January 20, 2021

Hub Arkush: Bears hard at work, but in the holiday spirit on Thanksgiving Day

Players, coaches all focused on a must win, meaning of Bears-Packers rivalry

So what happened at Halas Hall on Thanksgiving Day?

Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor did his level best to not spill the beans on who will be at quarterback vs. the Packers Sunday night but may have come up a foot or two short on fourth down.

Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano dished on the difficulties of dealing with one of the NFL’s greatest artists in Aaron Rodgers.

And various players and coaches told us that even if this wasn’t the most important game of the season for the Bears right now, Bears-Packers still matters and they understand the gravity of the rivalry.

The Vikings game was big, a chance to turn the season around, keep the Bears in great shape in the playoff chase while retaining a bit of room for error and take their bye time off feeling good about themselves.

It didn’t happen, and it also made Sunday night’s battle with the Packers do-or-die. While a loss in Green Bay won’t mathematically eliminate the Bears, it will for all practical purposes make their playoff hopes a pipe dream.

And heading into a game of that magnitude with a quarterback controversy is challenge enough for anyone.

Now let’s be honest, Matt Nagy knows who he’s going with but what good can come of his sharing it with all of us and least of all sharing it with the Packers?

That left Lazor trying to discus his preparation with repeated ifs, ands and buts until even he couldn’t take it any more and shared this.

“They see the injury report, they know who has practiced and who hasn't practiced yet," Lazor said. "So, I'm not sitting in their staff rooms with them, but I'm sure coach (Mike) Pettine is making his plans based on best guess.

“I'm trying to answer the questions about Mitch honestly like I always do without giving any information. I think everybody understands who practiced and didn't and what Mitch's great abilities that he brings are.

“We will all find out soon. I wish I could help you more. As coach mentioned availability will be the first thing and he will make his decision from there."

While it’s obviously about a lot more than availability at this point, what difference does that make at the moment? The return of No. 10 is here.

There is no question who will be running the Packers offense and here are Pagano’s thoughts on dealing with Aaron Rodgers.

“Kills you at cadence," Pagano said. "Second down. Third down comes, he says, ‘don’t substitute. Give me a play.’ He’s listening to the play. LaFleur’s giving him whatever and he’s watching our sideline the whole time to see if we’re gonna sub.

“You cannot do it, because he’s just looking at you and as soon as he sees you start, he runs to the line of scrimmage, he gets under center, he snaps the ball, he catches you and then gets these free plays.

“He’s just masterful at it. He’s Picasso. He’s whoever. He’s Michelangelo, I mean this guy … I don’t even want to go up there. Good coordinators struggle. Average guys like the guy you're looking at right here really, really struggle. That's why I do a lot of praying.”

Clearly Pagano was in the holiday spirit and having fun with us, but he wasn’t kidding at all about Rodgers.

As for the rivalry, many talk about it but few put it more eloquently than Pagano did.

“It’s exciting, our guys are excited, we've played well you know against these guys and our guys love playing in this game and we all know the history behind this game and just to be a part of it no matter what the circumstances are," Pagano said.

“That's what I'm thankful for. You know I'm thankful for a lot obviously today but thankful to be a Bear and be involved in this rivalry.

“So blessed to be involved in this one and excited about it and it's always, you'll die a thousand deaths for three hours and five minutes, you just hope when that gun goes off you've got one more point than they've got.”

With the holiday behind them, the season on the line and an offense on life support, one more point would be plenty.