Coordinators in spotlight in NFC title game

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. --- The Green Bay Packers were a mess when they hired Dom Capers as their defensive coordinator two years ago, and the Chicago Bears had issues on offense when they turned to Mike Martz after last season.

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Mike Martz's Chicago offense is only 30th in the league, but the improvements the Bears made on that side of the ball during the season helped lift them to the NFC North title and a first-round playoff bye.
  Associated Press
Associated Press
Mike Martz's Chicago offense is only 30th in the league, but the improvements the Bears made on that side of the ball during the season helped lift them to the NFC North title and a first-round playoff bye.

Well, now look at them.

The Packers and Bears meet in the NFC Championship game on Sunday, and the outcome just might hinge on the chess match between two veteran coordinators.

"Mike has certainly been doing this for a lot of years, and he has a lot of little intricacies that are true to his system, I think, that you never know when that's going to come out," Capers said.

"And he knows when he wants to use them and he knows when I think they'll be the most effective against you."

Martz called Capers "a terrific teacher" whose teams have always been "well schooled." And Green Bay's defense sure earned high grades this year, helping the Packers get to the conference championship despite a list of injuries that would have derailed many teams.

The Bears, meanwhile, looked as if they were coming off the tracks before making some key adjustments on offense and turning around their season.

Now, these teams are facing off for the 182nd time and the stakes have never been higher.

Franchises with a combined 21 championships and 47 Hall of Famers -- with icons on both sides such as Halas, Butkus and Ditka, and Lombardi, Starr and Nitschke -- are set to go at it for a spot in the Super Bowl.

Now, there are the coordinators.

Statistically, it looks like a mismatch. Capers is leading the fifth-ranked defense, while Martz's offense ranked 30th, but the improvements the Bears made on that side of the ball during the season helped lift them to the NFC North title and a first-round playoff bye.

"(Capers) understands this game as well as anybody defensively," Martz said. "I have great respect for him."

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