Game Review: Loss Freezes Packers Out Of NFC's Top Spot

CHICAGO - If the Packers are going to reach the Super Bowl this season, they’ll have to do it as a No. 2 playoff seed. The Cowboys’ victory on Saturday coupled with Green Bay’s 35-7 loss at Chicago on Sunday has locked the Packers (12-3) into the NFC’s second seed for the postseason. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Bears Game Center


CHICAGO - If the Green Bay Packers are going to reach the Super Bowl this season, they'll have to do it as a No. 2 playoff seed.

The Dallas Cowboys' victory on Saturday night coupled with Green Bay's 35-7 loss at division rival Chicago on Sunday has locked the Packers (12-3) into the NFC's second seed for the postseason. Green Bay will have a first-round bye and a home game on Jan. 12 or 13, but should the Packers get a rematch with the Cowboys (13-2) in the NFC Championship, they'll have to play it in Dallas.

But before the Packers can even entertain such thoughts, they'll have to rebound, starting with the regular-season finale against Detroit next Sunday, from by far their ugliest performance of 2007.

"We have to worry about Detroit before we can worry about anything else," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "We've got work to do."

With temperatures in the teens and winds whipping off Lake Michigan at anywhere from 20 to 40 miles per hour, the Packers struggled mightily in the cold, blustery conditions.

A slew of fumbled snaps, dropped passes and punting problems prevented the Packers from establishing much of anything, and the Bears simply overran them to sweep the season series.

In the locker room after the game, the phrase "wake-up call" could be heard a few times, and the Packers plan to use it as such.

"The only good thing about this is that's it's the regular season," cornerback Charles Woodson said. "Come playoff time, there is no next week. We have another game left in the season where we can go out and play the type of football we've been playing all year."

The Bears looked better prepared for the wintry weather from the outset, putting together an 18-play drive to open the game that consumed 10 minutes, 45 seconds and resulted in a field goal.

The Packers avoided some trouble early when a fumbled punt snap and a blocked punt failed to produce any points for Chicago. Following the blocked punt, a fourth-and-goal pass from Kyle Orton to Muhsin Muhammad bounced right off the receiver's chest, keeping the early score 3-0.

Green Bay briefly showed signs of life on Ryan Grant's 66-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, taking a 7-6 lead. But a shanked punt set up a Chicago TD drive just before halftime, and set the tone for an abysmal second half.

"The No. 1 road rule is to match their intensity and exceed it," defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "And that's where we fell short today."

Alex Brown's interception led to a short TD pass to Desmond Clark, another blocked punt was returned for a touchdown by Corey Graham, and Brian Urlacher turned the game officially into a rout with an interception and 85-yard return for a score, making it 35-7 early in the fourth quarter.

Running back Adrian Peterson pounded away 30 times for 102 yards, and former third-string quarterback Kyle Orton was impressively efficient (8-for-14, 101 yards, 1 TD, 103.6 rating) in limited opportunities.

By contrast, both before and after the game became a blowout, the Packers simply couldn't muster anything on offense. Other than Grant's TD run, Green Bay didn't cross Chicago's 35-yard line until the fourth quarter. When they did twice late, Urlacher's pick-six and a turnover on downs ended the scoring chances.

Often brilliant in the winter weather, quarterback Brett Favre never found any rhythm. The fact that the Bears were missing four key defensive starters to injury in cornerback Nathan Vasher, linebacker Lance Briggs, defensive end Mark Anderson and defensive tackle Darwin Walker didn't matter.

One shotgun snap went through Favre's hands, another from center Scott Wells never got off the ground, and his receivers dropped a handful of throws. Favre (17-of-32, 153 yards, 2 INT, 40.2 rating) was forced to throw the ball far more often than the Packers wanted to coming in.

{sportsad300}"I've been playing 17 years, and that's the worst conditions I've ever played in," said Favre, noting it wasn't the temperature, but the wind that wreaked the havoc. "Excuse, no excuse, it was. But they handled it better than we did.

"We have historically handled it well ... it's been kind of our ace in the hole. But today obviously it wasn't."

Which sends the Packers into regroup mode. With the Detroit game rendered meaningless in terms of playoff positioning, how long Green Bay plays its starters next Sunday at Lambeau Field will be discussed all week. But the priority will be performing in a way that gets the taste of this game out of their mouths.

"We need to continue examining ourselves and don't think that we have arrived," defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila said. "It probably couldn't happen at a better time.

"Going into the playoffs, if you're winning you probably don't examine yourselves under a microscope, but because you lose, ... you really examine yourselves, really look at it going into the playoffs. So it's probably a blessing in disguise. At least that's my crazy way of thinking."

Actually, that may not be the craziest of notions. The Bears obviously exposed some deficiencies the Packers can't afford in the postseason, which will begin at a cold, wintry Lambeau.

"In my opinion it's something we can use to catapult us and make us a better team going into the tournament," linebacker Brady Poppinga said. "It's all going to depend on how we handle it."

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