Aaron Rodgers says ‘desperation’ is creeping in on 3-5 Bears
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GREEN BAY, Wis. — One by one, they denied knowing, caring or considering the struggles of their rivals to the south. And admitting that, with a victory Sunday night, the Packers could all but bury the Bears in the NFC North.
Then Aaron Rodgers stated the obvious.
“When you’re 3-5, there’s got to be a little desperation in there,” the quarterback said Wednesday. “And we’re going to expect them to come in and play with that urgency the rivalry game allows you to play with.
“But also knowing where they’re at in the season. They need to turn things around and get back in the race, and we’d like to put some more distance between us and them.”
There’s already plenty. A victory would make the Packers 3-1 in the North and hand them the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Bears. The Bears would be 0-2. They could run the table the rest of the season and still miss the playoffs.
“Your record tells you who you are, but your play style dictates how the game’s going to go,” Rodgers said in front of his locker at Lambeau Field. “And we have to match the intensity of the Bears.”
Rodgers has sniffed desperation before: the Saints were 2-4, playing for their season, when they whipped the Packers, 44-23, on Oct. 26.
As with the first Bears-Packers game, neither the Packers or the Saints punted — meaning that the NFL has seen three such games in its history, and the Packers participated in two in less than a month.
“Which, for us, is kind of old hat,” Rodgers said, to a chorus of laughter.
Grins come easy at Lambeau Field these days. Coach Mike McCarthy received a contract extension Monday and Rodgers practiced in full Wednesday after hurting his left hamstring in the loss to the Saints. Snow is forecast for Sunday night on the frozen tundra — the way the Packers like it, “Bears Weather” be damned.
Asked whether he considered the Bears’ record, and the NFC North implications, McCarthy rattled off coaching truisms — that games are different the second time around, especially against divisional opponents and, this week, when both teams are coming off a bye. McCarthy is 7-1 all-time after having a week off.
“It’s all good conversation,” he said of the division race. “It’s not conversation that I take part in.”
On Sept. 28, the Bears trailed the Packers, 21-17, at halftime — thank you, misguided onside kick call — before being outscored 17-0 in the second half.
“They just turned the ball over,” Rodgers said. “We didn’t.”
Wide receiver Jordy Nelson said the second half got “a little out of hand” after a back-and-forth first, thanks to picks on Jay Cutler’s first two second-half drives.
“Defense was able to create some turnovers,” he said. “And we kept scoring.”
Sound familiar? Cutler is 1-9 against the Packers, and has thrown 19 interceptions to men in green and gold. How amazing is that? Cutler hasn’t thrown that many to all the members of the NFC South combined. Or the NFC East. Or the NFC West.
“At times he will try to make the perfect throw,” free safety Micah Hyde said. “Especially when you have good coverage, you want them to do that. You can break it up or try to pick it off.”
The Bears’ record “doesn’t mean anything,” Hyde said.
“We know what they’re capable of doing,” he said. “They’re a good football team. They have weapons.”
Rodgers, for one, praised Cutler, who mentored his little brother Jordan at Vanderbilt.
“We’ve won some games against him,” Rodgers said. “But it’s always a battle when he’s on the other side.”
While the Bears’ most-recent victory — a year ago, at Lambeau — came with Josh McCown at quarterback, Lance Briggs said it best: The victory was simply because Shea McClellin “took out Aaron Rodgers,” breaking his collarbone.
No player in the NFL is as important as Rodgers, who said his hamstring would be fine by Sunday, but admitted he might have to be careful with both the injury and his calves, which tend to cramp in cold weather.
His pass protection took a hit Wednesday, when neither of his starting guards, T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton, practiced. Lang, the left guard, sprained his left ankle against the Saints. Sitton said he suffered a torn ligament under his left foot.
“It’s a blow, because those guys are talented,” Rodgers said. “They’re having great seasons. They’re having Pro Bowl seasons.”
That only supports the Packers’ rallying cry that every game is unique.
“Being in the league long enough, you know every game’s different,” Nelson said. “And especially in the division, they’re going to be tough, no matter what.”
The Packers insist their next rivalry meeting has nothing to do with the previous one. The Bears can only hope they’re right.
“You can lose any game,” running back Eddie Lacy said. “You can play a team with a real bad record and go into the game thinking, ‘Because they don’t have a good record it’s going to be an easy win,’ and you get upset.”
The Bears, in this scenario, are the team with the real bad record — even if the Packers won’t let themselves believe it.
“The only thing we think about is the Green Bay Packers,” strong safety Morgan Burnett said. “Because it’s all about us.’’