Bears

If Chicago Bears ever plan to ‘take the North,’ they’ll have to go through Green Bay

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur is 6-0 vs. Bears

Chicago Bears running back Khalil Herbert is stopped by Green Bay Packers cornerback Kevin King, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.

LAKE FOREST – The Bears haven’t defeated the Packers in three years. Current Packers head coach Matt LaFleur never has lost to the Bears, going 6-0 since taking over as head coach in 2019. The Packers won 13 games in each of LaFleur’s three seasons as head coach and won the NFC North each time.

If the Bears ever are going to take the North, as new general manager Ryan Poles said in his introductory news conference, they’re going to have to wrestle it from the arms of LaFleur and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The last time Bears head coach Matt Eberflus squared off against LaFleur was a memorable overtime game in 2020 when Eberflus was the defensive coordinator with the Indianapolis Colts. Eberflus’ defense forced four turnovers in that game, a 34-31 win over Green Bay in Indianapolis.

Although LaFleur still runs the same system, Eberflus noted that a lot changes from year to year in the NFL. That’s especially true in Green Bay after the Packers traded star receiver Davante Adams over the offseason.

“There’s a system that they’re in, but the system highlights the skill,” Eberflus said. “So to me, when it’s a ‘gotta have it’ situation, well, who’re they going to? They want to go to their best player. Right? Everybody knows that. They know that. When they had Adams, they were going to him. You just try to fingerprint guys and you get a blueprint on guys.”

That’s what makes it a little bit tougher to determine what the Packers are going to look like Sunday night. Without Adams, the offense looked discombobulated in the season-opening 23-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings last week.

The Packers didn’t really have a receiver step up in the game. Rodgers has yet to find his outlet since Adams left. Running back A.J. Dillon led the Packers with five receptions for 46 yards. Expected No. 1 receiver Allen Lazard missed the game with an ankle injury and is questionable for Sunday’s game.

Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams noted this week that it’s important for the Bears defenders to focus on themselves, not the question marks in Green Bay. His players aren’t reading into the slow start in Green Bay.

“Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers regardless who he has,” Bears defensive end Robert Quinn said. “He’s bound to make something happen. I’m not in that locker room, but I’m sure, because of his credentials, he tries to bring everyone up to his level regardless of if they’re a first-rounder or undrafted.”

Eberflus, when he was a defensive coordinator, never looked at individual matchups against the opposing coordinator. It takes a village to build a scheme and a game plan each week.

LaFleur has shown that he can win games in Green Bay. But this season might be his toughest challenge yet.

“It’s just an X and O matchup, that’s the way you have to look at it, because that’s what it is for a coordinator,” Eberflus said. “That’s what it is when you’re scheming against somebody.”

Injury report: Bears rookie receiver Velus Jones Jr. (hamstring) did not practice Friday, according to the team’s practice report. He is doubtful for Sunday’s game.

Tackle Riley Reiff (shoulder) was a full participant in practice Friday. Fullback Khari Blasingame returned after taking a personal day Thursday. Both are expected to play Sunday.

In Green Bay, four key Packers are listed as questionable for Sunday’s game: tackle David Bakhtiari (knee), tackle Elgton Jenkins (knee), receiver Allen Lazard (ankle) and guard Jon Runyan (concussion).

The Packers could have some serious issues on the offensive line if three starting linemen miss Sunday’s game. Lazard, who is expected to be the Packers’ top receiver, did not play last week.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.