caught 20 of 34 passes thrown his way for 204 yards and two touchdowns.
Whatever shortcomings the Bears have early on, most dissipate by the fourth quarter. Down the stretch, Chicago rules the roost with a passer rating of 115.6.
Cutler’s numbers in the final 15 minutes look positively robust. His 48 completions in 71 attempts for 730 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions equate to an NFL-best fourth-quarter rating of 127.1.
Campbell isn’t there, but at least he hasn’t thrown an interception. He has 17 completions in 27 attempts for 120 yards, a touchdown and a rating of 85.4 to give the team a rating of 115.6 for the quarter
Instead of one completion of more than 18 yards, Cutler has tossed 14 of that length in the closing quarter. Five have gone for touchdowns.
The Bears have exceeded 40 net yards passing nine times. Their biggest outburst (136 yards) came in last week’s 21-14 loss to the Vikings.
One constant is Marshall as the top target. He has snagged 24 of the 37 fourth-quarter aerials thrown his way for 421 yards and five scores.
The difference between Chicago’s fourth- and first-quarter passer ratings is 68.3 points. The gap is large enough to evoke memories of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (Packers fans can decide which character Cutler most closely resembles).
In Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers at the controls, a more even-keel approach prevails. The Packers’ first-quarter passer rating of 116.5 is similar to their fourth-quarter rating of 110. Both marks rank second in the league.
Maintaining that high level of efficiency for four quarters while preventing the Bears from doing the same would greatly increase the Packers’ chances for a win Sunday.
Overall: Chicago leads 91-86-6.
At Soldier Field: Packers lead 20-19.
Packers: Aaron Rodgers (50-25 overall; 7-2 vs. Chicago).
Bears: Jay Cutler (49-41; 1-6 vs. Green Bay).
Once a Bear, now a Packer
There are no former Bears on the Packers’ roster.
Once a Packer, now a Bear
There are no former Packers on the Bears’ roster.
Eric Goska is a Press-Gazette correspondent, a Packers historian and the author of “Green Bay Packers: A Measure of Greatness,” a statistical history of the Packers. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.