The Green Bay Packers have had a magical postseason run. It started before the playoffs even began when they blew out the New York Giants to stay alive and then knocked off the Bears to clinch the six seed in the playoffs.
After that, they continued to deliver wins. In the Wild Card round, they stopped Michael Vick’s Eagles and beat Matt Ryan in Atlanta last week, where the Falcons rarely lose.
Tomorrow the Packers will storm onto Soldier Field in Chicago, where they will try to win one more game toward their fourth Super Bowl in team history.
Packers/Bears is perhaps the NFL’s biggest rivalry, and it doesn’t get any better than watching these two teams battle it out in the NFC Championship for a trip to the Super Bowl coming up in two weeks.
Here are four keys for the Packers to have a good shot at winning and making the trip to Dallas:
1. Continue dominating on defense.
The last few weeks have been huge for the Packers’ defense, which has stepped it up in all aspects. In the Wild Card round, they made Michael Vick one-dimensional by putting pressure on him and forcing him to make bad throws.
Last week, they gave up points early, but came back with some huge plays. None was bigger than Tramon Williams’ two interceptions, including one he returned 70 yards for a touchdown right before halftime to swing momentum for the Packers.
Nick Collins and Charles Woodson continue to be great in coverage, and Woodson has done a great job pressuring the quarterback. B.J. Raji has been a great nose tackle, and now that Cullen Jenkins is healthy, the defensive line is much better.
At linebacker, Clay Matthews has been dominant as he has been the whole season. A.J. Hawk and Erik Walden continue to make good plays as well.
Against Chicago, the Packers’ defense will have to keep getting pressure on the quarterback and force Jay Cutler to make bad throws. They also must stop the running game and not let Matt Forte break for big runs, as he is good at that.
In the secondary, they have to continue to play physical and not let Chicago receivers, especially Johnny Knox, find space.
2. Run the ball consistently.
James Starks has had a great postseason running for 189 total yards in the first two rounds, including rushing for more than 100 yards against the Eagles.
The Bears have a good rushing defense, with Julius Peppers anchoring the defensive line up front.
To make sure the Packers’ running game can be consistent, Green Bay’s offensive line must block well, and open up holes for Starks, Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn. Chad Clifton must play like the Pro Bowl player he has been all year. Also, Bryan Bulaga must not get called for false starts or holding penalties.
3. Let Aaron Rodgers do his thing.
The Packers have a great quarterback. Rodgers has been explosive throughout the postseason. Against Atlanta, he missed only five times for an 86.1 completion percentage. He had an 136.8 passer rating, going 31-36 for 366 yards, three touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown.
Rodgers also has yet to throw an interception in the postseason. Against Chicago, he will be throwing in cold weather and will need to be on top of his game again as he is facing a good pass defense.
4. Special teams must not make mistakes.
The Packers’ special teams have been up and down this year. They have shown poor tackling on kickoff and punt returns and won’t be able to get away with that tomorrow as they will be facing Devin Hester. Hester is dangerous, and shouldn’t be kicked to. When they do, however, the Packers must be ready to stop him from taking it to the house.
There you have it. Now, go and watch the green and gold and hope they come out on top, so we can cheer them on in the Super Bowl in Dallas two weeks from tomorrow.