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Three Keys To A Bears Victory Over The Green Bay Packers.....

Rock Mamola

Producer/Host on WSCR 670AM The Score.

Finally the week of hype has ended and now all that is on the horizon is the game.  I am sorry.  I should have written THE GAME instead.  The greatest game in Bears Packers history since the last time these two teams hooked up in the playoffs back before our current President was even born.  If you were wondering, President Barack Obama did pick the Bears (his favorite NFL team outside the Pittsburgh Steelers) to win 20-17.   All the talk, all the press conferences, all the back and forth between Bear Nation and Packer is time to get to business.
It is almost impossible to point out exactly what will be the difference in this game no matter if  you are a fair weather fan or the greatest NFL expert around.  Most of those NFL experts (I do not consider myself one of those) had the Chicago Bears to finish with no more than nine wins this season anyway.  You can talk about everything from trends to field conditions, there is not one singular thing that you can point at to convince me that the Bears will win because of _______ or the Packers will win because of ________.
With that being said, of everything we have heard this week and believe will are my top three things that the Bears must do to head to their first Super Bowl since 2006. 

Number one is simple, start fast.  Looking at the splits on the season when the Bears score first and games they do not, the comparison is quite similar.  When the Bears score first this season they have won six out of eight games while on the flip side when the opponent scores first the Bears have won five of the other eight contests.  However when you dive into the games a little more at home, the Bears trailed at the half in five of their eight games at home.  The Bears came back to win three of those games (vs. DET (down 1)/vs. GB (down 3)/vs. NYJ (down 7))

Looking at the current four game winning streak of the Packers, their defense has only allowed 23 points total in the second half of games.  While the Green Bay defense has been closing the door on the last four opponents in the second half, the Packer offense has scored 61 points (+38) combined in the second half of this winning streak.  While many this past week have stressed that the Bears need to continue the balance they have had on offense since the bye week, it is even more important to make sure the Bears offense scores in the first half.  Mike Martz should test the Green Bay 3-4 defense by going down the field early, because if the Bears trail the Packers by more than a touchdown at the half I would really worry about the home team's chances in the second half against the green and gold's defense.
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Number two is what I believe is the so called "X-Factor" of the Bears defense, Julius Peppers.  The 92 million dollar man who has averaged 10.125 sacks per season before signing with the Bears has had a down year in the sack total, but no doubt his presence has been felt.  Although I will argue that teams do not pay players 92 million dollars (42 million guaranteed) because they can pressure the quarterback, Julius Peppers is exactly what this Tampa Two based defense needed.  The Bears' defense needed a jolt of energy and someone on the defensive line that not only could get to the quarterback on every play, but also gets the respect of the opposing offense (i.e. double teams).  Peppers is without a sack in his last four games and the defense has eight total sacks over the last four games with half of those coming against third string QB Joe Webb and a crippled aged Brett Favre.  That simply is not enough. 

Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback left in the NFL postseason and the Bears need to get pressure on him.  In 82 snaps of the ball, the Bears have only gotten to Rodgers twice and the Bears cannot win this game with that continued lack luster performance out of their defensive line.  The Packers are not a run first team, no matter the recent surge of production from James StarksAaron Rodgers will be throwing the ball a lot on Sunday afternoon at the lakefront, and the Bears simply cannot allow him the time to make the throws he has been making as of late.  If one person needs to step up his game on the defense and be that difference maker, it has to be Julius Peppers.  This is the game, this is the stage, this is the time to prove his worth to Bears fans and what better opponent to start a legacy with the Chicago Bears than teeing off on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
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What more can we say about Jay Cutler that has not been said already.  Coming off his first career playoff game where he matched a mark only set by the great Otto Graham throwing for two touchdowns and running for two as well.  For sure in a quarterback's league you need to have good play out of your own to win the big ballgame.  Last week the Bears faced one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL and Cutler torched the Seattle Seahawks for 274 yards and two touchdowns without throwing an interception. 

This week will be a different test for #6 in that he is facing a defense he has only one career win against.  In five games against the Green Bay Packers, Jay Cutler has a career 57% completion percentage with five touchdowns and nine interceptions and a career quarterback rating of 65.  The 65 quarterback rating is  his career low against a team he has faced more than twice in his career.  This season the Packer defense has held Cutler to a 56% completion percentage with one touchdown and three interceptions with a quarterback rating of 59.5.  The Packer defense this season has held Cutler to a lower completion percentage and lower quarterback rating in the two games played than his career numbers.  Say what you will about the offensive line allowing nine sacks of Cutler in two games this season against the Packers.  Look at the Bears balance in the two games against Green Bay where it was 66% pass and 33% runJay Cutler in his career simply is not good at home or on the road against the Green Bay Packers defense.  He has yet to have a game against Green Bay where he throws more touchdowns than interceptions as a Chicago Bear.  Much like Julius Peppers, there is as much (if not more) pressure on Jay Cutler to perform in the biggest moment in franchise history since another "punky QB" took under center at Soldier Field.  While the playoff debut was indeed a spectacle, it would be even more impressive if Jay Cutler were to defy the trend he has set and beat Green Bay in convincing fashion.
Of everything that has been said this week, do the Chicago Bears have a shot at going to the Super Bowl?  Of course they do, but the road to Dallas is not easy even with the so-called home field advantage (road teams 5-3 this playoffs).  While this season has been a complete surprise and the Bears have proved all their critics wrong, looking into one single statistic or complaint about the Soldier Field turf will not decide this game.  The game is played on the field no matter how much hype precedes it, and that is where the Bears need to put the bow tie on this magical ride of 2010.
I believe in the Bears but I also know its about who is hot at the right time when it comes to the playoffs.
Green Bay wins 23-13.
Then again, the Bears are 6-0 when they lose the coin toss this season.....
John "Rock" Mamola is the Associate Producer of The Mully And Hanley Morning Show and host of The Rock Report on WSCR 670AM The Score
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