MONSTER’S MASH: Another year, another Rodgers’ challenge for the Bears’ defense

Bears Report

CHICAGO, IL – JANUARY 03: Chicago Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks (96) stares down Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) in action during a game between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers on January 03, 2021 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

LAKE FOREST – This is a challenge that is a common one for the Bears throughout the last decade-and-a-half, and it’s one that’s remained difficult for the franchise.

Aaron Rodgers has played the Bears 25 times since he took over the Packers starting quarterback job from Brett Favre in 2008. In that span, he’s beaten the Bears 20 times, defeated them in an NFC Championship Game, while also sporting a 10-3 record at Soldier Field.

Rodgers has thrown 55 touchdowns compared to ten interceptions in those contests with 6,013 yards with a rating of 107.2. That included eight touchdown passes without a pick in two victories of the Bears in the 2020 season.

Once again, the Bears will try to stop Rodgers on Sunday afternoon when his Packers visit Soldier Field for the first of a pair of contests over the next few months. So far he’s completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 1,241 yards with ten touchdowns compared to three interceptions as Green Bay sits at the top of the NFC North with a 4-1 record.

Sean Desai’s defense will try to end a four-game winning streak for Rodgers against the Bears with a stout pass rush that leads the NFL with 18 sacks through five games. As for the pass defense, the Bears are currently 12th in the league, allowing 232.2 yards per contest, one that’s included some strong play from Jaylon Johnson and encouraging moments from Kindle Vildor.

The latter got the chance to do so last year in the final game of the year (Johnson was out with injury) and gained some knowledge on him heading into another match-up in 2021.

“He’s someone that you’ve got to make sure you disguise yourself with. He’s very smart as a quarterback, so you might show him something and he’ll already know you’re not in it,” said Vildor. “Just playing that mind game with him and making sure we’re all on the same page.

IT’S THE ROOKIE’S TIME

At first, it looked as if his greatest contribution to the team might be as a kick returner, since two capable running backs were ahead of him on the depth chart.

But a Week 4 injury to David Montgomery forced Khalil Herbert into the backup role in Week 5 against the Raiders. Now a week later, the rookie is most likely going to get the start against the Packers on Sunday.

Damien Williams is in the COVID-19 protocol and is unlikely to play on Sunday according to head coach Matt Nagy. That leaves Herbert as the starter with Ryan Nall as the primary backup and Artavis Pierce, who was just activated off the practice squad, serving as a third reserve.

In his first extended playing time in Las Vegas, Herbert played well as he rushed for 75 yards and 18 carries with a 4.2 yards per carry average. It caught the eye of teammates and fans but it doesn’t make the sixth round pick from this spring’s draft feel any sense of arrival.

“Nothing yet. I’ve still got a lot to prove, I’ve still got a lot to fix and a lot to work on, so I’m still working on it,” said Herbert on Wednesday.

ANOTHER TACKLE SWITCH

With right tackle Germain Ifedi now on Injured Reserve, the Bears will turn once again to Elijah Wilkinson to fill in for an injury.

The veteran did so in Week 1 when both Jason Peters and Larry Borom went down with injuries against the Rams. With Borom on IR along with Ifedi, it’s up to Wilkinson to fill in once again as the Bears face the Packers on Sunday.

Doing so on Sunday wasn’t a problem as the Bears rushing attack continued to be strong even after Ifedi’s injury. For Wilkinson, doing so wasn’t much of a problem.

“Just kinda step in and do what Coach Juan (Castillo) tells us to do. Just got at it with 100 percent effort, and let chips fall where they may,” said Wilkinson. “Just kinda stepped in and did my job.”

STAT OF THE WEEK: 3

The number of times in four seasons with the Bears which Matt Nagy’s team had a 3-2 record after five games. They also had the record in 2018 and 2019.

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