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Bears’ defense hoping to respond to Aaron Rodgers — on the field

Cornerback Jaylon Johnson admitted Rodgers’ “I own you” taunt cut deep. “But [expletive], we’ve got to play football. We’ve got to win. We’ve got to do something about it. So all the talking doesn’t mean nothing.” 

Aaron Rodgers (12) celebrates with teammates after rushing for a touchdown to clinch the Packers’ 24-14 victory over the Bears on Oct. 17 at Soldier Field.
Aaron Rodgers (12) celebrates with teammates after rushing for a touchdown to clinch the Packers’ 24-14 victory over the Bears on Oct. 17 at Soldier Field.
Kamil Krzaczynski/AP Photos

Aaron Rodgers was right. But an insult is an insult. So of course Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson took Rodgers’ “I own you” taunt personally.

“Is it an insult?” Johnson said, turning the question back to a reporter. “As a man, if somebody tells you he owns you — if I told you I own you, would that be an insult?”

Sure.

“Yeah, [bleep], that’s an insult to us, too,” Johnson said. “We’re all men, too. We all bleed the same way. So things like that aren’t fun to hear. But [bleep], we’ve got to play football. We’ve got to win. We’ve got to do something about it. So all the talking doesn’t mean nothing.”

Ever-confident and in control, Johnson knows he can’t win a war of words with Aaron Rodgers. He embraces the challenge of responding on the field — in Lambeau Field against one of the best quarterbacks of all time.

“I’ve worked my whole life for this, so this is not anything I’m not prepared for,” Johnson said. “It’s not anything I can’t handle. I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job at it . . . just being able to focus in every week and reset and just keep my mind fresh.

“And just having tough tasks week-in and week-out — whether it’s a quarterback or wide receiver, it just makes you better and gives you more confidence.”

The Bears know what they’re up against. “He’s a threat with his arm. He’s a threat with his feet. And obviously with his mind,” defensive coordinator Sean Desai said. “You’ve gotta play the mental game with him. All 11 of us do.”

How do you win a mental game with Rodgers? He seems to have all the answers.

“I don’t know if it’s a win. It’s playing it,” Desai said. “You keep playing the chess game with him. From all 11 — 12 including myself. You’ve got to keep doing it and you’ve got to strain mentally through that over the course of a game.”

The trick is to throw something at Rodgers he hasn’t seen. You almost have to try to use his strength against him — that he knows exactly what you’re going to do.

“You can try — that’s part of the chess match,” Desai said. “You try to play to our strengths, to his weaknesses and try to bait some things the best you can. Obviously, he’s seen all those things in his career. You keep playing it and keep putting some stress on him — just force him to think longer than he normally would like to.”

Rodgers is so familiar with the Bears’ defense that he probably knows it as well as they do — as seemed to be the case in the hey day of Lovie Smith and Brian Urlacher. The Bears would almost have to play out of character to throw him off. But that doesn’t seem like a game Desai is willing to play.

“We have to [do] what we think we do best and try to manage what we think they do best and limit their opportunities,” Desai said. “We aren’t here to reinvent the wheel and reinvent a whole new defense. We have a lot of time invested into our defense.”

The Bears’ best vs. Rodgers’ best often has worked to a degree, but it usually allows Rodgers enough room to make the difference, because even when the Bears contain him, he rarely makes the big turnover that changes the game.

“We thought we played them pretty good the last time we played them,” Desai said. “It wasn’t good enough and we know where we fell short. But we are going to build off of that and try to create some different matchups — different issues that we feel can be more to our advantage.”