Dead men walking.
That’s what the Bears looked like as they left the field Sunday following their fifth loss in six games overall and their sixth straight loss to the Packers, who clinched the NFC North title with a 21-13 victory at Soldier Field.
If the season ended now, the 8-6 Bears would not be invited to the postseason party, and they’ve got an uphill fight to claw their way back to the sixth and final seed. They’re currently No. 8 and no longer control their own destiny.
“We have to get to the playoffs a different way,” coach Lovie Smith said. “That’s the only thing we can think about right now.”
They’re better off thinking about that than their latest failed attempt at keeping Bears-Packers a legitimate rivalry.
“It wears on me,” Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said. ”It wears on everyone. You don’t want to lose to your rival year-in and year-out. Then it’s not a rivalry anymore, it’s a domination.”
The only things the 10-4 Packers are missing are the black leather and the whip.
The life seemed to go out of the Bears and their fans after Aaron Rodgers led the visitors on a 79-yard TD drive to start the second half that consumed 6:52 and widened their lead to 21-7. All 3 Green Bay TDs came on Rodgers-to-James Jones passes.
Rodgers, who now has 12 TD passes and just 2 interceptions in his last four games against the Bears, was neutralized early, but he finished with a flourish and a 116.8 passer rating.
“He was like he normally is,” Smith said. “He’s a great player. MVP of the league.”
But even after building a 14-point lead, the Packers made enough mistakes to allow a team with a quality offense to get back in the game. Green Bay’s snake-bitten kicker Mason Crosby also missed field-goal attempts from 43 and 42 yards, but that wasn’t enough help for a Bears offense that produced just 119 yards in the final three quarters and 190 for the game.
Late in the third quarter Bears cornerback Charles Tillman forced a fumble by Ryan Grant that was recovered by Nick Roach at the Bears’ 37-yard line. Rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery drew a 5-yard illegal contact penalty and a 53-yard pass interference infraction on back-to-back plays. That set the Bears up with a second-and-goal from the 1-yard line late in the third quarter.
But 2 straight Matt Forte runs failed to gain and, on fourth-and-1, Jeffery’s apparent TD grab was nullified when he was called for the first of 3 offensive pass interference penalties. The Bears settled for Olindo Mare’s 34-yard field goal.
“It hurts,” Smith said of the goal-line failure. “We had excellent field position. You’ve got to capitalize. You can’t rely on field goals in those situations. We need to get touchdowns.”
The red zone offense failed again minutes later.
After Crosby’s second missed field goal, the Packers gave the Bears one final gift. Midway through the fourth quarter, from deep in their own end, with a 21-10 lead, they uncorked a cockamamie special teams lateral pass by punt returner Randall Cobb that Jeremy Ross couldn’t handle. Bears safety Anthony Walters recovered at the Packers’ 16.
But the Bears’ offense, which went 0-for-9 on third downs, failed to gain a single yard. Mare’s second 34-yard field goal were the game’s final points.
For a while, the game was competitive, although the Packers wound up with a 201-yard edge in total offense.
An evenly played first half took a dismal turn for the Bears late in the second quarter when Cutler threw a pass intended for Devin Hester into the chest of Packers cornerback Casey Hayward at midfield. It appeared the quarterback and his receiver weren’t on the same page.
“It came out of my hands,” Cutler said. “I’m responsible. Those things can’t happen against teams like this. That’s how you lose ball games.”
Hayward’s 24-yard return set up the second Jones TD catch, which gave the Packers a 14-7 advantage just 28 seconds before halftime.
The Bears actually led 7-0 after scoring on a 15-yard Cutler-to-Marshall pass play midway through the second quarter, but that 67-yard drive represented one-third of their offensive output for the game.
”What I have to do is try my best to keep it together and not let this affect me because it’s starting to affect me more than it should,” said Marshall, who stiff-armed Brad Jones to the turf en route to his 10th score of the season. “I’m trying my all to do my job. So, that’s it.”
That might be it for the Bears as well.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.