Good for you, Lovie.
All week long, Bears fans implored Lovie Smith to play his starters against the hated Pack, who were fighting for their playoff lives. Lovie delivered a 60-minute effort by his starters, especially his defense, which held the explosive Green Bay offense to 10 points.
But the Bears offense struggled mightily too, allowing 6 sacks of Jay Cutler. An Aaron Rodgers short TD toss to Donald Lee followed a 46-yard pass to Greg Jennings. Other than that, Rodgers looked average. He threw 2 interceptions, one of which Charles Tillman returned 42 yards to the Packers 15 yardline. But a Jay Cutler INT in the end zone ended any chances of the Bears turning the turnover into points.
The 10-3 outcome doesn’t mean much for the Bears. The Packers secured the 6th seed in the NFC and will travel to Philly to take on Mike Vick and the Eagles. Bears fans excited (or worried) about a rematch in the playoffs should note that the teams won’t meet again unless the Packers win on the road in Philly and then again at Atlanta the following week.
A surprising 11-5 season for the NFC North Champions – which nobody in the NFL could’ve seen coming – means the Bears have two weeks off before playing again. Despite playing his starters the whole game in a bruising defensive battle, the Bears leave Green Bay relatively healthy. Chris Harris, Nick Roach and Major Wright suffered injuries, but Lovie said in the post-game that none of them appear to be serious.
While the Bears defense forced punts and interceptions all game long, the Bears offense was another story. With poor field position, penalties and sacks, Cutler had trouble getting the offense in a rhythm. He finished 21-39 for 168 yards and the two picks. The Packers blitzed repeatedly, helping to hold the Bears to 5 of 16 on 3rd down conversions.
The Bears did manage to make things interesting with their last drive, which again started deep in their own territory at their own 2.
Cutler dinked and dunked the team down the field. With less than 30 seconds left at the Packers 32, he took a deep shot down the middle. The overthrow was intercepted by Packers safety Nick Collins, clinching the playoff spot for Green Bay.
The Bears can find solace in a tough late-season loss. It was a close loss in a ‘meaningless’ game to the undefeated Patriots in 2007 that sent the Giants to an unexpected Super Bowl run. The Bears’ road to the Super Bowl in Dallas won’t be as tough as the Giants was…but hopefully, a similar result awaits Lovie and crew.