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Preview: Aaron Rodgers Against The Bears Pass Defense

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Football Outsiders published a story on QB Aaron Rodgers's great game against the Falcons, and wrote about his huge game a couple weeks earlier against the Giants. Sandwiched in between those games (and the Eagles game) was his week 17 game against the Bears. The Packers only scored 10 points, but Rodgers line of 19 of 28 for 229 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT, was pretty good. And it was pretty similar (just not as many passes thrown) as his 34 of 45 for 316 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT in Soldier Field back on September 27th. As much as I'd like the Packers to run it down the Bears throat, that doesn't seem likely to work, and they'll have to rely on the passing game again this week. 

Can they do better than 10 points? The reason they were held to that low total was due to turnovers and penalties. WR Donald Driver fumbled in Chicago territory. A pass to WR Greg Jennings was intercepted after the Packers started a drive in great field position from their 40 yard line. And RT Bryan Bulaga had two huge holding penalties that brought back two big plays that had just drove them into Bears territory. Those four plays ended (or effectively ended) four scoring drives that could have produced another 12 points. 

Kevin Seifert pointed out that Rodgers has "historically struggled to get the ball downfield against the Bears" and noted that QB Matt Hasselbeck didn't complete his first pass downfield until the fourth quarter. Is Hasselbeck capable of throwing deep against any NFL team? The Bears Cover-2 is designed to take away long passes because the safeties play deep, and the cornerbacks play off the receivers until someone enters their zone. But that gives the Packers the opportunity to complete a lot of intermediate passes, and their receivers are good at gaining yards after the catch. 

The passing attack may be limited to taking what the Bears give them, which is fine if they can avoid penalties and turnovers. Obviously that's a big if since that hasn't worked out well in their past two meetings, and they'll be seeing the same referee that contributed to their 18 penalties back in that September game. But avoiding penalties and turnovers are what his teammates are going to have to do in order for Rodgers to slowly lead them down the field.