Joniak: Keys To Bears-Packers

Jeff Joniak
December 13, 2019 - 5:15 pm
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(WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- If the Chicago Bears (7-6) are to beat their archrivals the Packers (10-3) this weekend in Green Bay, Jeff Joniak says the Monsters of the Midway will need to consider these strategies:

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Offense

-Win on first down. The Packers defense is 30th in the league, allowing 6.5 yards per play this season. It is the same key I wrote 15 weeks ago. It continues to be a Matt Nagy preach point. It remains a vital component of winning football. This cannot be a game filled with multiple bogged-down drives fueled by a lack of execution, penalties or mental mistakes. The Bears must come out sharp -- and stay razor sharp for 60 minutes.

-Green Bay is a fast-starting team in both halves offensively and are 8-0 leading at halftime this season. The Bears have to match and surpass the Packers' history of quick starts. The Packers rank third in the league with 98 first quarter points.

Defense

-We expect the return of Pro Bowl defensive lineman Akeim Hicks against the Packers. He tilts the field. He will help significantly in pressuring the pocket up the middle and in stoning the run game.

-The Packers lead the NFL drawing penalties for first downs, with 39. That’s Aaron Rodgers at his best. Don’t jump at the snap. Don’t get sucked into his back-shoulder perfection that draws pass interference or holding.

-Packers running back Aaron Jones has proven to be an ideal fit in Matt LaFluer’s wide-zone run scheme. He is a dual threat weapon with a nose for the end zone, piling up 24 touchdowns in his last 25 games, including 15 this season. The Bears have done a nice job containing him in the last two meetings, and stopping the run is Job No. 1 for the defense. Veteran Jamaal Williams is a weapon as well. Packer backs rank No. 4 (receptions), No.3 (rec yds), and No. 2 (receiving tds-8).

-The Bears have to limit the big play. It is the same key every time they play Aaron Rodgers. He is a magician. Period. Just when you think you’ve stopped him, he makes you pay. The Bears must pressure him, because defenses don’t take the ball away from him. Rodgers has thrown only two picks.

Special teams

-It was a big night in his debut as the Bears kicker 15 weeks ago, and it is going to be a bigger afternoon in Green Bay for Eddy Pineiro. Every single point matters against Aaron Rodgers. Every opportunity in the icy conditions is a big one. It includes kickoffs to limit field positon for the Packers. Pineiro must out-kick Mason Crosby, who has only one miss the entire season.

-The field position tug-of-war is real with Rodgers. Without the benefit of much of a return game most of the season, the Packers got a boost from Tyler Ervin last week. His 51 yards on four returned set the offense up at midfield, the Washington (48), the Green Bay(43), and the Washington (49). The Bears must avoid this happening Sunday.

-At the same time, the duo of Tarik Cohen and Cordarrelle Patterson must be in “anything they can do” mode to get the Bears good field position. We saw how it helped last week against Dallas and helped Matt Nagy call plays and Mitch Trubisky to execute them.

Intangibles

From Sept. 5 to Dec. 15, a lot has changed with the Bears and Packers. The opening disappointment lingered through the first half of the season in some respects for the Bears, while it buoyed the Packers. The thrill of victory in recent weeks has boosted the spirits of the Bears. The hunger is back. Their appetite for winning must be insatiable for 60 minutes.

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.