With keys to the game and Schreck's picks.
With Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith saying it, it sounds backward.
“We’re anxious to see how we match up against them,” he said of Sunday’s nationally televised game against Green Bay at Lambeau Field.
The past few years, with Smith’s Bears capturing back-to-back NFC North titles and reaching the most recent Super Bowl, it’s been more of a comparison for the Packers to make to measure their progress.
The standings might seem upside down to some observers, with the Packers on top at 4-0 and Chicago and Minnesota at the bottom at 1-3.
The calendar says it’s only early October, yet getting late for the Bears. A turning point is what Chicago needs, and they figure this is the perfect time and place for one.
“One win is all we need to get us going in the right direction,” veteran offensive guard Ruben Brown said. “Once you win, it’s like everybody gets into it, gets a little more excited, a little more hungry. We want that next win.
“This is a good time for us. Our backs are against the wall, we’re playing our rivals, it’s exciting for the city and us. What better way to get on a winning streak than playing your rival and hopefully come out with a victory?”
Defensive tackle Tommie Harris was careful not to guarantee a win. Looking directly into a camera, he said, “When I say win, I’m going to speak like we want to win the game. Brett Favre, nothing against you. Don’t even let the media pump this up. We want to win, we need to win. That’s what I’m saying.
“That’s what it all comes down to. We have to win this game.”
Don’t, and you’re four games out in your division. There aren’t many shovels made for digging out of a hole that deep.
Veteran quarterback Brian Griese, who will make his second Bears start tonight, figures there are two to three turning points in every season.
“I don’t have any doubts this could be one of them,” he said. “The sense of urgency you talk about is there. I think guys understand not only the importance of this game, but where we are, being a road game in the division. You put that on top of the history of this rivalry, I think the guys understand this is a game that is very important to us.”
The Bears have to fix their own deficiencies while dealing with a team that is finding ways to win — eight straight times dating to last year.
Green Bay will seek its first 5-0 start since 1965. Yes, before even Brett Favre was born.
“They’re a very good football team,” Chicago rookie running back Garrett Wolfe said. “They’re executing. They’re doing everything they need to do, and clicking on all cylinders.
“You can’t help but be envious of any team that is undefeated and things seem to be going their way. But we feel like we’re the controllers of our own destiny. If we play well, we can have a 4-0 record next quarter as well.”
Said Griese: “It’s no secret. They’re a good defensive team. They have been good all year. Going back to last year, they’re very physical. The corners get up in your face and challenge you. The linebackers have good speed and tackle well. They’re going to challenge us. Nothing is going to be given to us. It’s a challenge I think we’re ready to meet.”
Much of the focus on Green Bay has been on its ability to win despite having a near nonexistent running game.
“They haven’t really had to run it,” Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer said. “If the pass is working, and you’ve got Brett Favre back there, then why not do that? I think a lot of times, this isn’t necessarily true for them, but a lot of times if you get that quick passing game working, it has the same effect as runs. It’s underneath, and all the pass coverages are over the top of it. It has the same effect of getting gains in little chunks.”
Still, the Bears can’t change their game plan. Can they?
“I think they’re definitely going to try and establish the run,” defensive tackle Darwin Walker said. “I don’t know that they don’t run the ball. They do run the ball. They haven’t had success.
“Every week when we play, we have to try to stop the run and get them in a one-dimensional game.”
The timing might be just what the Bears need, as they have won their last three games at Lambeau.
And as Smith said, “It’s always good to have an opponent like Green Bay coming up to really bring out the best in you.”
A turning-point game?
“Yes, I would definitely say that,” Smith said. “As you start that second quarter, you have a chance. You can look at the first quarter a little bit. You find out a lot in the preseason, but you have to play regular-season games to know exactly where you are. Once you establish where you are, then you have to start — in our case, make improvement and start getting headed in the direction that we planned on, and that’s where we are right now.
“So yes, I would definitely say that this is a game like that. Division game. Green Bay. As much as anything, it’s the next game on our schedule and we need to play well against someone.”
Keys to the game
* One thing hasn’t changed strategically over the years — pressure Brett Favre. Chicago’s front four has to go above and beyond with an unsettled secondary behind them.
* Pound the ball. Minnesota broke off several long runs last week against the Packers. This will help Brian Griese’s passing game in his second start.
* Play with a sense of urgency. They need this game more than Green Bay does. Sometimes that can be the difference.
Register Star NFL writer Reed Schreck picks this weekend’s games:
Green Bay 20, Chicago 16
Carolina 13, New Orleans 10
Kansas City 21, Jacksonville 20
Washington 30, Detroit 26
Tennessee 24, Atlanta 14
Houston 19, Miami 13
Pittsburgh 24, Seattle 21
New England 34, Cleveland 20
Arizona 27, St. Louis 26
NY Giants 27, NY Jets 23
Indianapolis 23, Tampa Bay 10
San Diego 20, Denver 17
Baltimore 7, San Francisco 6
Dallas 20, Buffalo 14
Last week: 8-6, .571.
Season: 43-19, .694
Reed Schreck is the NFL Writer for the Rockford Register Star. Contact him at 815-987-1381 or firstname.lastname@example.org.