In a game that meant nothing to the Bears and everything to the Packers, the win by the Packers isn’t surprising; it’s how the game played out that left me a little befuddled. I knew this game would be meaningless for the Bears by around 1 PM Central time, when Atlanta was up about a bazillion to 3 against the NFL-worst Carolina Panthers and locked up the #1 overall seed in the NFC. All week Lovie Smith and the Bears came out and said that they would play all-out to try to beat their division rivals and keep them out of the playoffs, regardless of the seeding implications. I didn’t believe them, did you? But Lovie was true to his word, rolling with all of his starters until the bitter end, a 10-3 loss.
Neither team – neither team’s offense to be more precise – looked playoff ready. The 10-3 final score should be an indication of that. After last week’s 21-point 3rd quarter, many people – myself included – were wondering whether the Bears’ offense had surpassed the defense in their 38-34 win over the Jets. I guess that question was answered on Sunday in Green Bay. Jay Cutler was sacked 6 more times en route to a 168 yard 0 TD, 2 INT game. I guess the Bears decided to rest “good Jay” and let his evil twin “bad Jay” play on Sunday. The calendar may say 2011, but it sure felt like 2009, didn’t it?
The lone offensive bright spot for the Bears was Matt Forte, who went off for 91 yards on ground and another 60 yards through the air. When you consider getting out of the game healthy was of the utmost importance, it’s frustrating to see the Bears offensive game play included 39 passing attempts and 18 rushes, especially when you see how well Forte was running. It’s actually a miracle that Jay Cutler made it out of the game in one piece. He was hit hard a few times and each time the offense took to the field I was expecting to see Todd Collins trotting into the Bears huddle. But that never happened, as Cutler was out there until the bitter end, which turned out to be a Nick Collins interception that sealed the victory and a playoff spot for Green Bay.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears looked to be back to old form. The most exciting play of the day was a diving Charles Tillman interception and 41-yard return which seemed to set the Bears up for at least another field goal, but Jay Cutler’s first INT of the game squashed that opportunity. The other defensive excitement came on a goal line stand which included a Tommie Harris – yes that Tommie Harris – sack of Aaron Rodgers that forced the Packers to kick a field goal after a long Greg Jennings reception got the Packers down to the goal line.
The Packers made a quick amends for their goal line failure. After a Bears 3-and-out, the Packers went back to work with a 5-play, 75 yard touchdown drive. Like the drive before, the key play was a 46-yard pass to Greg Jennings, but the Packers used a play action pass to punch it in on the next play.
The Bears looked to have one last gasp late in the game, moving the ball down the field for what looked to be a game-tying drive, but Jay Cutler’s 2nd interception of the day sealed the Bears’ fate.
With the win, the #6 seeded Packers head to Philadelphia to take on the #3 Eagles. The only possibility for the Bears and Packers to face off is in the NFC Championship game, but for that to happen the Packers will have to beat the Eagles and Falcons and the Bears would have to beat either the Saints or Seahawks.