What we have here is a big game.
No doubt about it. The Bears against the Packers is always (well, usually) top entertainment.
But now we have the desperate 3-5 Bears hanging from the playoff cliff by their nails, trying to scrabble back onto firm land while the Packers pry at their paws with garden shovels.
This doesn’t look good for the cliff-hangers, who have lost eight of their last 10 games against the Packers, including the playoffs. Expedition leader Jay Cutler has been nothing but a stepping-stone for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who resembles Sir Edmund Hillary every time the Bears put a bump in his road.
Since 1996, only one NFL team that has started the season 3-6 has made the playoffs. And dozens of teams have started 3-6. So if the Bears lose in Green Bay, let’s just go with the odds and say their season is o-vah.
Which means they are a dud of epic proportions. What’s that noise? Oh, it’s the annoying echo of wide receiver Brandon Marshall claiming the Bears are super and Cutler is the potential MVP of the league.
Enough of that. How about simply winning at Lambeau Field for once and clinging to relevance?
Which brings us to running back Matt Forte.
He’s one of the best all-around backs in the league, and in his quiet, soft-spoken way, he could be considered a leader on the Bears, if such a term is even relevant these days. During a bye-week pause, the buzz has been all over the concept of leadership on the Bears.
Who’s talking it up? We all want to know.
Forte’s response: Who cares?
‘‘Talk is cheap,’’ he said Thursday at Halas Hall. ‘‘You can talk so much about, ‘Let’s do this’ and ‘Let’s do this, rah-rah’ and ‘Let’s go, guys!’ [But] if you’re not motivated yourself at this point, then you don’t even need to be in the room.’’
That makes sense. Production afield is what leads the way. And the Bears haven’t had it in anything resembling consistency.
To re-emphasize his point, Forte added, ‘‘A rah-rah speech at this point isn’t going to make me do anything different or make me feel any different way.’’
So much for high school philosophy and die-hard Rudy believers.
The Bears’ defense has been terrible — Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen celebrating 51 points in a viral photo from the Bears’ last game should be enough evidence — but the offense hasn’t been wonderful, either.
Everyone seems to want coach Marc Trestman to have Forte run the ball more. But that’s only a good strategy if, well, if it works.
And when you’re behind by a bunch or the gaps are stuffed, that’s not necessarily the way to success.
In fact, the Bears do plan to the run the ball quite a bit Sunday night, if we are to believe Trestman.
The Packers, stats tell us, are more lenient against the run than the pass. But stats are totals and averages, not right-now factoids.
Forte has carried the ball between 12 and 23 times a game, with his average being just over 16. He’s the kind of guy who would like to get even more touches, but he’s not crazy. The Packers can adjust and stop the run, for instance.
‘‘If they know we’re trying to run the ball, they might have something set up to stop the run,’’ Forte said. ‘‘So we can’t run our head into a brick wall.’’
That would be his head, of course. And here’s a curious thing: The more Forte has the ball, the worse the Bears seem to do.
He had 82 yards rushing and 87 yards receiving against the Bills, 122 yards rushing against the Packers, 61 yards rushing and 105 yards receiving against the Panthers and 114 yards rushing against the Patriots — and the Bears lost them all, by a total of 59 points.
Is there something counter-intuitive here? Perhaps. Rushing yardage comes easily when a team knows you need to pass to catch up from behind, and a lousy defense and crushing turnovers can negate any offensive stats.
If the Bears aren’t fired up this week, then it’s time to follow the Bulls and Blackhawks and begin hibernation strategies.
Lose this one, and the Bears are done.
‘‘We could talk about this all day, but there’s nothing anybody is going to say that’s going to make our record different,’’ Forte said. ‘‘We have to do it.’’