Game Review: Second-Half Struggles Lead To Familiar Finish

CHICAGO - After a strong showing in the first half that enabled them to jump out to a 14-3 halftime lead, it was a common refrain for the Packers down the stretch as miscues cost them once again, this time in a 20-17 loss to Chicago at Soldier Field on Monday night that ended with a 38-yard field goal from Bears kicker Robbie Gould in overtime. - More Packers-Bears Game Center


CHICAGO - After a strong showing in the first half that enabled them to jump out to a 14-3 halftime lead, it was a common refrain for the Packers down the stretch as miscues cost them once again, this time in a 20-17 loss to Chicago at Soldier Field on Monday night that ended with a 38-yard field goal from Bears kicker Robbie Gould in overtime.

The defeat, Green Bay's seventh in eight games, dropped the Packers to 5-10 with one game remaining. The loss on Monday night in frigid conditions was their seventh this season by four points or less, including their last four by that narrow margin.

"It was a tough, hard-fought football game like they always are," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "We had a lot of opportunities. They made some key plays, particularly on special teams that factored in the outcome. You come down here, you have obstacles you run into every game, and we didn't make enough plays to win."

The key play on special teams was a blocked kick by Bears defensive end Alex Brown with 25 seconds remaining on Mason Crosby's 38-yard field goal attempt that would have given the Packers a 20-17 lead, and most likely their first victory since topping Chicago on Nov. 16 at Lambeau Field.

After Chicago had tied the game at 17 on a 3-yard touchdown run from rookie running back Matt Forte with just over three minutes remaining in the game, Will Blackmon fielded Gould's kick at the Green Bay 18 and took it out 32 yards to midfield. Bears running back Adrian Peterson was flagged for a late hit out of bounds, tacking on 15 yards for the Packers to put them near field goal range.

Facing a 3rd-and-8 from the 33, quarterback Aaron Rodgers found wide receiver James Jones on the left side for a 9-yard pickup and a first down at the Bears 24 with two minutes left. With the Bears having just one timeout left, Rodgers handed off to running back Ryan Grant on three straight plays, picking up just four yards total, as the Packers burned time off the clock to set up Crosby's kick.

"I think it made sense (the three rushing plays)," Rodgers said. "They had one timeout left. We have confidence in our run game that we get a first down there and we can milk it all the way down to three (seconds) and call timeout. We didn't."

Brown got a push up the middle and was able to get his right hand on the kick, which McCarthy said after the game appeared to be low.

"It got blocked, so it might have come off a little low," Crosby said. "But we'll look at the film and I'll evaluate it after that."

The Bears won the toss in overtime and started out at their own 33 after a 24-yard return from Danieal Manning. Quarterback Kyle Orton found tight end Greg Olsen in the left flat on first down for a 17-yard gain, and the damage was compounded by a 15-yard penalty on safety Aaron Rouse for a horse-collar tackle to put Chicago at the Green Bay 35.

"I was standing right there," McCarthy said. "Tough call, tough call in a tough time in the game."

After two handoffs to Forte generated just one yard, Orton found Forte in the right flat on third down for a 14-yard pickup to Green Bay's 20, and Gould's 38-yard kick three plays later with 11 minutes, 28 seconds left in overtime put the finishing touch on another disappointing loss for the Packers.

"It's frustrating," center Scott Wells said. "I think everybody can sense that. I'm sure you guys can sense that in here. I'm sure you're frustrated reporting the same story. I don't know what else to say. That's basically it. Missed opportunities and we let it slip away.

"It basically is just not getting it done at the end. We've had several games like this this year with the lead and we find a way to let it slip at the end. If you want to categorize it all it's not getting it done at the end."

What made the loss even more frustrating was how dominant the Packers were in almost every category yet they still fell short.

The Packers outgained the Bears 221-48 in total net yards in the opening half, including 14 first downs by Green Bay to just two from Chicago. Green Bay finished with 325 total yards to the Bears' 210, and converted on third downs at a much better clip (8-of-17 to Chicago's 4-of-12).

Green Bay's defense forced the Bears to go three-and-out on their opening two possessions, and Chicago ran just 18 offensive plays to the Packers' 38 on their way to the 11-point halftime lead.

It appeared that the Packers would carry their success into the second half as they forced another three-and-out on Chicago's opening possession. But that momentum quickly shifted after Brad Maynard's punt hit the back of cornerback Jarrett Bush's leg as he was blocking wide receiver Rashied Davis, and Bears fullback Jason Davis recovered at the Green Bay 27.

Orton found tight end Desmond Clark for a 21-yard gain on the second play of the series, and three plays later connected with Olsen for a 3-yard touchdown that narrowed Green Bay's lead to 14-10.

Early in the fourth quarter the Packers had an opportunity to make it a two-score game as they moved the ball down to the Chicago 5 after an interception by cornerback Charles Woodson gave the offense possession at the Bears 30.

{sportsad300}After an incomplete pass from Rodgers intended for tight end Tory Humphrey in the right corner of the end zone on first down, Rodgers lost five yards on a quarterback draw. Rodgers' then missed wide receiver Donald Driver on a slant on third down, forcing the Packers to settle for a 28-yard field goal from Crosby that kept the Bears within a score.

"Offensively we didn't cash in on our opportunities," Rodgers said. "We've got to get touchdowns when we are first-and-goal, and we ended up with a field goal there. We didn't convert a third down in the third quarter and missed a field goal.

"The amount of yards we put up and the efficiency with which we moved the ball, you've got to get more points than 17. Our defense did a great job. They put us in a good situation for a lot of the game. We had turnovers, stopped them, and we just didn't score enough points on offense to win the game."

Now what remains for the 2008 Packers is a date with the winless Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field, the first 0-15 team in NFL history. For a team that hasn't been able to experience the feel of a win in almost 40 days, it will be the Packers' last chance in a season where victories became elusive.

"It's so hard to believe we are 5-10," wide receiver Donald Driver said. "You would never have expected that going into training camp. We thought that we would be in the Super Bowl. Instead we are packing our bags going home after next week. It's a sad thing, but one thing we have to do is take care of Detroit next week and get ready for next season."

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