GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Bears-Packers rivalry never gets old for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It’s easier to enjoy, of course, because he has owned it his entire career.
He is the bane of Chicago, demolishing dreams and getting coaches fired since 2008. He enjoys the boos at Soldier Field almost as much as he loves being king of the smallest city in professional sports. When he says he hears about the rivalry while buying groceries at Piggly Wiggly, which he describes as “about town,” he seems like he likes it.
“It’s always big Chicago against li’l Green Bay,” he said Wednesday. “Li’l Green Bay has held its own for a long time.”
As the teams prepare for their 200th meeting Sunday at Lambeau Field, Rodgers treasures the chance to bolster his legacy as a Bears slayer. He’s looking for his seventh season sweep after a 10-3 escape in the opener and gets the added incentive of effectively ending their playoff hopes.
He’s a historian and knows full well the Bears had firm control of the rivalry at 80-58-6 until he and Brett Favre got their hands on it. With those two quarterbacking the Packers since 1992, they’re a devastating 40-15 against the Bears.
“This rivalry’s been around a long time before I got here, and it’s going to be around a long time after I’m done, but it’s been fun to be a part of so many of them,” Rodgers said. “I know when Favre started, we were on the other side of this rivalry. Now, it’s nice to be up by three, I believe.”
The mere mention of the rivalry continuing beyond Rodgers’ retirement is tantalizing to Bears fans. But for now, just coming off his 36th birthday, the man remains redoubtable.
If he is declining, here’s what his version of a decline looks like: a 99.1 passer rating over the last three seasons. For context, Mitch Trubisky’s 95.4 last season set the franchise record for a quarterback with at least 250 attempts.
Rodgers’ latest evolution is that he doesn’t throw interceptions. He just doesn’t. Imagine that.
It has been two months since his last one, and he has thrown four over the last two seasons combined. That’s out of 1,118 drop-backs, including when he has taken a sack, meaning defenses are picking him off 0.4 percent of the times he has looked to pass.
This season, with the disclaimers that he’s still adjusting to new coach Matt LaFleur and the Packers don’t believe they’ve found their offensive identity, Rodgers is having what would be considered a dream year in Chicago: 23 touchdown passes, two interceptions and a 102.0 rating.
The Rodgers problem isn’t going away anytime soon for the Bears. They’ve had to learn to live with it, which can be exasperating. Packers safety Adrian Amos remembered the feeling from his four seasons with the Bears before crossing the border this year.
“You know you’re playing against a Hall of Fame quarterback, and you know what he can do,” Amos said. “And you know you can’t beat the Packers without beating Aaron.”
The Bears’ best hope is that the return of bulldozing defensive lineman Akiem Hicks — “He’s one of the best in the business,” Rodgers said — transforms their defense back into the NFL’s scariest.
If Hicks gets back to eating up two or three blockers at a time, it should clear the way for Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd to swarm Rodgers and perhaps pressure him into some uncharacteristically bad decisions.
The Bears got some of that going in the opener, when they smothered Rodgers other than on a string of big plays in the second quarter, and they did it to him in a win at Soldier Field a year ago. The game last December was one of the worst of his career.
It’s rare, but, for the Bears, at least it’s proof that it’s possible.
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