Do the Chicago Bears have the Blueprint for Containing Aaron Rodgers? – Analyzing the Stats All Green Bay Packers All the Time

First off, congratulations to the Green Bay Packers for winning the NFC Championship and going to the Super Bowl. Also hats off to the Chicago Bears, they went down swinging till the very end and almost made a comeback with a 3rd string quarterback.

Now with that out of the way, the one question I had after watching the game was “what is it with the Chicago Bears that gives Aaron Rodgers so much trouble?” Do they have the blueprint other teams should be studying to nullify Aaron Rodgers?

Rodgers has been up and down against the Bears this season; during week 3 he played remarkably well and lost, in week 17 he played quite poor and won, and in the Championship game was more a combination of the two, where Rodgers started out well and ended poorly.

Does it have something to do with the Tampa-2 defensive scheme that the Bears run or could it be Soldier Field itself, which was thoroughly criticized prior to the NFC Championship game? Could it be the loss of key offensive weapon Jermichael Finley? Or could it be that we fans are so fixated with the Packers-Bears rivalry that we tend to scrutinize and criticize Rodgers more when it comes to playing against the Bears?

Rodgers vs. Tampa-2: Tampa-2 as a defensive system is a little bit of a misnomer; just like the west coast offense, almost every team employs this philosophy to some extent. Simply put the idea of Tampa-2 defense is to have two high safeties cover the deep pass while the defensive lineman rush the quarterback with the middle linebacker often dropping deep into coverage in the middle of the field.

The system is simple yet effective and emphasizes containing the deep pass. The take home message of this is that Rodgers will probably see some Tampa-2 during every game he plays, but one can assume that Rodgers is likely to see more Tampa-2 with 4-3 teams than he will with 3-4 teams based on personnel alone:

Rodgers vs 3-4 Defenses and 4-3 Defenses

Defense Completions Attempts Completion % Passing Yards TD INT QB Rating Yard Per Attempt
Average 3-4 Defense 21.2 35.2 60.44% 264 1.4 0.4 93.54 7.63
StDev 5.5 6.38 0.13 56.53 1.14 0.55 29.6 1.87
Average 4-3 Defense 20.92 36.06 68.71% 260.92 2.08 0.85 101.97 8.47
StDev 7.19 18.8 0.07 96.32 1.38 0.9 34.09 2.02

From this data alone, there isn’t much difference between Rodger’s production against 3-4 defenses and 4-3 (Tampa-2) defenses, while this isn’t by any means a comprehensive statistical analysis (which for one, is far beyond me) it does, in my opinion,  show that Rodgers isn’t any worse against the Tampa-2 than any other defensive scheme. This makes sense since Rodgers will play against the Bears, Vikings and Lions 6 times total every year, all of which employ the 4-3 (of which the Bears and Vikings are die-hard Tampa-2 defenses) so he will at a bare minimum be seeing the predominant Tampa-2 defenses almost half of the time.

Rodgers vs. Soldier Field: Much was made of Soldier Field the week before the NFC Championship game. Many claimed that it was the worse field of any stadium in the NFL. While Rodgers may not have the same issues as running backs and wide receivers in terms of footing, good footing is still important to quarterbacks and even more importantly, Soldier Field is probably the most inhospitable place a Packers quarterback can play in.

Rodgers vs. Chicago Bears

Year Game Location Score Completions Attempts Completion % Passing Yards TD INT QB Rating Yards Per Attempt
2008 10 Lambeau W 37-3 23 30 76.70% 227 2 1 105.8 7.57
2009 1 Lambeau W 21-15 17 28 60.70% 184 1 0 92 6.57
2010 16 Lambeau W 10-3 19 28 67.90% 229 1 1 89.7 8.18
Average 19.67 28.67 68.43% 213.33 1.33 0.67 95.83 7.44
StDev 2.49 0.94 0.07 20.76 0.47 0.47 7.11 0.66
2008 15 Soldier Field L 17-20 24 39 61.50% 260 2 1 87.6 6.67
2009 13 Soldier Field W 21-14 16 24 66.70% 180 0 0 88.9 7.5
2010 3 Soldier Field L 17-20 34 45 75.60% 316 1 1 92.5 7.02
2010 19 Soldier Field W 21-14 17 56.7 56.70% 244 0 2 55.4 8.13
Average 22.75 41.18 65.13% 250 0.75 1 81.1 7.33
StDev 8.3 13.61 0.08 55.95 0.96 0.82 17.26 0.63

