The Chicago Bears still were in evaluation mode Monday after their rain-drenched 19-10 upset against the San Francisco 49ers, with coaches poring over film and handing out grades for what went right and wrong.
But Bears linebacker Roquan Smith knows what’s ahead.
It’s Green Bay Packers week, and in an intriguing development, the Packers didn’t play well in Week 1.
The Minnesota Vikings beat them 23-7 in Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell’s debut. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 195 yards with no touchdowns, an interception and a lost fumble while playing with a young group of wide receivers. And he was sacked four times behind an offensive line missing David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins.
Now the Bears — coming off a victory that surprised many outsiders if not the coaches and players — draw Rodgers on Sunday night at Lambeau Field in Week 2.
“(Rodgers) is obviously one of the greatest to ever play the game, and you know as a competitor I love going against people like that,” Smith said. “I’m sure he will be a little bit pissed off after this last game. Hey, you wouldn’t want it any other way. Get the best version of him and then we get the (win), and it will be even sweeter.”
Smith has been around the Bears-Packers rivalry for four seasons, but this will be the first experience for Bears coach Matt Eberflus.
True to his form over the last few months, Eberflus didn’t bite on questions about Bears fans’ hate-hate relationship with Rodgers and the Bears lagging in the rivalry in recent years.
“We’re taking this one game at a time, so I know that’s coach cliche but we’re going to focus on us,” Eberflus said. “This is going to be about our football team, about how we operate, how we play and what we do. And we’re going to take that approach every week.”
Eberflus was much keener to talk about what the Bears are doing to better themselves after a performance in which they trailed the 49ers 7-0 at halftime. He was up at 5 a.m. Monday — his usual wakeup call — to get ready for what wide receiver Byron Pringle called “cleanup day,” when players and coaches review missed assignments and how they can make plays better.
Coaches spend Sunday night and Monday morning looking at every play and working on grades before the 11 a.m. team meeting so they can go over fundamentals such as tackling and blocking.
“When the guy tackles, is he getting all the way up to the runner, hitting with the proper pad level, wrapping and running his feet three hard steps, pulling in the hamstrings and then finishing the tackle?” Eberflus said. “Well, we saw a couple of those yesterday but we didn’t see enough. There was some lunging going on. So we have to improve that, and that’s typical of the first game.
“It’s like guys finishing blocks, when you finish blocks on the back side. A great example of that would have been (Equanimeous St. Brown) on the touchdown with Dante Pettis, he finished that block. He came all the way across the field and finished and it was legal.”
Eberflus said the meeting included player awards for the 49ers game. The evaluations also included the dreaded loafs, the staff’s measurement for not hustling.
Smith said he “of course” had a few.
“Loafs is crazy,” Smith said. “Definitely tough grades on the loaf, but, hey, it’s ball. It’s how they view it, how they see things. You just have to respect it and bust your tail and try to prevent those.”
Eberflus said he wants players to aim for the 90% club — one loaf for every 10 plays — and he plans to hand out awards at the end of the season to those who finish in that range.
“It’s hard to get into,” Eberflus said. “The last place I was at (Indianapolis), we had three or four guys that make the club every single year, so it’s not very many.”
The focus will shift to the Packers when the Bears practice Wednesday, and perhaps then Eberflus will be ready to anticipate the rivalry. It hasn’t been friendly to the Bears in recent years with 11 losses in the last 12 meetings.
Even if the Packers offense still is finding its footing, it’s likely to be a bigger test for the Bears defense after playing in driving rain against a 49ers offense led by inexperienced quarterback Trey Lance and without star tight end George Kittle.
Smith is ready for that challenge.
“Obviously you hate losing, but like I said in the past, that’s the past,” Smith said. “So I’m more so focused on the future and this game here ‘cause that’s all that matters. This game here matters more than any other game we’ve played against those guys ‘cause it’s the next one. … Just got to go out and stick it to them this week.”