Thu, 02 Dec 2021

Chicago’s Justin Fields is 25th different NFC North starting QB to face Packers since 2008 Mike Spofford

GREEN BAY - The Packers already saw a new starting quarterback for Detroit this year, and now they're getting one from Chicago, too.

Rookie first-round draft pick Justin Fields has taken the reins for the Bears, and on Sunday at Soldier Field he'll become not only the eighth different starting QB for Chicago during the Aaron Rodgers era, but the 25th different starter for an NFC North opponent since Rodgers became Green Bay's No. 1 QB in 2008.

The Lions' Jared Goff became the 24th back in Week 2 when he assumed the job long held by Matthew Stafford, who had started all of Detroit's games against the Packers over the previous decade except one.

Fields is Chicago's first new starter since fellow first-round pick Mitchell Trubisky took over in 2017, and the Bears, rightly so, are very excited about their new signal caller.

After a rough day in Cleveland in his first NFL start, Fields has led the Bears to two straight wins, and at 3-2 they can tie the Packers for first place in the division with a victory.

"He's such a dynamic athlete," Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "He can make plays in the pocket, and certainly we're going to have to do a great job with our rush lanes in terms of not letting him get out of the pocket. And they can implement the zone read, so that's another layer to the offense."

The read-option element to an opposing offense - which incorporates an exaggerated handoff action to the running back while the quarterback decides on the fly whether to actually give the back the ball, or pull it down and run, or drop back to pass - isn't something the Packers have seen a whole lot of this season, but it never really drops off their list of preparation priorities.

"A lot of teams have some form of zone read," safety Adrian Amos said. "It's so many mobile quarterbacks in the league now, you have to have rules all the time. I think within each game plan, you always have certain zone-read rules."

Fields' scrambling and off-schedule ability is the more dangerous aspect to his game, and it's unclear whether the knee injury listed on Chicago's injury report will impact that facet. Either way, the Packers plan to be ready.

"We have to keep our eyes on him when he gets moving around," Amos said.

For the record, here's the list of starting QBs the Packers have faced from each NFC North team in the Rodgers era. QBs who came off the bench against Green Bay are not included.

* Chicago (8): Kyle Orton, Jay Cutler, Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley, Mike Glennon, Mitchell Trubisky, Justin Fields

* Minnesota (9): Tarvaris Jackson, Gus Frerotte, Brett Favre, Christian Ponder, Joe Webb, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, Kirk Cousins

* Detroit (8): Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovsky, Daunte Culpepper, Sean Hill, Drew Stanton, Matthew Stafford, David Blough, Jared Goff

Division implications: With a win, the Packers would improve to 5-1 and take a two-game lead on the rest of the NFC North just six games into the season.

With a loss, they'd be tied with the Bears at 4-2, with Chicago holding the temporary tiebreaker by virtue of the head-to-head result.

Thus far during his Green Bay tenure, LaFleur is 12-1 in division games, going 6-0 in 2019, 5-1 last year (the lone loss coming at home to Minnesota), and 1-0 to date this season.

LaFleur's only game at Soldier Field with fans came in his first game as head coach, back in the 2019 opener, which kicked off the entire NFL season on a Thursday night. He recalled the crowd noise being intense, and he's expecting much the same on Sunday.

"It's going to be a good team that's coming in that's got some momentum," he said. "They're 3-2, they've won their last two games, they've got a young quarterback that's playing pretty well and their defense is rolling right now. So I would anticipate that it's going to be a pretty chaotic environment."

Bear killer: Randall Cobb's return to the Packers in 2021 gives him a chance to add to his impressive career numbers against the Bears.

In 14 career games for Green Bay against Chicago from 2011-18, Cobb racked up 64 catches for 885 yards and nine touchdowns. He's had three 100-yard games, plus another with 95 yards. His nine TDs actually came in a span of just 10 games, from the famous 2013 regular-season finale to the 2018 opener.

For comparison's sake, Cobb's career numbers against the Bears are similar to, and even slightly better than, those of Davante Adams.

Adams also has played 14 games against Chicago, with 67 catches for 814 yards and eight scores, with the eight TDs coming over the last 10 games. He's also had three 100-yard games, plus another with 90.

"We've kind of acknowledged to each other, like 'I'll never take for granted just having a brother like you on the team,'" Adams said of Cobb this week.

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