GREEN BAY – The first time the Packers and Bears met this season, way back in Week 1, it was a tale of two halves for Green Bay.
Qaurterback Aaron Rodgers got hurt in the first half, the Packers eventually fell behind 20-0, and the Bears had everything going their way.
What interim head coach Joe Philbin remembers got the Packers back into the game – and eventually winning it, 24-23 – were some concepts that fall into the “old reliable” category.
“With about 2-3 minutes to go in the third quarter, we hit an in-breaking route on third-and-14,” Philbin said, showing impressive recall of a 15-yard pass to Geronimo Allison for a big conversion that led to the Packers’ first touchdown in the game.
“We’ve been doing that route since 2006. Some things never go out of style. It was nothing magical.”
That was Philbin’s message to the players as he showed them some key plays from Week 1 and how the Packers executed them. Solid execution can beat any defense, even one as good as Chicago’s.
He also pointed to a play on the Packers’ next drive in that game, a 51-yard completion to Davante Adams on which running back Jamaal Williams stoned the linebacker blitzing up the middle, and Rodgers had a clean pocket to take advantage of the man-to-man coverage outside.
“There was nobody around Aaron, everybody else picked up their guys, and Davante won his route,” Philbin said. “It’s football. It’s the execution of those fundamentals, and guys winning those one-on-one matchup.”
Heading into Sunday’s rematch at Soldier Field, the Packers will be going with Justin McCray at right guard, with Byron Bell going on injured reserve Wednesday.
McCray began the season as the starter before getting injured and giving way to Bell, so he got a large dose of Akiem Hicks in the first matchup and knows exactly what he’s in for.
“This guy is a competitor and he battles every single play,” Philbin said of McCray. “As a coach you appreciate that.”
With the Bears coming off a throttling of one of the league’s best offenses in the Rams, Philbin said one of the most notable things statistically from that game (other than the turnovers Chicago continually thrives upon) was seeing the Rams in second-and-10 or more roughly 10 or 11 times.
That makes manageable situations on third down harder to come by, and when the opposing offense is well behind the sticks the Bears’ turnover machine can take control.
“It makes it tougher to function,” Philbin said of the lack of production on first down. “It makes your job tougher.”