AL HAMNIK: Mighty mite Tim Jennings faces another huge challenge

2013-12-28T18:15:00Z 2013-12-30T13:15:06Z AL HAMNIK: Mighty mite Tim Jennings faces another huge challengeAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
December 28, 2013 6:15 pm  • 

CHICAGO | Diminutive Tim Jennings comes up to most wide receivers' waists, but in coverage, he is a giant among defensive backs.

"I got some bulldog in me. I'm tough to shake," said the Bears' 5-foot-8, 185-pound cornerback.

Tough to shake? That's like saying decaf is bitter.

To NFL receivers, Jennings is an irritable rash you can't get rid of. He drove 6-4 teammate Brandon Marshall crazy in training camp, each saying those physical matchups made him better.

After leading the NFL with a career-high nine interceptions in 2012, Jennings is tied for the team lead with three this season — having returned two for touchdowns.

Since 2012, Jennings has 12 interceptions in 29 games, taking three to the house. How's that for productive?

Yet, none of that fancy window dressing means a thing when Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers trot onto Soldier Field. It's about now. This moment.

Stopping the game's best quarterback and securing a playoff berth is all that matters to the Bears.

"We hate to be in this position but we're thankful that we are in a position to keep playing. It gives us a shot," Jennings said.

Rodgers missed the last seven games with a broken collarbone suffered in the first half of Green Bay's 27-20 loss to Chicago on Nov. 4. The fact he's been practicing three weeks should eliminate any rust the Bears were hoping for.

"I anticipate all the guys that are able to play (for Green Bay) will do that. Everybody knows what's at stake with this game," Jennings said.

"We're in the same situation. We've got guys who are beat up who we expect to play and give us a boost."

As for Mr. Rodgers, well, he's sort of owned the Bears.

Rodgers has won eight of the 10 regular-season games he’s finished against Chicago, completing 68.8 percent of his throws for 2,513 yards, 19 touchdowns and six interceptions.

His QB rating in that time is 107.7.

But, comparisons to Bulls' legend Michael Jordan?

"Like (Jordan), Rodgers is a difference-maker,” Bears cornerback Zack Bowman said.

Jennings has certainly done his share this 8-7 season on a sub-par defense that's taken most of its lumps and bruises from media and fan criticism.

That happens when you're the NFL's 29th worst defense and have allowed a league-record 1,602 rushing yards in just the last eight games.

Regardless of today's outcome, the 2014 roster could be unrecognizable with more departures and arrivals than Chicago's O'Hare Airport over Thanksgiving.

"It's obvious we're playing for us," Jennings said. "It's one and done. The playoffs start now for us. That's the way every guy in this locker room looks at it."

The same could be said for the Packers, given new life by Rogers' return.

"I don’t expect him to run as much, but he is a threat coming out of the backfield,” Jennings warned. “He’s going to take what the defense gives him, so if we are playing deep and there’s no one in front of him, I expect for him to run the ball.”

In that case ... Aaron, meet Tim. Tim, meet Aaron.

It just may come down to that.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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