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4 things to watch: Bears-Packers

Posted Sep 28, 2017

Senior writer Larry Mayer identifies four things to watch Thursday night when the Bears battle the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

The Bears will look to record back-to-back victories Thursday night when they visit the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:

(1) Will the Bears be able to contain star quarterback Aaron Rodgers?

The Bears defense faces a tough task in preparing to battle Rodgers on a short week. "It's not easy," said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. "Obviously we'd like the full complement of a normal week, but it's the third year in a row we've done it up at their place. You just have to deal with it and cram for a final exam as best you can."

A two-time NFL MVP, Rodgers has won 12 of the last 13 games he's started and finished against the Bears. In his last eight games versus the Bears, Rodgers has thrown for 17 touchdowns with just one interception. Asked what makes the Packers quarterback so special, Fox said: "I think just his ability to extend plays. His patience in the pocket. He doesn't spend the afternoon or evening running around too much, but he buys time and puts stress on your rush element as well as your coverage when he extends those plays."

Aaron Rodgers and Leonard Floyd
Bears linebacker Leonard Floyd pursues Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The Bears will counter with a trio of cornerbacks who have played well so far this season; Marcus Cooper Sr., Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller all were credited with two pass breakups in last Sunday's overtime win over the Steelers.

(2) Will the Bears be able to establish an effective running game?

The best way to keep Rodgers and the Packers offense on the sideline will be for the Bears to control the ball and the clock with a productive running attack much like the one that produced 220 yards and two touchdowns last weekend versus Pittsburgh.

Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen have the potential to develop into one of the NFL's most dangerous backfield tandems. Neither could be stopped by the Steelers as "Thunder" (Howard) rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns and "Lightning" (Cohen) added 78 yards. The Bears ran the ball on all four of their plays on their game-winning drive in overtime as Cohen's 36-yard run was followed by Howard's 18-yard gain and 19-yard touchdown.

Similar results on the ground Thursday night in Green Bay no doubt would benefit the Bears passing game. "Anytime you run for that, it should open up the pass game because people have to respect our running game when you run for that many yards," said quarterback Mike Glennon. "That's kind of our identity; we're a run-first team and with those guys up front and our running backs, I think we'll continue to be that."

(3) Will Glennon step up if the Bears need to rely more on their passing game?

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains praised Glennon for doing "exactly what he needed to do" to help the Bears beat the Steelers. With Pittsburgh repeatedly dropping eight defenders into pass coverage and playing two deep safeties, Glennon handed the ball off to Howard and Cohen and threw short checkdown passes underneath the coverage, completing 15 of 22 passes for 101 yards.

Loggains feels that Glennon is more than capable of making longer throws if necessary. "I have plenty of confidence in Mike to be able to do those things and throw the ball down the field," Loggains said. "I thought he threw a really good deep ball early to Markus Wheaton. We had an opportunity to take a shot and we got it and I think it backed them off a little bit and they zoned us out and tried to keep everything in front of them."

Glennon acknowledged that it isn't easy to operate like he did against the Steelers. "You just have to take what the defense gives you and continue to not fall into the trap of that one play," Glennon said. "I'm going to force this one in there and that could be the one that costs you. It's not the easiest thing to do, but you do have to kind of remind yourself to take each play individually."

(4) Will the Bears regain their all-time series lead over the Packers?

The Bears are in jeopardy of trailing the series with their long-time rivals for the first time since 1933, the year that Franklin Roosevelt became President of the United States and prohibition ended.

The series is currently tied 94-94-6, but the Bears have lost 12 of the last 14. The Packers haven't held a lead in the rivalry since they had an 11-10 series advantage entering the 1933 season. The Bears followed by winning five straight and have not trailed since.

The Bears climbed as high as 24 games over .500 in 1960 (50-26) before the Packers closed the gap to 57-47 in 1974. Thanks in part to an eight-game winning streak from 1985-88, the Bears eventually reached a high-water mark of 25 games over in 1992 (81-56). But the Packers have won 38 of 51 meetings since 1992 to tie the series.