Notebook: Packers Expecting Bears' Best Shot

At 4-0, the Packers on Sunday night will have a chance to put the 1-3 Bears four games out in the NFC North race with 11 to play. It’s a huge opportunity for Green Bay against the defending conference champions, but it’s also exactly why the Packers are expecting the Bears’ best game. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Bears Game Center Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Oct. 3


Despite the Chicago Bears' 1-3 start, none of the Green Bay Packers is about to write off the arch-rival just yet.

At 4-0, the Packers on Sunday night will have a chance to put the Bears four games out in the NFC North race with 11 to play. It's a huge opportunity for Green Bay against the defending conference champions, but it's also exactly why the Packers are expecting the Bears' best game.

"They're looking at this as the game to rebound," linebacker Brady Poppinga said. "If there is a game, this is the best one to do it."

The first thing Chicago needs to do to rebound is get healthy, and it's unclear how much progress will be made on that front this week. Safety Mike Brown and defensive tackle Dusty Dvorachek were lost for the season in Week 1, and several other starters on their vaunted defense have missed time due to injuries.

On Wednesday, linebacker Lance Briggs (hamstring), defensive tackle Tommie Harris (knee) and cornerbacks Charles Tillman (ankle) and Nathan Vasher (groin) all missed practice entirely, so their availability for Sunday is in question.

The Packers aren't going to spend the week wondering who's going to play, however. The game will still come down to execution, no matter who takes the field.

"It's their scheme you have to beat," tight end Bubba Franks said. "They play their scheme pretty good, as good as any other team who plays that same scheme. We're going to have to be pretty sharp this week and get ready to play.

"I expect them to come out fired up. They've been down, they're 1-3 right now. I see them looking at this game as a stepping stone to get back on track."

The Bears are banged up on offense, too. Starting offensive tackle John Tait (ankle) and backup running back Adrian Peterson (calf) did not practice on Wednesday.

But nobody in Green Bay is jumping to conclusions. Quarterback Brett Favre pointed out that last year the Packers started 1-4 and were written off by many. Four weeks later, the team was 4-5 and remained in the hunt for an NFC Wild Card spot until the final weekend.

"It's early in the year," Favre said. "Chicago has been beat up. I think they're going to be right in the middle of this race at the end. I have no doubts in my mind they will be. They're too good of a football team."

Good enough that they're going to defend their NFC crown to the very end, the way the Packers see it.

"We're expecting the Super Bowl Bears, and that's good for us too," said defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, who also noted he hasn't forgotten that the Bears came into Lambeau Field and beat the Packers 26-0 last season. "We have to be ready."

Making adjustments

The Packers have enjoyed so much success the past three weeks with their short-to-intermediate passing game that they're expecting defenses to start making adjustments to take some of those routes away.

Favre said on Wednesday he wouldn't be surprised to see more jamming by defensive backs at the line of scrimmage, to throw the timing off on the short routes. Combine that with a blitzing linebacker or some stunting on the defensive line, and defenses could start mixing things up enough to disrupt the Packers' offensive rhythm.

But that's not a cure-all, obviously, or teams would have started doing that more by now.

"The downside if you're a defensive coordinator is if one guy gets beat off the jam or whatever, it can be a big play," Favre said. "I'm not a defensive coordinator, but there's kind of a catch-22 approach in that 'We want to keep everything in front of us, but yet we don't want to allow them to complete 12 in a row down the field.' At some point you roll the dice but also (try) not (to) give up the big play."

Head Coach Mike McCarthy believes if teams do begin jamming more at the line, his receivers will be ready for it. The Packers play primarily bump-and-run defense, so the receivers have gone against that type of coverage from Charles Woodson and Al Harris on a daily basis.

McCarthy said it's simply up to the receivers to win the man-to-man battles.

"It's good to keep our skills sharpened because people who want to get up and challenge you to stop your passing game are going to play you man-to-man," McCarthy said.

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In his first game of 2007, running back Vernand Morency had one rushing attempt and three pass receptions, and emerged from the game with nothing more than expected soreness in his injured knee.

Morency is not even on this week's injury report for the first time this season, perhaps the best indication that he's capable of handling a larger workload this week should it be needed.

"Whatever the coach wants me to do, I'm here to do," Morency said. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity, and just having fun out there with the opportunities."

Injury update

Defensive end Michael Montgomery (knee) practiced for the first time all season on Wednesday, though on a limited basis. Montgomery injured his knee in the second preseason game and has been out of action since.

Two players - running back Brandon Jackson (shin) and offensive tackle Chad Clifton (illness) - missed practice on Wednesday.

Everyone else on the Packers' injury report practiced on a limited basis. They were cornerbacks Al Harris (back) and Charles Woodson (foot), safety Nick Collins (knee), defensive end Cullen Jenkins (ribs), defensive tackle Corey Williams (back), center Scott Wells (hamstring), wide receiver Greg Jennings and tight end Bubba Franks.

Jennings' and Franks' limitations were listed as "team decision," meaning the coaches are just being extra cautious regarding the hamstring and knee injuries, respectively, the two have been recovering from.

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