The Green Bay Packers appear to be hitting their stride at the right time.
Led by the NFL’s top defense, the Packers look to win their fifth straight and move closer to a playoff berth Sunday when they visit the rival Chicago Bears.
Just over one month ago, Green Bay was 4-4 and reeling from a loss to Tampa Bay, which still has only one victory this season. The Packers’ playoff chances seemed to be slipping away, but the team turned things around in a hurry.
Green Bay (8-4) has won four in a row since that loss to the Buccaneers, and currently owns one of the NFC’s wild-card spots.
The Packers turned the ball over three times Monday and committed 11 penalties, but played well in other areas.
The Ravens’ stingy defense sacked Rodgers only once, and the offensive line is doing a better job of protecting its quarterback. Green Bay has allowed eight sacks during the winning streak after giving up 37 in the first eight games.
With more time to throw, Rodgers has passed for 1,144 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions during the winning streak.
The defense is also continuing to show improvement in the 3-4 scheme installed this offseason by new defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
Against the Ravens, the Packers forced four turnovers and allowed 185 total yards.
“If our defense plays like it did (Monday), we’re going to be tough to beat,” Rodgers said.
The defense, ranked No. 1 in the league for fewest yards allowed (287.3 per game), has been superb against the run. Green Bay allowed 66 yards on the ground Monday, and is giving up an average of 67.3 rushing yards in the last four games.
“With a new year and a new system, 12 games in, we really feel like as a defense things are clicking,” linebacker Clay Matthews(notes) III said. “We’re up there in overall defense, and we’re real proud of that.”
The Bears (5-7), losers of six of eight, had high hopes for this season heading into the opener, but the team has been unable to live up to those expectations and will likely miss the playoffs for the third straight year since their run to the Super Bowl.
“I don’t know the chances, I’m not a math guy, but if there is a possibility, we just got to win,” defensive end Alex Brown(notes) said after last Sunday’s 17-9 victory over St. Louis snapped a four-game losing streak.
Cutler has thrown a league-worst and career-high 20 interceptions, while Forte is averaging 3.4 yards per carry, fourth-worst in the NFL for backs with at least 100 rushes.
Forte ran for 91 yards on 24 carries against the hapless Rams, but lost a fumble on the game’s second play from scrimmage. Cutler threw for 143 yards - 131 in the first quarter - and a touchdown without an interception last week.
Chicago’s offense would suffer without receiver Devin Hester(notes) in the lineup, but his status is in question. He caught a 48-yard pass against the Rams before leaving with a calf injury in the third quarter.
Chicago, which hasn’t been swept in a season series with the Packers since 2003, has won three of the last four meetings at Soldier Field.