When you're having the kind of season the Packers are enduring in 2005, every loss is painful. Losing to the archrival Chicago Bears only makes it worse, especially when your defense plays its heart out and shuts down Chicago's offense. Once again turnovers destroyed any chances Green Bay had for playing the spoiler at Soldier Field. Football is a game of inches where just a few mistakes can make all the difference in the world. That certainly was the case Sunday.
The Packers not only blew an opportunity to take a 14-6 lead heading into halftime, they also allowed the momentum of the game to completely shift on one huge play. At the end of the second quarter, with the Packers offense on the field for a nice sustained drive, the Bears' Charles Tillman stepped right in front of Robert Ferguson and pulled down a wobbly Brett Favre pass. After Tillman raced 95 yards the other way, the fine hustle of Tony Fisher and Antonio Chatman helped save a touchdown. The Bears then booted a field goal for a 9-7 lead at intermission. That quick two-play sequence created a likely 10-point swing, and it gave the Bears the momentum for the second half. It hurt big time because the Packers clearly had things going their way. Brett, after a slow start, was hot at that point, hitting on seven of his last eight passes before the pick.
It's a bitter pill for Packer fans to swallow, but you have to give the Bears their due. Their defense is for real. Chicago wins games by making big hits, forcing turnovers and finding ways to win games. On my post-game radio shows it was interesting to hear how Bears' fans are panicking over Chicago's anemic offense. I think on Sunday the Packers' defense had a lot to do with that.
All in all, the Packers played well enough to beat the Bears and that's what's so frustrating for players, coaches and fans right now. Anytime you can hold an opposing quarterback to under 100 yards passing, that's a good day for the defense. I know the Bears ran the ball with some efficiency, but all in all, I thought Green Bay's defense played well enough to win. They intercepted Kyle Orton, but unfortunately, failed to capitalize. They held the Bears to 0-for-10 on third down conversions, further proof that they were getting the job done defensively. I thought the Packers' pressure on Orton really kept him uneasy and made him look like a rookie. It seemed like he lost his poise in the pocket and on one play he was dancing so much that he basically sacked himself.
On the offensive side of the ball, I thought the coaches and the players executed their game plan well. The Packers used a well-balanced attack with a nice mix of calls, including screen passes, short rhythm passes, bootlegs and reverses. In short, they were unpredictable offensively and able to move the ball. Samkon Gado made several impressive runs, showing good patience, using his blockers and cutting back against the grain. Donald Driver turned in a nice performance with eight catches. You've got to be able to finish drives, however, and make the plays that result in points. The Packers just didn't get that done.
Punter B.J. Sander had a rough afternoon, and his two shanks left the Bears with excellent field position. At the same time, the Soldier Field weather didn't seem to bother Chicago punter Brad Maynard as he got off booming kicks that pinned the Packers deep in their own territory on two occasions. Maynard averaged 48 yards-per-punt to Sander's 35, and that helped the Bears win the battle for field position.
Up next will be the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field -- a battle between two struggling teams. It's a Sunday night game, and you can be sure it's going to be cold. Whichever team manages to avoid the turnovers and mistakes will probably come out on top.
Don "Majik" Majkowski was inducted into the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame earlier this year. His career for the Packers spanned six seasons (1987-92), including being named to the Pro Bowl in 1989 when he led the NFL in passing yards. In addition to his duties with Packers.com, Majik provides football analysis for WSSP-AM, SportsRadio 1250 in Milwaukee, WDUZ SportsRadio 107.5 & 1400 The Fan in Green Bay, WTSO - ESPN 1070 in Madison, WDEZ in Wausau, and WIZD in Stevens Point. Visit Majik's Web site, www.majiknetwork.net, for more information.