Just when are Bears going to solve Packers riddle?
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If not on this day, when?
If not at Soldier Field, where?
If not with fans on their feet chanting: "Let's go Bears," how?
If the Bears weren't going to beat Aaron Rodgers and the Packers on this day, they aren't going to beat them.
In a game for the NFC North title and a playoff berth, the Packers beat the Bears 33-28 on a chilly lakefront chilled further by Sunday's outcome.
Many said the result wouldn't matter because the winner would lose in the postseason's first round next weekend anyway. But it did matter. Making the playoffs always matters. It certainly mattered to the crowd trying to will the Bears to victory.
This was the Bears' opportunity. The Packers came here with a 7-7-1 record and a quarterback that hadn't played in nearly two months.
That would be Mr. Rodgers, whose non-throwing collarbone the Bears broke during the Packers' first possession in Green Bay on Nov. 4.
Rodgers was expected to be rusty in his comeback and he was, throwing 2 interceptions that prevented the Packers from winning this game early.
So Rodgers won it late instead. He led the Packers on a 15-play, 87-yard drive that culminated in a 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb with 38 seconds left to play.
The Bears couldn't beat Green Bay even though Jay Cutler posted a quarterback rating of 103.8 to his counterpart's 85.2. They couldn't beat Green Bay even though running back Matt Forte rushed for 110 yards and caught passes for 47 more. They couldn't beat Green Bay on this day any more than they could beat Rodgers on other days in Soldier Field or in Lambeau Field or anywhere in between.
So when is this going to happen? When are the Bears going to get the best of this menace? In my lifetime? Yours? His? Ours?
"We showed we could play with them," Bears' wide receiver Brandon Marshall said grasping at some sort of consolation prize. "It's not a lopsided thing."
No, it isn't, not always. Often the difference is a touchdown or less. Often it's just the difference of Rodgers making a play.
"It's not like Green Bay has a 75 percent chance to win and the Bears' is 25 percent," Marshall said. "It's 50-50."
Ah, but too often the Packers' 50 is half full and the Bears' 50 is half empty. At least it has worked out that way the last seven times Rodgers remained upright in this rivalry.
Maybe the Bears finally would have beaten Rodgers if not for one of the wackiest plays in a wacky season.
Rodgers' major contribution in the first half was being sacked, fumbling and running over toward it as it rested on the ground.
"We never allow the ball to sit on the ground like that in practice," Bears' head coach Marc Trestman said. "Nobody jumped on the ball (this time)."
Not until Jarrett Boykin, perhaps because of the presence and urging of Rodgers, picked it up and ran 15 yards for a Green Bay touchdown.
Maybe you noticed that the Packers' final margin of victory was less than a TD.
The Packers didn't play particularly well on this day and the Bears didn't play particularly poorly … yet a playoff game will be contested in Green Bay next weekend instead of Chicago.
The Bears finished with an 8-8 record, about right considering the defense suffered injuries to key players and Cutler was in and out of the lineup with ailments of his own. But the Packers also had adversities, primarily Rodgers missing half the season.
So, again, if not now, when? If not here, where? And if not under these conditions, how?
The Bears must continue to search for the answers if they're ever going to beat the Packers and Aaron Rodgers during our lifetime or his career.
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