Friday, January 21, 2011
Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears Rivalry Renewed, Only Bloodier, Meaner
If there's a villain in Chicago, hailed as one of the passionate sports towns in America where the masses gather in the local bar or even crowds Lou Malnati's Pizzeria joint alarmed by the Chicago Bears turnaround, it's the pretentious Jay Cutler. With the entire world watching, as much as Cutler dislikes the spotlight, he is the most annoying athlete in Chicago.
And now, as of lately, he is a risk factor, fully capable of turnovers late in the game with his brash throws that normally results in a disastrous pick. Come now, as if he's the hottest quarterback in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers is well-deserving of plaudits more than Cutler, an emotional griper and softy who takes matters personal and thinks the sport revolves around him all the time. So now, after his eye-opening season, fascinating like never before by his maturity and humbleness in command of the leadership role, Rodgers is on fire and has played with more awareness and consistency.
The other night in Green Bay, where the town is obligated to be grateful for the Packers, obsessive fans were traditionally loyal to its symbolic pro franchise. It's too bad the Cheesehead maniacs won't come together this weekend to launch a tailgate party outside of the historical venue Lambeau Field, since the Packers travel to the Windy City for the much-anticipated NFC Championship.
A side of me cannot stand Cutler, a quarterback bust in Chicago when the fans honestly felt as if he was the cure for the lackluster Bears in a community which has already witnessed long-lasting droughts from the futility and hopelessness that had the entire town depressed deeply by the unending downfalls. Turns out he's not really a cure after all, but instead a franchise bust.
Maybe it's his unnecessary arrogance that bothers me, the I am-better-than-you attitude. Maybe it's because he disdains the media and rebuffs interest in news conferences, although he is willing to provide brief messages. Or maybe it's his personality on the field that bothers me, too. But whatever it is, he's nothing compared to Rodgers, who has widened the smile on faces of the fans in Green Bay, where the city is now called Mr. Rodger's Neighborhood. Years from now, he might even have a street nearby named after him.
What we're observing is Rodgers sprout beyond greatness for the Packers, while his good friend, Cutler deflowers as a firm quarterback. For those who doubt Rodgers, he is arising into a legend before our very eyes, braced as a gifted iconic figure with the intangibles of being the top quarterback in the league. He's just that damn good. Even now, on the verge of the Packers third post-Favre season, Rodgers is the face of the franchise and has improved mightily.
There's no reason for Green Bay homers to miss Brett Favre, dismissed after he kept the Packers hostage with his flip-flopping retirement, toying with general manager Ted Thompson's mind during the draining saga that publicly become worse in the summer months as days progressed. The Packers knew exactly what the intentions were when they shut the doors on Favre and promised the starting job to Rodgers.
With all due respect, for a sizzling passer engineering the Packers amongst one of the longstanding rivalries in sports, he's ready to prosper as a premier quarterback in the league. Let's brace ourselves for Packers versus Bears, an intense matchup from the retro days which lived into the modern era. It's not only Packers versus Bears, but it's also a theatrical quarterback duel with two quarterbacks who are actually good friends. Good friends? Well, for now.
Once, the Packers and Bears storms onto Soldier Filed for a Sunday afternoon matinee in 19 degree weather, with a wind-chill temperature at approximately 10, winds blowing at 10 mph, the matchup itself will turn violent. As always, another bloody war is quickly upon us and it should be appealing to see which team survives by the end. In all, this is Rodgers versus Cutler in one of the watchful duels in ages. This is Capers versus Martz in one of the most eventful offensive and defensive draws in decades. And lastly, this is Matthews versus Urlacher.
The other integral piece for the Packers is defensive coordinator Dom Capers in a game that he'll be battling against the Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz. With the exception of Martz's play calling and masterful brain for grooming his players, Cutler vastly improved even though he still mistakenly missed his intended receiver or either delivers a poor pass that results into an interception.
And standing in his way is Capers, a fundamental voice of a relentless defense that has been dynamic to Rodgers this season. He was harassed by the Bears bull-rushes, abused literally by Brian Urlacher as all of his target receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver were shut down. Surely, he spent time in a hot spa after the Bears defenders sent him to the turf, despite that Rodgers can scramble and buy time in the pocket. Every single defender know he's flexible and versatile with running the ball to gain yardage, and usually, scores whenever he likes as well, racing to the end zone unlike many quarterbacks in the NFL.
Many of them are pocket-passers, not very mobile at avoiding the pressure or smashmouth hits. As we often point out, Rodgers is quick with fabulous feet and a powerful throwing arm, but the Packers' division rivals, which would be the Bears, of course, stifled Green Bay's drives in previous games. Against the Bears in 21 possessions, Rodgers led the Packers to three touchdowns and two field goals, but went scoreless in the other 16 possessions and tossed two picks.
When they play on Sunday, Rodgers could enter the game with an urgent mindset, a moment he'll approach probably the biggest game of his career with a must-win attitude, just as much as Clay Matthews, Green Bay tremendous linebacker, from an inherited football family with a knack that comes from the Matthews' family genes, will play with much strength to interrupt Cutler and the Bears. And so it seems, even better than expected, particularly when the Bears lifted its self-confidence with a win over the improbable Seattle Seahawks, Chicago has the advantage in the hard-driven, defensive front at the line of scrimmage.
More so, the Bears are led by defensive studs Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije. Their presence and strong impact can be the x-factor come Sunday, the one day when everybody must perform at their highest level in order to advance to the Super Bowl. By now, within his five-year career, forgotten and hated by many, he's not a lovable player in the league. He's not popular, but more than anything, is unpopular every since his abrupt departure in Denver.
His arrogance and choosy personality, during a relationship which was in shambles, broke a bond with then-Broncos coach Josh McDaniels. Next thing, the Broncos were forced to trade him to the Bears once the relationship in Denver was irreparable. So he's not as popular as his good friend, Rodgers. This year, he has turned into a worthy legend and has been appreciated with a myriad of popularity as he continuously develops into an authentic star, leading the Packers to a pair of postseason victories on the road in upsets over the Eagles and Falcons.
As for Cutler, he has played with Type I diabetes thought his disappointing career, after he was diagnosed with the illness in 2008. Where he is different from Rodgers is his petulance and frustration on the field. In contrast, he's nowhere near as efficient as Rodgers, and the only way he can enhance his level of dominance, is with a fiery and calm attitude.
It's also imperative that he eliminates making poor decisions on the field, and think wiser as a team leader. At the age 27, a product from Vanderbilt is not even close to matching the talent of Jim McMahon, the star quarterback who led Mike Ditka and the '85 Bears, which reflects on the finest championship and the last time Chicago party with the Bears.
This win is for the right for the Super Bowl. And what better way with much at stake to play against an archenemy. The Bears hate the Packers, just as much as the Packers hate the Bears. It would figure, given his enthusiasm for sports, that President Obama was obviously picking the Bears to win over the Packers. And since we now know he predicted Chicago, his team growing up, we know he'll be glancing at the game in the White House. Hopefully, this doesn't jinx the Bears.
Either way, it's going to be fun, exciting, intense and classic. It's Packers-Bears. It's humbleness versus arrogance. It's Rodgers versus Cutler.