GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -For all the speculation whether Bears quarterback Kyle Orton will be healthy enough to start Sunday's game at Green Bay, it might not matter if the Packers can't find a way to stop the run.
Run defense isn't exactly the Packers' forte, making Sunday's critical NFC North matchup at Lambeau Field a potential breakout game for impressive rookie running back Matt Forte.
The Packers (4-5) gave up 192 yards rushing to Adrian Peterson in a loss at Minnesota last Sunday, the latest development in a season's worth of deficient run defense. To make matters worse, middle linebacker Nick Barnett will miss the rest of the season because of a knee injury.
Packers outside linebacker A.J. Hawk, who is likely to slide inside to replace Barnett, expects the Bears to run right at them.
``I think once you've shown something on film that you haven't done really well, I think a team should come in and try to test that - see if you've cleaned it up, if you can stop it,'' Hawk said. ``As far as the run game's concerned for us, we haven't been stopping the run like we should. We expect everyone to test us.''
Forte, a second-round pick out of Tulane, has rushed for a team-high 713 yards. He's also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, and is leading the team in receptions. His play has gone a long way toward wiping away the disappointing and short tenure of former first-rounder Cedric Benson.
``He's done it the way you want,'' Bears coach Lovie Smith said. ``The Chicago Bears need to have a tailback like Matt Forte.''
They also wouldn't mind the return of Orton, another pleasant surprise this season.
Orton quietly was putting together a steady, productive year when he injured his ankle against Detroit two weeks ago, leading to the return of former starter Rex Grossman and his trademark streaky play.
The Bears (5-4) have been coy about Orton's chances of starting Sunday. But no matter who plays, Orton said running the ball will be critical against a team with excellent pass defense.
``They commit so many guys to coverage,'' Orton said. ``You've got to do a good job running the football and make plays with your running backs and tight ends. We should have good matchups with our tight ends, like always, and our running backs. Running or throwing, we've got to be able to play well inside.''
ir biggest rival under Smith.
Smith made beating the Packers a major point of emphasis when he took over as Bears head coach in 2004, and hasn't disappointed. He is 6-2 against Green Bay, 4-0 at Lambeau.
``Why it's happened, why we've had success, I don't know,'' Smith said. ``We've beaten some good Green Bay teams. Hopefully, we can do it again.''
Every Bears-Packers game is big, but this one is bigger - especially for the Packers, who are a game behind Chicago and Minnesota in the standings and would have a tougher time putting together another playoff run with a loss Sunday.
Packers defensive end Aaron Kampman said he is surprised the Packers are struggling after going to the NFC championship game last season, but not all is lost.
``We're still a game out from leading this division, which is crazy, being a game under .500,'' Kampman said.
Sunday's game also is an opportunity for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to get back on the hot streak he was riding early in the season. Rodgers, nursing a sprained right shoulder for nearly two months, has cooled off. Of course, it didn't help that he appeared to be running for his life against the Vikings' pass rush last Sunday.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said it's only natural that a first-year starter - and the rest of a young team used to having success - would hit a rough patch.
``You always want to stay on the positive path, but I think we're naive to think that we weren't going to hit bumps in the road,'' McCarthy said. ``I think every experience that he's had, both positive and negative, it's important for us to continue to build off them. The negative things that happened in that Minnesota game, we need to flip them into positives. We cannot let bad performances happen in our game. You have bad plays, but to have a bad overall performance, that's unacceptable.''
The Bears' once-mighty defense still stops the run pretty well. But Chicago is as bad against the pass as the Packers are against the run, providing potential big plays for Rodgers and his receivers.
``With how we've played pass defense, I would assume most teams would want to pass just about every time against us, too,'' Smith deadpanned. ``We'll see what happens.''
Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said it will be weird to face Rodgers instead of Brett Favre, but notes it's ``not time to reminisce'' because Rodgers presents unique challenges.
``Aaron, he's younger, can run a little bit better than Brett can and doesn't seem to make the mistakes that Brett made,'' Ogunleye said. ``It's not fair to compare a legend to someone who's just starting out, but Brett was a little more careless with the ball. He'd throw it to anybody. Aaron, he's not afraid to hold onto it and run.''

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