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Good, old-fashioned rivalry? Well, Bears' approach is old-fashioned

Tribune writers Dan Wiederer and Brad Biggs recap the Bears' 23-17 overtime win over the Steelers on Sept. 24, 2017.

It would be fun to think of Thursday night's Bears-Packers divisional meeting as a legitimate rivalry game. We could dredge up years of parochial resentment, measure entrenched positions and volley a few vicious stereotypes for good measure.

Sadly, the old country mouse/city mouse routine rings hollow these days. Aaron Rodgers brings an urbane sophistication to Green Bay's offense that the Bears can rarely top or stop.

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He plays like a guy comfortable strolling through the Art Institute, while the Bears simply play a short stroll away from that civic treasure.

It's difficult to imagine the Bears' newfound identity — run the ball, defend the ball, protect the ball — spreading fear through the aristocrats of Green Bay.

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Here's hoping the Packers aren't sitting on any game tape from George Halas-coached teams in the early 1920s. It might give away too much.

Not that there is anything wrong with the Bears being who we thought they were. The strength of the team coming into the season was a budding defense, protected, in theory, by a power running game led by an excellent interior line. It's a proven script for success, albeit one that leaves little margin for error.

Embattled quarterback Mike Glennon must be angst-ridden knowing the game plan is a comprehensive —and surely deliberate — neutralization his role. The guy is drowning and he's thrown an anchor. If you are going to play that style, why not go with a more mobile, stronger-armed Mitch Trubisky?

Glennon needs to continue to manage the Bears to victory if he wants to stave off the inevitable. It would sure help the cause if the Bears can get guard Josh Sitton back for the game versus his old team.

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Kyle Long's return coincided with the Bears' first victory. Long played great, although the hero of the offensive line continues to be Cody Whitehair, a guy whose versatility might catch the eye of Joe Maddon and the Cubs. Whitehair sure can hit.

Running the ball not only helps marginalize Glennon, it helps a razor-thin offensive line as well. An NFL adage says if offensive linemen were the strongest and fastest, they would be playing on the defensive line.

Run blocking is a downhill action with linemen as the aggressors. It takes a lot more skill and footwork to prevent an athletic defensive lineman or linebacker from getting past you.

There are plenty of theories as to why offensive line play has been mediocre throughout the NFL. Factors include free-agency movement and that spread offenses in the college game don't teach the kind of footwork and technique needed in the NFL. Continuity is important at skill positions, but it is crucial on the offensive line.

The biggest problem may well be that teams don't hit in training camp anymore and linemen never get a chance to work full speed in full pads. They don't get properly thudded up for the season and their timing is learned on the fly.

This is a variation on the theory that tackling is poor in the NFL because teams do not practice it outside of games. Since the NFL adapted new practice rules with the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, in-season practices are limited even more. Teams can practice in full pads just once a week and a total of 14 times during the 17-week season. Eleven of those practices must be in the first 11 weeks.

Offensive lines are a team within the team and need the choreography of a Broadway musical to work in unison.

It's fair to wonder if a lack of hitting is adding to a spate of injuries. Just ask the Packers.

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The Packers were without former Marian Central star Bryan Bulaga in their first two games, and he left after re-injuring a sprained right ankle Sunday. Fellow tackle David Bakhtiari suffered a hamstring injury in the season opener and missed the last two games.

The number of sacks is up league-wide with 239 thus far. Rodgers has been sacked 13 times for a loss of 93 yards with Glennon going down seven times for a loss of 65.

Everyone knows the gaudy numbers Rodgers has put up against the Bears — a 15-4 record in 19 games with a 103.2 passer rating that ranks best in the league for one quarterback against a single team. The Bears have two options: Run the ball and keep him off the field or bury him in the backfield when he drops to throw.

Try to make an old-fashioned rivalry out of it.

Mike Mulligan is a special contributor to the Chicago Tribune.

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