Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of questions from fans on ChicagoBears.com.
With such a huge game coming up Sunday against the Packers, how would you describe the vibe with Bears players this week at Halas Hall?
Disclaimer: I've been working from home this season because of COVID-19. But by all accounts, I'd say that Bears players appear to be fired up and locked in. They know what's at stake and understand the importance of taking advantage of these types of opportunities. Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano told the media Thursday that he saw an increased intensity level when players returned to Halas Hall Wednesday to begin preparing for Sunday's game against the Packers. Said Pagano: "You could tell, just walking in the building. Different look. Different look in their eye. The sense of urgency, the focus. I think as you guys have probably talked to them, you can sense the same thing. Everybody understands the opportunity in front of us and that these opportunities don't come around very often—let alone it's the Bears versus the Packers and the history behind that game and all that stuff that comes with it." Knowing that players could get overhyped too early in the week due to the magnitude of the game, coach Matt Nagy and his assistants seem to be doing an excellent job of making sure that players keep their emotions in check and don't peak too soon.
Do you anticipate the Bears defense will reduce its soft zone coverage and be more aggressive Sunday against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers?
I'm not certain how they intend to do it, but the Bears know that they must generate a whole lot more pressure on Aaron Rodgers than they did in their Week 12 meeting in Green Bay. In that game, Rodgers threw four touchdown passes in leading the Packers to a 41-25 win without getting sacked or even hit by the Bears. I'm sure the goal is to produce a pass rush like the one that resulted in five sacks of Rodgers in each of his last two trips to Soldier Field—in a 24-17 division-clinching win in 2018 and a 10-3 loss in the 2019 season opener.
It seems to me like the Bears have been much better on third down the last four or five games, helping to sustain drives and put points on the board. Do you have any stats to back up what my eyes have been seeing?
Battle Creek, Michigan
Yes, I do, Roger. While averaging 33.0 points over their last five games, the Bears have converted 41.8 percent of their third-down opportunities (23 of 55) versus only 31.1 percent while averaging 16.7 points in their previous 10 contests (42 of 135). They've converted 6 of 12 third-down chances (50 percent) each of the last two weeks in back-to-back wins over the Vikings and Jaguars. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor on Thursday cited the third-down improvement as a key factor in the offense's resurgence and credited quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, saying: "We've been doing pretty well on third down recently. We'd like to keep that trend going … I think that the key to perform like we've performed on third down recently, you can't do that without the quarterback play … I think that would be an indicator of Mitch's improvement."
Chalk Talk features fan questions multiple times each week. Email your question to Larry.