Frigid and desperate, Round 2 of Bears-Packers sets up to be a classic

The Bears’ season opener against the Packers was a made-for-TV event, but their showdown Sunday at Lambeau Field feels truer to the rivalry.

SHARE Frigid and desperate, Round 2 of Bears-Packers sets up to be a classic

Ex-Bear Adrian Amos ended the season opener by picking off Mitch Trubisky.

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Far removed from the bright lights and national TV audience they enjoyed in the NFL’s centennial kickoff game, the Bears and Packers will tussle the old-school way Sunday at Lambeau Field.

It’ll be a frigid afternoon — high of 19 degrees — and the stakes are high for the league’s hallmark rivalry. The Bears are scrapping to stay alive in the playoff race; the Packers are clinging to a narrow division lead.

It’s not a glitzy, overhyped, made-for-TV NFL showcase. It’s not symbolic. This one has more of a classic feel.

“We’ve got a really good football team coming in here,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “This is a critical game for both of us in terms of how we progress through the season. It’s a big NFC North rivalry game.

“We know it’s going to be a tough-ass game, and we better get our minds right, our bodies right and [be] ready to go.”

There it is. There’s some good, timeless Bears-Packers talk. LaFleur is merely a rookie in the rivalry, but he already is fluent in the language.

As much as the scene and significance look nothing like they did in early September, the teams look vastly different, as well.

The Packers won 10-3 and have rolled along nicely since, but their defense never played that well again. The last good team they faced was the 49ers late last month, and they got clobbered 37-8. In October, they allowed 563 yards of offense by the Cowboys.

The Bears played a lot of games that resembled the opener and nonetheless eked out occasional victories thanks to their top-notch defense — “We didn’t light it up on offense, but I don’t think there have been many teams that have lit it up against them,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said — before bottoming out at 4-6.

They’ve played better lately, though, and are coming off a thorough victory over the Cowboys that has them believing they can tangle with anybody.

“They’re a little bit different, [and] we’re different,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “It feels like awhile ago [since the opener], and that’s why you have a 16-game season, and in the division, you get two chances. We’ll just do everything we can to put it behind us and try to be better.”

This one means much more than the first meeting, too, because both teams are out of time. Whoever loses is going to have two games left to make up for it, and in the Bears’ case, that’s not enough.

At 7-6, the Bears basically need to win their last three games and get help if they’re going to salvage this wayward season with a trip to the playoffs.

The Packers, meanwhile, are 10-3 but haven’t clinched a playoff berth. They’re one game ahead of the Vikings in the NFC North and tied with the Saints in the race to secure a first-round bye. The Bears don’t have any advantage in terms of urgency.

“I feel like we’ve been in must-win mode every week,” Rodgers said. “We do control a good amount of our fate. These are the games you’ve got to win.”

Packers safety Adrian Amos, who signed a massive contract in free agency after four seasons with the Bears, shared Rodgers’ sense that Green Bay has a lot to prove Sunday.

“It’s exciting because it’s December football,” Amos said. “That’s where you want to make your stamp. That’s what everybody remembers.”

And this one, no matter which way it goes, promises to be far more memorable than the last one.

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