Overall Average 21.43 35.81 66.54% 234.29 1 0.86 87.41 7.38
StDev 6.35 11.73 0.08 46.53 0.82 0.69 15.37 0.65

Obviously there are some differences between Rodgers playing at Lambeau and at Soldier Field (namely that he hasn’t lost to the Bears at home). It’s natural to see a quarterback’s production dip a little when playing on a hostile field, but does Soldier Field in particularly special for some reason in giving Rodgers trouble?

Rodgers’ Production Home vs. Away

Completions Attempts Completion % Passing Yards TD INT QB Rating Yards Per Attempt
Home Average 20.25 30.25 67.16% 283 2.38 0.75 110.89 9.39

StDev 4.56 6.14 0.07 65.52 1.06 0.89 23.11 1.02

Away Average 21.6 40.28 65.81% 244.8 1.5 0.7 90.62 7.31
StDev 8.09 20.27 0.12 98.67 1.43 0.82 36.73 2.08

The only thing that really seems different between Rodgers at Soldier Field and Rodgers at any field other than Lambeau is touchdowns, where his touchdown percentage drops by 50%. Other than that, his completion percentage, passing yards, interceptions, QB rating and yards per attempt are nearly identical. So while he seems to have more issues scoring touchdowns (which I admit is a big concern), statistically he is playing isn’t playing any worse at Soldier Field than any other field that isn’t Lambeau.

Rodgers+Finley vs. Bears: One of the key mismatches against the Tampa-2 defense is an athletic tight end. Athletic tight ends can exploit the seams between the linebackers and the cornerbacks and the Packers had a great tight end in Jermichael Finley who could split seams (and defenders) until he was placed on IR after week 5.

Rodgers vs. Bears with and without Jermichael Finley

Completions Attempts Completion % Passing Yards TD INT QB Rating Yards Per Attempt
w/ Finley Average 22.8 33.2 68.24% 233.4 1.2 0.6 93.36 7.07

StDev 7.19 8.58 0.08 56.71 0.84 0.55 7.25 0.46

w/o Finley Average 18 42.35 62.30% 236.5 0.5 1.5 72.55 8.16
StDev 1.41 20.29 0.08 10.61 0.71 0.71 24.25 0.04

The data is remarkable; while his completion percentage is roughly the same and his passing yards are identical, Rodgers has to throw the ball 10 times more without Finley to get the same result. Even more telling is that Rodgers averaged 1.2 TDs against the Bears with Finley but only .5 TDs without him. This is a little odd since Finley has never caught a touchdown against the Bears, but perhaps his mere presence on the field causes defenders to follow him, thus allowing other players more opportunities.

One caveat to this of course is that Finley wasn’t very good during his rookie season, which I have included, mainly because I don’t know how much defenses were looking at him even when he wasn’t well known. In conclusion, while Finley definitely is a big factor, he doesn’t explain explain why Rodgers has problems scoring touchdowns against the Bears and Rodgers seems to be able to make up for the loss of Finley’s production by throwing (a lot) to other players.

So what does this all mean? Basically, none of the reasons listed above can really explain why it seems that Rodgers has so many issues with the Chicago Bears; he’s fairly consistent against the 3-4 or the 4-3 (Tampa-2 defenses), he doesn’t play particularly bad at Soldier Field compared to any other non-Lambeau Field and he’s been able to compensate for the loss of Finley, not to mention that losing Finley doesn’t explain his only statistical deficiency against the Bears which is scoring touchdowns.

Based off this data, I’m beginning to think that the main reason Rodgers plays poorly against the Bears is because the fans think he plays poorly against the Bears. As of yet, Rodgers hasn’t utterly destroyed the Bears like the Falcons the week before, so when fans compare the the Falcons game to the Bears games, obviously they think that he’s struggling when actually he plays pretty consistent against the Bears, just not “once in a decade” like he did against the Falcons.

