Chicago Bears

Bears face tough task in stopping Packers’ running backs

The Chicago Bears (1-0) travel to Green Bay to face the Packers (0-1) Sunday night in what amounts to an early season-defining moment for quarterback Justin Fields. The Bears are double-digit underdogs, so expectations are low. But if Fields can somehow pull off an upset at Lambeau Field, the narrative around Chicago this year will really begin to change.

It will take more than just Fields playing well for the Bears to have a chance to win. The defense, led by linebacker Roquan Smith, has to do its part in slowing Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense. Unlike years past, the defense’s focus won’t be on stopping the passing game (or Davante Adams). Instead, it’s about slowing Green Bay’s two-headed monster in the backfield: Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon.

The duo combined for 15 carries, 94 yards and a touchdown in the Packers’ 27-7 loss to the Vikings in Week 1. They totaled eight catches for 73 yards through the air.

Sure, their production didn’t change the outcome for Green Bay last Sunday, but it was a weird game for the Packers. Rodgers wasn’t in sync with his wide receivers, and the defense allowed Vikings star Justin Jefferson to run wild. The fact that Green Bay’s young pass catchers played poorly likely means Jones and Dillon will have bigger roles against the Bears on Sunday night.

Coach Matt Eberflus knows the challenge the tandem poses to his defense.

“Those guys are good players, they really are,” Eberflus said Wednesday. “They both have great contact balance. They both have great cut ability. They have vision. They both have shown as of late to be great receivers out of the backfield, catching the ball out of the backfield. And they had, what, 11 targets last week? And they were talking about upping those targets. So those guys are dynamic players, and it’s a one-two punch because they have different, varying skill sets.”

Let’s not forget about Rodgers, who isn’t a happy quarterback right now. He’s looking for a get-right game, and if Green Bay’s running backs force more Bears defenders in the box, Rodgers could feast.

“Oh yeah man, the guy is obviously one of the greatest to ever play the game, and you know as a competitor myself, love going against people like that,” Bears linebacker Roquan Smith said Monday. “I’m sure he will be a little bit pissed off after this last game. Hey, you wouldn’t want it any other way. Pissed off him, get the best version of him, and then we get the dub, and it will be even sweeter.”

It’s likely Rodgers will lean more on Jones and Dillon in Week 2 than he has at any point over the last couple of seasons. He should have wide receiver Allen Lazard back in the lineup, which is a sneaky problem for Chicago’s defense. But the Packers’ success on offense will be determined largely by how productive the running game is, which is a stark contrast to the Bears-Packers games we’re used to.

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