Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte is stopped by Green Bay Packers defenders during the Sept. 13 game at Lambeau Field. Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE
The Chicago Bears couldn’t hide their disdain for the Green Bay Packers this week, which isn’t surprising with the way the NFL’s oldest rivalry has played out in recent years.
“I really dislike the Green Bay Packers and their players,” Bears receiver Brandon Marshall said on Wednesday
Considering how the Packers have dominated the series over the past four seasons, no wonder the Bears are feeling agitated.
The Packers have beaten the Bears five straight games and seven of the past eight, including the battle for the NFC championship two years ago with a Super Bowl berth on the line.
The Packers also own a winning record at Soldier Field, which is unheard of in the NFL. Teams simply aren’t supposed to get pushed around on their home turf.
“I would be frustrated (too),” said Packers nose tackle Ryan Pickett of the Bears. “They mark it on (their) calendar at the beginning of the season, 'Our goal this year is to beat the Packers.’”
Lately the Bears have struggled mightily to meet that goal, and as a result the Packers have crept within five games (92-87-5) in the all-time series that spans 91 years. The last time the Packers were so close was in 1941, when head coaches George Halas and Curly Lambeau patrolled the sidelines for their respective teams.
Even Bears coach Lovie Smith, as even-keeled as they come, sounded frustrated by the Packers’ recent dominance. “In a rivalry both teams need to win their share of games, and lately we haven’t held up our end of the deal,” said Smith.
It was Smith that declared, upon getting hired in Chicago in 2004, that his No. 1 goal was to beat the Packers. He proceeded to win four of the first five meetings, but his record has slipped to 8-10 overall against Green Bay.
Since coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers arrived in Green Bay, the Packers-Bears series has been one-sided. McCarthy is 9-5 against the Bears and Rodgers is 8-2 vs. Chicago as a starting quarterback.
Both are keenly aware of the importance of the rivalry. McCarthy was reminded again of that this week.
“You start getting voice mails from Willie Davis, people like that early (Monday) morning, you know it's a big game,” said McCarthy.
Davis, a Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive lineman, was part of another era of Packers’ dominance over the Bears under coach Vince Lombardi, who owned a 13-5 record vs. Chicago.
Rodgers became aware of the rivalry’s intensity during his rookie year.
“You knew right away how much it meant to the fans,” said Rodgers. “I remember my first year, being out shopping or something, hearing way more comments that week about, ‘Hey, let’s beat the Bears, the Bears still suck,’ these comments that they were saying, obviously it meant a lot more to them.”
The last truly dominant Bears’ era in the series came in the 1980s, when Mike Ditka was ruling the roost in Chicago. Ditka and Packers coach Forrest Gregg were bitter rivals, and there was no love lost between them.
Packers tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot, a Bears offensive lineman under Ditka, said the rivalry was extremely heated back then.
“Mike Ditka was still our coach and he absolutely hated the Green Bay Packers,” said Fontenot. “A lot of what he coached, a lot of the way he played when he played the Packers came through in his coaching.
“You knew it was Packers week when you were practicing at Halas Hall back in the old days. It was serious, almost like that was the most important game of the year. Period.”
The Bears lost their iron grip on the series beginning in 1992 when the Packers hired head coach Mike Holmgren, who produced a 12-2 career record against Chicago that included a 10-game winning streak.
Over the past two decades the Packers have posted a 30-11 record in the series. The Bears’ once commanding 24-game lead has nearly evaporated.
With another victory Sunday at Soldier Field, the Packers can wrap up a second consecutive NFC North crown and place the Bears’ playoff hopes on shaky ground. Lately the Packers have served as a major stumbling block for the Bears.
“They’re definitely in the way,” admitted Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who has a 1-6 record against the Packers. “They’ve controlled this division. We won it a couple years ago but then they came back and beat us. They’ve had a strong hold on this division for the last couple of years, and they’ve had our number.”
The disgruntled Bears reached the breaking point when Marshall, unsolicited, went off on the Packers. Clearly, the Bears are desperate for some success against their bitter division rival.
The Bears’ frustration will only mount unless and until they find a way to beat the Packers.
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