If you can't beat 'em, taunt 'em. That's the approach the Bears took with longtime nemesis Aaron Rodgers in the spring and now comes the point when they have to face the two-time league MVP on the field again.
The Bears' Twitter account, @ChicagoBears, trolled the Packers quarterback on Friday, April 7, the day it was reported he had broken up with longtime actress girlfriend Olivia Munn. The tweet included a photo of a downtrodden Rodgers, eyes shut, and read "#FridayFeeling."
The post was labeled embarrassing by veteran Bears players who saw it, but Rodgers seemed amused when asked about it after a training camp practice last month.
"It's OK, man," Rodgers said after a long sigh. "I don't mind that kind of stuff. I like playing in Soldier Field. They have fantastic sports fans down there and we've also won down there a lot.
"Leave it up."
The Bears deleted the tweet later the same day but not before there were a string of replies lampooning their recent quarterback history. The low-rent move seemingly contradicted requests the team has previously made to respect the personal lives of its own players.
Battles on the field have always proved more interesting even if the series, deadlocked at 94-94-6, has been one-sided in favor of Rodgers in recent years. He owns a 15-4 record against the Bears, including the postseason, but Vic Fangio's defense has fared well against Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger, two other quarterbacks who have reached the Super Bowl, setting up an intriguing meeting Thursday night at Lambeau Field.
The Packers have won 10 of the last 12 games, but both Bears victories were in prime time in Green Bay. The Bears have to feel confident they can play well defensively. With the exception of one badly blown coverage against Falcons tight end Austin Hooper, they have been stingy against powerful offenses.
The best formula for success against Rodgers — and it's easier said in meeting rooms than accomplished on the field — is to prevent him from making unscripted plays outside the pocket. You have to generate a pass rush, but if the tackles don't get a push in the middle and the edge defenders don't pin him in, chaos can ensue.
Rodgers wants to push the eject button on the pocket at times, and that's truly when he's at his best. If a defense forces Mike Glennon to leave the pocket, the play is over. When Tom Brady or Drew Brees are forced out of the pocket, play's over. With Rodgers, the play is just beginning when he gets outside the pocket. The play clock starts over for defenders in coverage and they don't know when the ball is coming out. Rodgers can throw from every imaginable angle and can deliver the ball off balance.
Rodgers has completed 10 passes of 40 or more yards in his career against the Bears. Six have gone for touchdowns, five have come in the fourth quarter and four have been completed to Jordy Nelson. Three bombs that broke the Bears in the fourth quarter:
• Dec. 18, 2016, at Soldier Field. Game tied 27-27. Packers' ball third-and-11 on Bears' 26-yard line. 31 seconds remaining.
The Bears rushed only three defenders and used Leonard Floyd to spy Rodgers, who floated left in the pocket before heaving a bomb to Nelson that went for 60 yards and set up a game-winning field goal. There was a coverage breakdown, but the lack of a pass rush allowed Rodgers to buy time in the pocket.
• Dec. 29, 2013, at Soldier Field. Bears lead 28-27. Packers' ball fourth-and-8 on Bears' 48-yard line. 46 seconds remaining.
Julius Peppers came off the right edge and dived, just missing Rodgers. That created an escape to the Rodgers' left, where he bought time and found Randall Cobb uncovered after safety Chris Conte expected the wide receiver to break off his route at the first-down line. Cobb's 48-yard touchdown prevented the Bears from winning the NFC North in Marc Trestman's first season.
• Sept. 13, 2009, at Lambeau Field. Bears lead 15-13. Packers' ball third-and-1 on 50-yard line. 1:18 remaining.
Off a play fake, Rodgers stepped up to avoid backside pressure from Adewale Ogunleye and off one foot — with Alex Brown in his face — launched a 50-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings, who was behind cornerback Nathan Vasher.
That's two examples of Rodgers making throws off script and one of an off-balance delivery, the kind of plays that haunt defensive backs.
"His improvisation is what makes him so difficult to defend and so successful," Vikings two-time Pro Bowl safety Harrison Smith said. "It's almost like practiced improvisation because I know they work on it during the week. He and his receivers get on the same page when you think it's breaking down and it's really not. It's kind of choreographed. They know where to go and he knows where to find them. It makes it hard. You've got to get him down when you have a chance.
"We always know that day is going to be a little more running than you are used to just because the plays are going to last a little longer. You try to get used to that."
The Bears front could have an advantage with Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari (hamstring) and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (ankle) both doubtful to play. The Bears still have to master Rodgers. Cornerback Prince Amukamara was 3-1 in meetings with Rodgers when with the Giants.
"We trusted a lot in our front four and plastered," Amukamara said. "He's the king of extended plays, so you're playing basketball with the receivers when he gets outside of the pocket. We have to try to keep him in that pocket."
If the Bears can successfully do that, maybe they'll have a #FridayFeeling worthy of social media.