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Mike Vandermause column: Numbers staggering in recent domination of Bears

Nov. 2, 2013
 
Green Bay Packers' Clay Matthews sacks Chicago Bears' Jay Cutler during last season's game at Lambeau Field on Sept. 13, 2012. File/Gannett Wisconsin Media
Green Bay Packers' Clay Matthews sacks Chicago Bears' Jay Cutler during last season's game at Lambeau Field on Sept. 13, 2012. File/Gannett Wisconsin Media

The results say it all.

For more than two decades, the Green Bay Packers have absolutely dominated the Chicago Bears.

It’s the oldest, most-storied rivalry in the NFL and will continue when the two teams meet for the 187th time Monday night at Lambeau Field.

But starting with a 17-3 victory in November 1992 at Soldier Field, the Packers own a staggering 31-11 record against the Bears.

Whether the teams play in Green Bay or Chicago, on Sunday afternoon or Monday night, under sunny skies or in miserable conditions, the Packers have turned this so-called rivalry into a one-sided affair.

Winning three out of every four games against a bitter rival for a span of nearly a quarter-century isn’t just a coincidence. The Packers have the Bears’ number and have no intention of putting down the leash.

“I can’t see how you wouldn’t be frustrated,” Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said of the Bears consistently being on the short end against the Packers.

It’s not as if the Bears have been a bad team in recent years. They bottomed out in the late 1990s when they finished last in the division four straight seasons. But since 2001, they have won the division title four times, appeared in one Super Bowl and two NFC championship games.

And yet, through good seasons and bad, the Bears consistently wilt at the sight of the Packers.

Head coaches and quarterbacks have changed in Green Bay over the years, but the results have stayed the same.

Brett Favre was 22-10 against the Bears; Aaron Rodgers is 9-2. Mike Holmgren was 12-2 vs. Chicago, Mike Sherman 8-4. Current coach Mike McCarthy is 10-5, including 8-1 since 2009.

Even during the best of times for the Bears, such as in 2010 when they won the NFC North and advanced to the NFC title game, they couldn’t escape the Packers’ curse.

That was the year the Packers beat the Bears in the regular-season finale just to qualify for the playoffs, then came to Soldier Field and smothered them again to claim the NFC championship and go on to win the Super Bowl.

The Bears’ mounting frustrations came to light last year when receiver Brandon Marshall proclaimed: “I don't like the Green Bay Packers. I’m not going to use the word ‘hate,’ but I really dislike the Packers and their players.”

That was in between the Packers’ pummeling of the Bears 23-10 in September and again 21-13 in December.

Lovie Smith was fired as Bears coach after last season in part because he lost his grip on the Packers-Bears rivalry.

Smith declared upon getting hired in Chicago in 2004 that his No. 1 goal was to beat the Packers, but he won just two of his final 11 games in the series and finished 8-11 overall.

The primary reason the Packers have held the upper hand for so long revolves around the quarterback position.

The Packers have featured just three starting quarterbacks since 1992 — Favre and Rodgers, in addition to Matt Flynn for two non-Bears starts.

During that time, the Bears have slogged their way through 26 starting quarterbacks. And that’s just the starters. The forgettable, if not wince-worthy list of quarterbacks includes Peter Tom Willis, Will Furrer, Steve Walsh, Rick Mirer, Steve Stenstrum, Moses Moreno, Shane Matthews, Cade McNown, Jim Miller, Chris Chandler, Henry Burris, Rex Grossman, Chad Hutchinson and Jonathan Quinn.

Interactive graphic: Bears suffer through 26 QBs since Favre’s debut

The Packers didn’t see all of those signal callers in head-to-head matchups, but the point is a team starved for competent play at the game’s most important position is bound to struggle.

Year after year, decade after decade, the Packers have trotted out a better quarterback than the Bears, hands down, which makes their superiority in the series understandable.

Jay Cutler has added stability in Chicago in recent years, but he’s no Rodgers and has a 1-6 record as a starter against the Packers. The injured Cutler won’t play Monday and will give way to yet another journeyman in Josh McCown, who has a 13-20 career record as an NFL starter.

The Packers also have a healthy mindset going for them as they prepare for the Bears. McCarthy couldn’t stress enough this past week the importance of the rivalry.

“This is definitely the game,” McCarthy said. “I mean, this is the game every year. In my humble opinion, this is the game in the NFL.”

McCarthy makes certain his team will never forget it.

“When it comes to Bear week, you get this special video of just the history of the Packers and the Bears,” Williams said. “What happened in the past games and you just kind of feed into that. It’s year after year we continue to do it. It’s a historical game. We continue feeding off that every year.”

Players in the locker room are listening intently to the message.

Cornerback and special teams ace Jarrett Bush knew exactly how many games have been played in the series, thanks to McCarthy’s emphasis on history.

“It is definitely the biggest rivalry in the NFL,” Bush said. “It’s Packers-Bears. You have to get amped up for it. If you can’t get amped up, there’s something wrong with you.”

By comparison, new Bears coach Marc Trestman seems to be taking a clinical approach to the rivalry.

“It’s only one game,” Trestman said. “I think that we all understand the effect that it would have in the standings at this stage of the season, but there’s still a whole season to play afterwards.”

Trestman wasn’t even willing to concede the road to the NFC North title goes through Green Bay, even though the Packers are the two-time defending division champs and currently occupy first place.

“To think that way disrespects other teams in the division,” Trestman said, “and I wouldn’t want to do that.”

While it sounds like yet another recipe for defeat against the Packers, maybe a new philosophy is needed in Chicago.

The Packers have pulled within four games in the all-time series (91-87-6), the closest they’ve been since 1941. So something is required to give the Bears a spark. Whatever they’ve tried for the past 20 years clearly isn’t working.

mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

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