Before the Green Bay Packers last game against the Chicago Bears, Mike McCarthy said "if they play Cover-2, you run the ball. If it was as easy as that this game would be a lot easier." He went on to explain that the Bears "have things built into their line for the run game" but looking back over the past three seasons, the success of their run defense might come from somewhere else too.
According to Football Outsiders, the Bears run defense was ranked No. 5 overall in 2008, No. 15 overall in 2009, and No. 7 overall in 2010. That's pretty consistent over that three year period when you factor in that LB Brian Urlacher missed most of 2009 after he dislocated his wrist against the Packers. And it's obvious that the skill of Urlacher makes it possible that a defense designed to stop the deep passing game can also be effective against the running game.
While the Packers haven't shown a dominant rushing attack against the Bears over the past three years, they have had some success. It might be dismissed by the circumstances in each particular game, or it could be a sign that they might be able to run the ball on Sunday.
|Date||Home Team||Leading RB||Carries||Yards||TD|
|November 16, 2008||Packers||Grant||25||145||1|
|December 22, 2008||Bears||Grant||25||61||0|
|September 13, 2009||Packers||Grant||16||61||0|
|December 13, 2009||Bears||Grant||20||137||2|
|September 27, 2010||Bears||Kuhn||6||31||0|
|January 2, 2011||Packers||Starks||5||20||0|
While RB Brandon Jackson had more carries in their past two meetings, it didn't translate into more yards. If you believe that RB James Starks is almost as good as RB Ryan Grant, then you'll notice that Grant has had two monster games against the Bears recently. While Starks had some good carries against the Falcons, Football Outsiders said he was by far the worst running back in the NFL last weekend. If you don't believe that it was his fault, then the Packers had the worst run blocking of any team last weekend. The blame is different, but the poor results remain the same.
However Grant's two 100+ yard games might be more of a fluke then something to exploit. The game in 2008 was a 37 to 3 blowout in which the Packers could do no wrong and the Bears could do no right. As mentioned above, 2009 was a lost season for Urlacher, and his absence from their December 2009 meeting was a big reason why Grant had another big game. That gives me some reason to believe in the Packers ground game, and that Starks could have a big game in Grant's place, but it's not very promising.
The good news is that Football Outsiders also confirmed that QB Aaron Rodgers was epic last weekend, and he had one of the "top 15 games of the past 18 years." The passing game is going to have to carry them again on Sunday.