Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said in interviews this week “he’s got everything.”
Lance Briggs called him “one of, if not the best quarterback in the league right now.”
But despite Aaron Rodgers’ 5-2 record as a starter (including the playoffs) against Chicago and reputation as one of the league’s top signal-callers, the Bears — somehow — have been largely successful at defending him.
Don’t think so?
Well, in seven career games against the Bears, Rodgers completed close to 67 percent of his passes, but threw just seven touchdowns compared to five interceptions, in addition to suffering 10 sacks. He’s averaged just 234.3 yards passing against the Bears, which falls short of his career average of 265.6 yards.
Urlacher credits the team’s success against Rodgers to the tendency for opposing quarterbacks to lose their patience against the Bears’ Cover-2 defense, which is designed to require passers to work the ball down the field with several short throws, as opposed to long heaves for large chunks of yardage.
“We do play a lot of Cover 2 against them,” Urlacher said. “I think they get a little frustrated. I’m not sure they do, but we think they do. So we keep doing it.”
That doesn’t mean the Bears plan to allow past success against Rodgers to creep into their psyche when it comes to trying to defend him.
After all, Rodgers’ career passer rating of 99.5 ranks him as the best of all time. Besides that, he’s torched both the Saints and Panthers through the first two weeks of the season, completing 70.8 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Rodgers currently owns a passer rating of 126.4, which ranks him second in the NFL behind Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady.
“he’s very poised for a guy who hasn’t started that many years for the Packers,” Briggs said. “He has a crazy amount of poise in the pocket, and then, he’s got some quick legs. The guy gets out of the pocket and he can outrun a lot of guys. He’s dangerous in a lot of ways.”
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli explained that the most lethal weapon in Rodger’s arsenal is his lightning-quick release, which cuts a rusher’s time to get to him, and simultaneously siphons away the precious few seconds it takes for a defensive back to make a break on the ball.
Green Bay’s solid offensive line, and athletic crew of receiving targets, only complicate matters for a Bears defense, which currently ranks 26th against the pass, and was torched for three touchdowns last week by Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
“He’s got an unbelievable release. The ball really comes out quick,” Marinelli said. “He’s a tremendous competitor. Then you add his mobility. When he breaks, boy, he’s tough. He’s accurate and he’ll run. But he is extremely accurate outside of the pocket. And you know, the other thing that helps him I think is the [team’s] run attempts. They go out and run, and you have to prepare in every personnel group to stop the run. The o-line is very physical too. So I think the balance really helps them.”
The last time the teams met, the Packers walked away victorious in the NFC title game, before later defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl. Many of the Bears avoid watching film of that 30-17 loss.
For them, perhaps the best way to erase that memory — at least temporarily — is to create a new one with a victory Sunday at Soldier Field. Bears coach Lovie Smith said he’s gone over the video from the NFC title game “just to try to pick up a few things,” adding that his players don’t need to re-watch the game to conjure up the bad memories.
“It’s a matter of preference,” said Smith, when asked if there’s anything to be gleaned from the players by re-watching the NFC championship. “You don’t forget that feeling. We don’t need to go back and watch the game. We all can go back into the moment right away, know what we were feeling at the end of the game. We remember that empty feeling at the end. The good thing about football is you get another chance.”