LAKE FOREST – Brian Urlacher has not forgotten the sting of last season’s final game.
Darkness had fallen Jan. 23 by the time Urlacher and his teammates walked off the field and into the Bears’ locker room to reflect on a 21-14 loss in the NFC Championship Game. Elsewhere in the tunnels of the stadium, the Green Bay Packers celebrated a conference title and a trip to North Texas to play in Super Bowl XLV.
The Bears headed home. The Packers went on to win their 13th world championship.
“It’s frustrating,” Urlacher said Thursday at Halas Hall. “We feel we played good enough to win that game on defense. We didn’t make enough plays, but it’s frustrating. You almost get to your goal and you don’t accomplish it. So congrats to them. They got it done and we didn’t.
“We have a chance to make up for it this weekend. It won’t be near the magnitude of that game, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
The Bears (1-1) could use a positive step after an ugly loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 2. They will host the Packers (2-0), who have scored 72 points in two weeks, thanks largely to the right arm of Aaron Rodgers, their Super Bowl MVP quarterback.
In two games, Rodgers has passed for 620 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating of 126.4 trails only New England’s Tom Brady (128.0).
Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said Rodgers lived up to the hype.
“It’s only two games into the year, but efficiencywise he’s got to be one of, if not the best quarterback in the league right now,” Briggs said. “He’s playing lights-out football. He’s getting the ball to everyone he needs to get it to. And he’s doing it without any interceptions and without any incompletions, or not many incompletions.”
Plenty of quarterbacks have strong arms.
Urlacher said Rodgers’ mental sharpness made him an elite passer.
“He’s got everything,” Urlacher said. “He knows what coverage you’re in, he knows when to run the ball, when to throw the football, where to go with it, [and he] doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. … He’s just smart. He’s got everything you want in a quarterback.”
Rodgers spent three seasons as Brett Favre’s backup before he inherited the Packers’ starting role in 2008. In the past three seasons, he progressed from a first-year starter to a Pro Bowl starter to a Super Bowl MVP.
“For a guy who hasn’t started that many years, for the Packers, he has a crazy amount of poise in the pocket,” Briggs said. “And then he’s got some quick legs. The guy gets out of the pocket and he can outrun a lot of guys.
“He’s dangerous in a lot of ways. He’s accurate on the run. He’s accurate in the pocket. The best way to stop that is to get him down before he can throw the ball.”