This doesn’t mean that Aaron Rodgers isn’t a fantastic quarterback, it only means that he can’t produce video game like numbers on a consistent basis (as no one can) and that fans, who naturally are more critical when it comes to the Bears, are more inclined to see the mis-throws and interceptions rather than the leadership and steady play.



Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s


11 thoughts on “Do the Chicago Bears have the Blueprint for Containing Aaron Rodgers? – Analyzing the Stats

  1. It seems that teams with good LBs in the 4-3 that get good drops causes MM and Rodgers trouble. Urlacher is probably the best in the business at getting a quality drop in the passing game. And he can make a play once he gets there. On the first drive the play action was bringing Urlacher up and Rodgers found Jennings over the top. Once Urlacher started getting his normal drops it closed down the middle of the field. Without a quality TE to work the middle, it makes small windows for Rodgers.

    What is your analysis for Quarless this year? He looks the part, but looks like a guy that just doesn’t get it right now. He looks lethargic with his eyes and hands. Even the biggest play of his season was actually not a catch (Vikings TD) I think he has the talent, but he has a ways to go to be a contributor to this offense. Many of the same things were said about Finley as a rookie as well. Is he going to be a player or not? Thoughts?

    1. You might be right that it might just be Brian Urlacher, but Rodgers doesn’t seem to have that much issue with other MLBs dropping in coverage, and I think the he throws the ball in the hole that MLB creates when he drops into coverage quite well.

      As for Quarless, I would withhold judgment on him for right now, some players take a year or two to get the hang of things, Jermichael Finley was one of them (not to say that he will be that good next year or that its something to do with being a tight end). Also keep in mind that he was a 5th round draft pick for a reason, plenty of teams are willing to overlook other issues (like the Bengals) if you have enough potential or talent.

      1. Urlacher gave problems to Favre too. Maybe he just works harder to show up against the Packers than any other team?

  2. I think his shoulder getting hit on the TD impacted his play to be honest, he started out hot, then became somewhat inaccurate by his standards. Bears do seem to have his number tho!

    1. Another issue might be that once they got hot (i.e. right away), MM decided (correctly in my opinion) to try to become more balanced by running the ball. Its a great concept, but I think MM should have scrapped that idea after a couple of drives where Starks wasn’t getting much (the Bears defense is quite good after all), instead of waiting till the Bears starting putting up points to try to regain rhythm in the passing game.

  3. Not all 4-3’s run Tampa-2 – even the Bears, who tend to run single high safeties against the Packers as much as Cover-2 looks. I think your data set is too broad to come to a conclusion.

    1. I completely agree as I mentioned in my article, almost every team runs some Tampa-2 concepts, the Packers included. However, 3-4 teams from a schematic point are less capable of playing Tampa-2, for instance, linebackers are often blitzing instead of covering the flats and the zone-blitz 3-4 that the Packers and Steelers run often have corners in mostly zone coverage as opposed to man coverage in the Tampa-2 (and that obviously leads to team getting players that are better at one than the other). I suppose that the most accurate way of analyzing the data would be to go through every offensive play that the Packers ran throughout the season and split them between Tampa-2 and everything else, but unfortunately, its often hard to tell what teams are doing since TV broadcasts are lucky to get safeties in the shot.

  4. Really interesting questions and a nice look at the data. Definitely gives us something to think about.

    I do think part of it, though, is that the Bears have such a good front seven and can more or less control the running game, as well as put pressure on the QB without blitzing. Not many 4-3 teams have that much talent in those positions.

    1. I was thinking about that as well, but its not as if Rodgers has relied much on the running game this whole season anyways, he’s won games plenty of times by himself when there is no running game (or even worse when he is the running game) One team that I would compare favorably to the Bears defense is the New York Giants, both have fantastic front sevens and mediocre secondaries, and for whatever reason Rodgers just ripped them to shreds.

  5. Bears/GB is the biggest rivalry in football. They play each other a lot, they prepare for each other. There are no secrets between these teams, when they suit up against each other – it’s lights out. That’s what’s up.

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