Here’s a look at a key matchup heading into the Packers' battle against the arch-rival Bears in the NFC championship Sunday at Soldier Field.
Packers WRs Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jordy Nelson vs. Bears CBs Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and D.J. Moore
May the best Jennings win? While it would be a stretch to say that the winner of this Sunday’s matchup between Packers Pro Bowl WR Greg Jennings and Bears undersized-but-overachieving CB Tim Jennings will determine the NFC championship’s outcome, it certainly figures to be a factor.
The Packers made a point of picking on Tim Jennings in their Week 17 victory over the Bears, but the scrappy ex-Colt held his own for the most part. Greg Jennings, meanwhile, dropped a likely 50-yard TD pass in that game, but he made amends with a 46-yard catch to set up Green Bay’s game-winning TD in the fourth quarter.
All four of the Packers' primary wideouts are coming off of stellar efforts in the playoff victory over Atlanta, each collecting at least 75 yards in receiving while frequently shifting around to different spots on the field and holding on to every pass thrown their way by QB Aaron Rodgers. Jones, a goat in the first Bears-Packers game this season because of a fumble forced by Brian Urlacher that set up Robbie Gould’s game-winning field goal, and Nelson, who offers tight end-like size and is doing a better job of picking up yards after catch, had TDs against Atlanta. Driver, the Packers’ all-time leader in receptions with 698, is looking more like his old fluid self after being less than 100 percent due to injuries for a prolonged stretch.
In the first Bears-Packers game in Week Three, the Bears’ defense opted to stay back in cover-2 zones practically the entire game, limiting Rodgers to shorter passes underneath in an effort to shut down big plays downfield (Greg Jennings, Jones and Nelson each have had at least one 100-yard outing this season). But in the regular-season finale, the Bears played mostly with a single safety deep, depending more on heavy physical man coverage, which included pressing the Packers' wideouts at the line of scrimmage. Look for a mixture of those strategies on Sunday.
The Bears' cornerbacks blew three excellent shots at interceptions in the win over Seattle. Tillman doesn’t cover like he used to, but he remains a great ball stripper and continues to do well against big-bodied pass catchers, the latest case being Seattle’s Mike Williams.
Moore is the unsung hero of the Bears’ secondary. With his quick feet and great change of direction, he has displayed a knack for pass breakups and making big plays. He also is a threat to blitz from the slot and is an excellent open-field tackler despite his smallish stature.