Staying Positive


Posted Sep 17, 2004


Lake Forest - Having won just two of their last 20 meetings with the Packers, and none of the last seven, it's better that the Bears dwell on coach Lovie Smith's personal record against Sunday's opponent in the most frequently played rivalry in NFL history.

Smith has already talked to the Bears about the importance of Sunday's noon game, which is the home opener for the Packers. That's actually good news for the Bears, since their only two victories over the Packers in the past 10 years came at Lambeau Field.

As the Rams' defensive coordinator the past three years, Smith's team won both of its matchups with Green Bay. St. Louis routed the Packers 45-17 in a divisional playoff game after the 2001 season, and last season won 34-24. As the linebackers coach in Tampa, Smith was on the winning side in two of the Bucs' last three games against the Packers.

"I was thinking about that when we were watching film (of the loss to the Lions)," Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said. "We were in there, and coach was talking about, 'Forget about this game, and let's move on to Green Bay.' Last year St. Louis did a real good job playing against the Packers. So hopefully it carries over; we're anticipating that it will."

The postseason loss was the Packers' most lopsided in franchise history. Smith's defense forced six Brett Favre interceptions and a total of eight turnovers, which were parlayed into 35 points. Three of Favre's interceptions were returned for touchdowns. Last season the Rams forced four Green Bay turnovers, including three fumbles.

"Hopefully," Briggs said, "that's the way it's going to be this week."

That's the way it needs to be, according to Smith, for Ron Rivera's defense to play at optimum proficiency. The Bears' defensive effort was encouraging in the loss to the Lions, except for the lack of turnovers.

"One thing that I harp on an awful lot is the turnover game," said Smith, whose Rams defense led the NFL last season with 46 takeaways. "We were only able to get one (vs. the Lions). "Our yardage on the defensive side was good (262 yards), but we realize we have to get a lot more turnovers in order for us to be able to win some football games."

Nine months ago, when he accepted the Bears' head coaching job, Smith was crystal clear on the importance of the Bears-Packers rivalry.

"The No. 1 goal that we'll have is to beat Green Bay," Smith said on Jan. 15. "I understand that. I feel the pain of (10) years that the Chicago fans have of losing to them. I've been on the winning side (four of) the last five times I've played them, so I think we know how to beat them."

But, if Monday night's 24-14 Packers victory over the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers is any indication, it won't be easy. The Packers were able to pound the ball on the ground against the best defensive line in the NFL, requiring Favre to throw just 22 passes, of which he completed 15 for a modest 143 yards.

Packers running back Ahman Green picked up 119 yards on 33 carries Monday night. Green ran for 256 yards and three touchdowns against the Bears last season, but the Packers may be without their outstanding backup runner, Najeh Davenport, who suffered a hamstring injury against the Panthers.

A Bears victory Sunday would more than offset the disappointing season-opening loss to the Lions.

"It's a huge game," quarterback Rex Grossman said. "It's a rivalry game. It's a game we have not played well in recently, and it's a division opponent again. So we've got a lot on this game. Coach knew the importance of this game as soon as he was hired.

"If we win this game, we're right back in the thick of things and it's like the last week never happened."

SERIES HISTORY - 168th meeting. Bears lead the NFL's most frequently played series 84-77-6. To call it a rivalry has been a stretch in recent years, since the Packers have won seven straight and 18 of the last 20 meetings.


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