The Chicago Bears have gone from 7-1 and in the discussion of Super Bowl contenders to 8-6 outside looking in for the playoffs following a 21-13 loss to the hated division rival Green Bay Packers. The score wasn’t indicative of the game as Mason Crosby missed two field goals and the Packers seemed to just toy with the Bears. It was a crushing blow to the Bears as the Packers sweep the season series and clinch the NFC North.
This was thought to be a “must win” game for Lovie Smith’s Bears to save their season and their coach but they couldn’t get the job done. The offense started off in old-school “we get off the bus running” mode, and gained 49 yards before a false start penalty on center Roberto Garza turned a 3rd and 1 into an unconverted 3rd and 6. With Robbie Gould on the sidelines, the Bears opted to punt rather than try a 51-yard FG attempt.
The Bears pinned the Packers deep in their own end, but couldn’t capitalize on their strong opening drive and good field position. A series of exchanges went by before a Mason Crosby missed FG set the Bears up with decent field position and another strong effort by Matt Forte set the Bears up in the red zone, where Jay Cutler hit Brandon Marshall for a 15-yard touchdown, an incredible individual effort by Marshall to get into the end zone.
The Packers took the subsequent drive and marched right down the field to tie it up on 29 yard from Rodgers to James Jones, the first of his three TD’s on the day. The Bears lead held up for exactly 7 plays and 3:44 of clock time. The Packers never looked back.
Cutler continued his shaky play with another poor effort against the Packers. With the score tied at 7 with just over 2 minutes left in the half, the Bears were set to attempt a 2-minute drill to go into the half with a lead. But a Jay Cutler to Devin Hester missed connection resulted in an interception that gave the Packer excellent field position to set up James Jones for another TD.
The second half continued the Bears’ offensive struggles. Staked to a 14-7 lead, the Packers opened the third quarter with 13 play drive that took up nearly half the quarter and James Jones’ third TD of the day gave the Packers a 21-7 lead that would essentially end the game.
Jay Cutler and the offense couldn’t do anything against the Packers. Jay tried to get rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery going in the 4th quarter with the Packers bracketing Marshall out of the game but Jeffery drew repeated Offensive Pass Interference penalties that stalled Bears drives and kept them out of the end zone. Olindo Mare knocked in a couple of chip shot field goals, but it wasn’t enough.
The Packers just seemed to be toying with the Bears. They went for (and converted) 4th and 6 and even attempted a throwback pass on a punt return that they fumbled and the Bears recovered. But when they were forced to kick a FG instead of a TD, you knew the game (and the season) was over.
With the loss, the Bears lose control of their playoff destiny. Now they’ll be forced to do some scoreboard watching as they head on the road for their final two games of the season.
More to follow after I dry my tears for another lost season.