Disappointing losses piling up for Packers
From Robert McGinn, JSonline
~Green Bay — Twice in the span of 12 days the Green Bay Packers couldn’t defeat a losing team from the NFC North Division at Lambeau Field.
That was the sorry state of the Packers’ affairs late Thursday night after they failed to score a point in the second half and went down hard to the Chicago Bears, 17-13, in the 192nd rendition of the NFL’s oldest rivalry.
First, it was the cellar-dwelling Detroit Lions who ended the Packers’ 13-game winning streak at home on Nov. 15. They hadn’t won in Wisconsin since 1991.
The Thanksgiving night crowd then got to sit in rain and cold as the Bears handed the Packers a devastating setback in Green Bay’s bid to win the division for the fifth straight season.
Green Bay slipped to 7-4, one-half game behind a Minnesota Vikings team that the Packers polished off with a promising performance four days earlier in Minneapolis.
Chicago is next at 5-6 followed by onrushing Detroit (4-7), which will meet the Packers next Thursday at Ford Field. The division records for the four teams are 3-1 for the Vikings, 2-2 for the Packers and Lions, and 1-3 for the Bears.
“You need to win your home games,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “It’s a game we expected to win, but we didn’t play well enough to get it done. Disappointing loss.”
McCarthy owned a 14-6 record against the Bears and a 44-14-1 record in his decade of domination against the division. The Packers had won 10 of their last 11 against the Bears, and with another victory, as a nine-point favorite, they would have tied the series (93-93-6) for the first time in 82 years.
The Bears, however, proved to be the better and stronger team as the game dragged on, especially at quarterback.
Jay Cutler, who had a nightmarish career record of 1-11 against the Packers and defensive coordinator Dom Capers, outplayed Aaron Rodgers in his most resolute and efficient performance ever against Green Bay.
For the fifth game in a row, Rodgers’ passer rating (62.7) was worse than the opposing quarterback. It’s an astonishing statistic for the NFL’s all-time leader in passer rating.
Cutler finished with a rating of 90.7 in winning for the first time in five starts at Lambeau Field. His rating in 12 previous starts had been 63.2.
The Bears clearly were the better team on offense. They mixed bubble screens, flat passes to the tight ends, sideline throws to Alshon Jeffery and a steady ground game.
Even without tight end Martellus Bennett (ribs), Cutler after a slow start threw with a calm decisiveness and tremendous velocity. His poise, after so many pratfalls against Green Bay, was both telling and remarkable.
On the other hand, the Packers had little other than screen passes in a flat passing game that is nearing rock bottom.
McCarthy attributed the defeat largely to an excessive number of dropped passes. Davante Adams struggled catching the ball throughout the rainy night, and James Jones had a great chance to make the grab for an 8-yard touchdown with 29 seconds left that would have won the game.
“We do more damn ball drills here than anyone in the history of football,” said McCarthy. “It didn’t show up tonight.
“There’s nothing broke here. If we make plays on the ball tonight the outcome is different.”
It was the Packers’ first home game on Thanksgiving since 1923.
The story of the first half for the Packers was their continued failures in short-yardage situations.
McCarthy elected to go for it on fourth and 2 at the Chicago 48, running Eddie Lacy off right tackle. When center JC Tretter, subbing for injured Corey Linsley (ankle), got blown up, the Bears stopped Lacy for no gain.
Early in the second quarter, Lacy tried to burrow behind left guard Josh Sitton on third and 1. This time, there was no movement at the point of attack, giving Pernell McPhee, the backside outside linebacker, time to flatten inside and make the tackle for no gain.
Sunday in Minnesota, the Packers converted just 2 of 5 third-and-1 situations, including just 1 of 4 rushing.
The Packers had to punt on their second possession when Adams dropped a third-and-11 pass in the clear at the Chicago 32.
“Didn’t have a very good day today,” McCarthy said, referring to Adams. “The consistency in certain areas needs to pick up.”
The first score came on the Packers’ third series. Starting from the Bears 49, the Packers gained two first downs before Lacy charged 25 yards on what has become the team’s best play of late, a screen pass, for the touchdown.
Chicago’s first five possessions resulted in one first down and 52 yards against an active, aggressive defense. Terrible field position was hurting the Bears.
Then Lacy turned the right side for a gain of 15 before he was hit from behind by strong safety Chris Prosinski, who was subbing for injured Antrel Rolle (knee).
The ball came free and was recovered by linebacker Lamarr Houston, who won a scramble with John Kuhn.
It took the Bears nine plays to go the 34 yards for a touchdown. The drive might have ended on third and 4 at the 28, but cornerback Damarious Randall blew a sack of Cutler, who then passed 10 yards to Marc Mariani.
Tight end Zach Miller came across the formation and was wide open in the left corner for a 3-yard scoring pass on third and goal.
Mason Crosby followed with a 22-yard field goal after Jeff Janis ran over two tacklers and roared for 64 on the kickoff return. The Packers would have had third and goal at the 1, but James Jones was penalized for an illegal pick, negating a 4-yard pass to Randall Cobb.
Deonte Thompson’s 37-yard gain on the ensuing kickoff allowed the Bears to start from their 42. They needed seven plays to go the distance, with Jeremy Langford piling in from the 1 for a 14-10 lead.
Beginning to heat up, Cutler completed 3 of 4 passes in the drive for 39 yards. The key play was a 19-yard sideline pass to Marquess Wilson, who beat Randall.
Green Bay trimmed its halftime deficit to 14-13 on Crosby’s 50-yard field goal as time expired.
The Packers drove from the 22 to the Bears 21 early in the third quarter, and Rodgers actually scrambled for a first down at the 10. However, the gain was brought back when Sitton was called for holding defensive end Ziggy Hood as Rodgers ran by him.
On third and 15, Tretter’s shotgun snap rolled underneath Rodgers, who was swarmed under for a loss of 14 yards that knocked the Packers out of field-goal position.
Attacking primarily through the air despite the worsening conditions, the Bears marched 83 yards in 15 plays for a 21-yard field goal by Robbie Gould to increase their lead to 17-13. With the Bears perched at the 1 on second down, Matt Forte was thrown down at the 3 and then Cutler missed Jeffery in the right corner against tight coverage by Sam Shields.
Green Bay picked up two first downs but Rodgers was sacked on third down by Willie Young, who beat Bryan Bulaga off the edge. Bulaga left with an ankle injury.
Rodgers scrambled twice for 28 yards as the Packers reached midfield. But Adams got hung up by Prosinski as he attempted to run a slant against Tracy Porter. Rodgers’ pass already was airborne and went right to Porter for an interception.
On second and 5 at the 50, center Hroniss Grasu was called for holding and the Bears, instead of having a chance to increase their lead, ended up having to punt.
Starting from their 20 with 2 minutes 45 seconds left and no timeouts, Rodgers marshaled the team to first and goal at the 8.
On first down, Rodgers held the ball and then was drilled by linebacker Shea McClellin as he fired incomplete.
On second down, Rodgers had all day before throwing incomplete to Richard Rodgers.
On third down, Jones evaded Porter in the right corner but wasn’t able to secure a contested ball against close coverage.
On fourth down, Rodgers again had time before extending left and unloading for Adams. The pass appeared to be slightly behind him and fell incomplete.
“They played coverage,” McCarthy said of the fourth-down play. “Aaron didn’t have anywhere to throw the football.”
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