3 things to watch vs. Bears
Capers vs. Cutler
The coaches keep changing, but the results stay the same for Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears. It has been five years since Jay Cutler picked up his only win over the Green Bay Packers. As well as he has played at times under first-year offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Cutler struggled in the regular-season opener against Green Bay, completing only 18 of 36 passes for 225 yards with a touchdown and interception. He has won only one of his 12 matchups with the Packers, fashioning a 67.2 passer rating. It doesn’t take a skilled mathematician to realize those kind of numbers won’t get it done when you’re competing against the Packers and Aaron Rodgers, who possesses the best passer rating (105.6) in NFL history. While all of the wins haven’t come with Dom Capers coordinating Green Bay’s defense, there seems to be something about his zone-blitz scheme that flusters Cutler. The turnovers have decreased this year – nine in nine games – but give the opposing defense opportunities throughout the course of a game. Cutler still has a lot of arm talent and plenty of weapons around him, including tight end Martellus Bennett. Unlike Sunday’s 19-17 loss to Denver, he should have receiver Alshon Jeffery (groin) back in the lineup. “I think it’s obviously one of his better years,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “You can tell he’s being a lot smarter with the ball and not trying to make as many plays, just playing smart.”
More than Forte
The Bears’ run game no longer is just built around Matt Forte. While the 30-year-old running back has missed three games with a sprained MCL, rookie fourth-round pick Jeremy Langford has produced 366 total yards and four touchdowns in his absence. Forte returned to practice this week on a limited basis and told Chicago media Tuesday that he feels “good enough to go.” The Packers struggled to stop Forte in the opener, providing little resistance in his 141-yard day. It marked the fourth time in the teams’ last five meetings that Forte has eclipsed the century mark. Green Bay contained Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson (13 carries for 45 yards) as well as it ever has under Capers in Sunday’s 30-13 win over the Vikings. Overall, the Packers are probably better than their 22nd-ranked run defense suggests, but are still feeling the effects from the yardage they allowed to Forte, St. Louis’ Todd Gurley (159 yards), and Denver’s C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman (161 yards). “Obviously, Forte has been banged up,” defensive tackle B.J. Raji said. “I don’t know his situation, but their backfield has looked great. They’ve done some different combinations up front, and they look pretty physical. It just seems like they’re in sync.”
Up and running
The Packers scored on seven of their 11 meaningful possessions in Sunday’s win over the Vikings, but it wasn’t just the points that made the difference against the Vikings. Green Bay had only two three-and-outs after registering five against Detroit and six against Carolina. The ability to get running back Eddie Lacy involved allowed the offense to establish rhythm early. Lacy, who sat out against the Lions with a groin injury, racked up a season-high 100 yards on 22 carries. The Packers possessed the ball for at least two minutes on eight series. The ground production lessened the burden on quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who tied his career-high with 48 passes against the Carolina and then reset it the following week with 61 against the Lions. Lacy (ankle) was a full participant in Tuesday’s practice, an indication he should be full go to play against the Bears. Before Sunday, he had his best showing of the season in the opener in Chicago when he ran for 85 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries (4.5 yards per attempt). The Bears, under first-year coordinator Vic Fangio, feature the NFL’s fourth-ranked pass defense, so establishing the run will be important. “He just feels back into the rhythm,” running backs coach Sam Gash said. “I think maybe early, he was trying to get the perfect run every time as opposed to just using what God gave him. That’s his balance, his size and foot quickness to get downhill and run through people. That’s what he does and what he’s good at.”
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