GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy has the hottest team in the playoffs after beating the Eagles 21-16 and the Falcons 48-21 on the road. But as hot as Aaron Rodgers has been, he knows the Bears are a step up on defense.
''This is probably the best defense we've played to date,'' McCarthy said Wednesday at Lambeau Field. ''They're very sound. They've been together the whole year. The're better from the first time we played them and the second time. I was very impressed with the way they played against Seattle. They're playing at a high level.''
The Packers obviously used to playing in winter conditions. But after playing in optimum conditions of the Georgia Dome last week, facing the Bears at Soldier Field will be a transition. McCarthy said his team not only practiced outdoors, but ''opened up'' the indoor Hutson Center to simulate cold-weather conditions.
''The temperature was between 29 and 32 degrees, so we're working as much as we can on handling the football in this type of weather,'' McCarthy said.
There's uneasiness among some Packer faithful with news that the referee for the game will be Terry McAulay, whose crew called 18 penalties for 152 yards in the Bears 20-17 victory over the Packers at Soldier Field in Week 3. But this time, McAulay will not be working with the rest of the crew from that game.
The Packers took it in stride.
''We look at [the 18 penalties] as an anomoly,'' McCarthy said. ''I know that's an all-star crew. Terry is the referee. He's obviously been selected for this game for good reason.
''I don't think this game is going to be about officiating. These are two very good teams that earned the right to play in this game. This game will be about the football team.''