Green Bay Packers

D.J. Moore and Montez Sweat Change the Game In the Packers-Bears Rematch

Photo Credit: Mark Hoffman via USA TODAY Sports

In last week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings, the Green Bay Packers faced a simple path to the playoffs: Win their next two games, and they’re in. They dominated Minnesota, particularly on offense. Now the Packers face a familiar punching bag, the Chicago Bears, in Lambeau Field with a chance to cap off an exciting season. But while Green Bay has won their last nine matchups against the Bears, they should be wary of this contest.

The Packers have a propensity to fall into “trap games” after riding high on momentum. Two memorable recent cases highlight this trend. Most notably (and wrenchingly), the Detroit Lions halted Green Bay’s four-game winning streak in Week 18 last year and kept them out of the playoffs. Earlier this year, the Packers went on a three-game winning streak, featuring a big upset win over the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, only to lose to the New York Giants.

“I think our team learned a valuable lesson,” Matt LaFleur said after losing to the Giants, “You don’t play your best, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, where you’re playing, when you’re playing, you’re not going to win the game.” I’m sure he will reiterate this message to the locker room this week.

More importantly, the Bears have vastly improved since their Week 1 matchup. Chicago’s defense has gelled over the last few weeks, with some help from defensive end Montez Sweat, who they traded for after their first matchup with Green Bay. In the Bears’ first eight games before acquiring Sweat, their defense had a paltry 57 pressures and three total sacks. According to PFF, they’ve had 157 pressures and 24 sacks in the eight games since Sweat’s arrival. Additionally, Chicago is +11 in turnover differential over their last six games. Simply put, Sweat has helped unlock the Bears defense.

The Bears have also improved on the offensive side of the ball. Since Week 11, Justin Fields leads quarterbacks in rushing, has thrown only three interceptions, and has improved his passing overall. It’s also important to note that D.J. Moore only had two targets in Green Bay’s first matchup with the Bears. But Chicago quarterbacks Justin Fields and Tyson Bagent have targeted Moore at least five times in every game since, and Fields and Baget have a 119.5 passer rating when throwing to Moore.

So, how will the Packers go about countering the new-look Bears? They will heavily rely upon Love’s improved processing and ability to read defenses. Green Bay is coming off a game against a Vikings team that leads the NFL in blitzing, sending five rushers in 49.9% of their snaps. While the Bears do not blitz that often, last week’s victory highlighted Love’s improved ability to identify pre-snap differences between when pressure will and won’t come.

For instance, on Jayden Reed’s first touchdown, the Vikings have six defenders along the line of scrimmage, but two drop into coverage on the play. Love’s demeanor never wavers. He quickly processes his read and throws a dime when a defender doesn’t rotate quickly enough to defend the middle of the field.

Stopping Chicago’s offense will likely come down to limiting Fields’ rushing and covering Moore adequately. One of the faster players on Green Bay’s defense, Quay Walker, occasionally chased down Fields in the first matchup to limit big rushing plays. He’ll be a key component of their plan to contain the Bears’ shifty QB.

Green Bay would benefit from giving varied looks and providing additional help to stop Moore. That means chipping Moore at the line of scrimmage to slow down his routes, rotating safety help in zone to provide additional coverage, and trying to anticipate Fields targeting him early and often.

The Packers are the better team on paper. But that doesn’t mean they can’t lose this game, much like they fell to the Lions in last year’s disappointing season finale. Leaning on Jordan Love’s pre-snap recognition, Quay Walker’s spying of Justin Fields, and doubling down on stopping D.J. Moore will be essential steps in Green Bay’s path to the playoffs.

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