Larry Mayer and Eli Kaberon of ChicagoBears.com discuss the Bears players they'll be watching on both sides of the ball in Sunday night's road game against the Green Bay Packers:
Offense: Kyle Long
The Bears' MVP of the first half of the season figures to play a significant role against the Packers, who rank last in the NFL in run defense. Forte rushed for a season-high 122 yards in a Week 4 loss to Green Bay and likely will be leaned on again as the Bears have made no secret of their desire to establish the run and be more balanced on offense.
"I think it's important to do whatever we have to do to move the ball," said coach Marc Trestman. "Running the ball is certainly a big part of that. We've shown we can run the football against them. We have been able to do that in the times that we've played them over the last couple years. So that will be a big part of what we're trying to accomplish."
Forte has three straight 100-yard outings against the Packers; the only backs with four in a row since 1960 are Walter Payton and Barry Sanders. Forte ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing with 562 yards, second in receptions (58) and third in yards from scrimmage (1,052).
Defense: Jared Allen
Since the third week of the 2007 season, defensive end Jared Allen has started 117 of 118 games. The only contest he missed was the Bears' Week 4 loss to the Packers due to pneumonia. Allen's presence Sunday night figures to give the pass rush a huge boost against Aaron Rodgers.
In the first meeting between the longtime rivals Sept. 28 at Soldier Field, Rodgers led the Packers to five touchdowns and one field goal on their first six possessions. He completed 22 of 28 passes for 302 yards with four TDs and a 151.2 passer rating while not being sacked.
"He's one of the best," Allen said. "I'll bet when his career is over, he'll be up there with the all-time greats. When he gets into that rhythm, it's a scary thing to be on the other side of the ball."
Allen's 130 career sacks are the most by any player since he entered the NFL in 2004. That includes 16 sacks in 13 games against the Packers.
Offense: Jay Cutler
There are some stats that Jay Cutler can't hide from this week: the eight interceptions he's thrown this season—all in losses—or his 1-8 career record as the Bears' starting quarterback versus the Packers. Not that Cutler is trying to hide. When speaking to the media Thursday, he said he puts the onus on himself to get the Bears back in the win column, starting with Sunday night's contest at Lambeau Field.
"Quite a bit, quite a bit," Cutler said of the burden he places on himself to turn the season around. "All quarterbacks put a lot of pressure on themselves, look at themselves as leaders of the team and energize guys throughout the week and get everyone Sunday ready to play."
Cutler has the chance to redeem himself versus the Packers. When the teams met in Week 4, he was flawless in the first half, completing more than 71 percent of his passes while throwing for 173 yards and two touchdowns. However, he struggled after halftime, as Chicago was shut out over the final 30 minutes of the game. The Bears need Cutler to put together four full quarters of strong play to ensure there's no more reason to even consider hiding from certain stats.
Defense: Lance Briggs
Lance Briggs came right out and said it Wednesday: "I understand this is probably my last year as a Chicago Bear, and this could be the last time I play the Packers."
The comment was not surprising as much as it was startling to hear. Sunday will be the 23rd time Briggs lines up against the Green Bay, and No. 55 has been a key player in many of the battles over the past 11 years. To really put his stamp on the rivalry, however, Briggs could go out with a bang and have a big game under the lights this weekend.
Briggs has been out since Week 5 because of a rib injury, and his return should spark the Chicago defense. The linebacker is strong against the run and is one of Chicago's best pass defenders at the position, and should be on the field plenty in the team's nickel defense against Green Bay's three- and four-wide receiver sets. The Bears defense has been in need of a playmaker on the second level. Briggs has a chance to be that player in what he believes will be his finale in the longtime rivalry.