Bears at Packers? In a word: HUGE
Coach Marc Trestman believes each game is as important as the next, but he still respects the Bears-Packers rivalry.
"I've lived here long enough and was here during the off-season long enough to know that this is an important game to the community, that this is a historical rivalry that dates back a very long time," he said. "Growing up in the Midwest (Minnesota), I do have a foundation of understanding what these games mean because I watched them my whole life."
It's debatable whether any players, especially the younger ones, buy into the rivalry as much as fans. But with the Bears already trailing the Packers by a game in the NFC North, Monday night's outcome at Lambeau Field is crucial to the Bears.
"Our guys recognize the importance of this game relative to the rivalry," Trestman said. "They also understand the importance of this game and where it is in the season and what the ramifications are. There are a lot of different roads to get to where we want to go, and going on the road and winning this divisional game against a division-leading opponent is an important game.
"As I said to the guys, 'If we can't do it on Monday night in Soldier Field, where else but at Lambeau Field?' It's a great venue, a great stage for two historic organizations, so we're excited about it."
There is no way to replace the productivity and experience the Bears will miss with seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs sidelined for another five weeks because of a fractured shoulder.
But coach Marc Trestman doesn't believe Briggs' injury will create a void in leadership, partly because the team's leading tackler is still involved on a day-to-day basis.
"We've said all along that we're not a team with one or two or three leaders," Trestman said. "(On) the defensive side of the ball, you're looking at Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Julius Peppers. Stephen Paea does a really good job, and Corey Wootton does a really good job in the leadership department and being verbal at the right time and bringing people together.
"There's no doubt Lance is a great leader, and we don't want to minimize his effect. He's coaching them up each and every play. He was in meetings this morning at 6:30 with our young guys. He hasn't walked away, and he isn't sitting at home on the couch. He's part of each and every day we're doing things in the meeting room and on the field."
Take your pick:
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker was asked what the biggest challenge is in dealing with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose career passer rating of 105.2 in the highest in NFL history.
"How much time ya got?" Tucker said. "Everyone knows about his athletic ability and his arm talent, but he's really smart. He's got command of the offense. He plays with a lot of confidence. He knows exactly where to go with the ball, and if you're not where you're supposed to be, he's going to make you pay."
Rodgers' 108.0 passer rating is fourth this season behind Peyton Manning (119.4), Philip Rivers (111.1) and Drew Brees (109.2). Against the NFC North, Rodgers' career passer rating is 110.7.
In addition to quarterback Jay Cutler (groin) and Lance Briggs (shoulder), cornerback Charles Tillman (knee) and linebacker Blake Costanzo (knee) did not practice Thursday inside the Walter Payton Center, although Tillman did do some individual work prior to practice before he was excused for personal reasons.
Wide receiver Joe Anderson (abdomen) and safety Major Wright (knee) were limited.
For the Packers, tight end Jermichael Finley (neck) and linebacker Clay Matthews (thumb) did not practice and will not play. Linebacker Nick Perry (foot) also did not practice. Wide receiver James Jones (knee) and tight end Ryan Taylor (knee) were limited.
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