Although it's been a season of disappointment and it wasn't the merriest of Christmas holidays for the Green Bay Packers and their fans, you can't say the Packers quit against the Chicago Bears. As beat up as the Packers were and having so many young players getting into the action for the first time all year -- guys like Noah Herron and Rod Gardner -- I thought the team put forth a pretty decent effort, especially in the first half and during the game's furious finish. Offensively the Packers moved the ball fairly well against arguably the best defense in the NFL. They put together some long drives and overcame adversity along the way to get the ball into the end zone.
It was disappointing to see Green Bay move the ball downfield on a pair of other drives only to have a pair of Ryan Longwell field goal attempts fail. In particular the first 38-yard miss really hurt. You just can't afford to come away without points in a situation like that. The Packers would have been up 10-7 midway in the second quarter and would have received a real momentum boost. So what happens? The Bears capitalize immediately, scoring a touchdown in just three plays. That turn of events deflated the Packers. The Bears regained the lead and never gave it up.
The Bears, on the other hand, were playing a very "vanilla" defense. They played a standard 4-3 defense. They didn't blitz a lot or mix it up the way they did in the first meeting of the two teams. That made it a little easier for the Packers to move the ball and have success. The Bears were concerned about being reserved in this game even though the NFC North title was on the line. They had an eye on the playoffs and they didn't want to give potential playoff opponents very much game film to study. They figured they could get the job done and beat the Packers if they just played a solid basic defense and they turned out to be correct.
Against any team -- especially any team with a defense as good as Chicago's -- you can't afford to give up a lot of turnovers. Obviously the interception by linebacker Lance Briggs was a very costly mistake because it gave the Bears a commanding lead. That was a pass I know Brett Favre would love to have back, but I thought it was his only poor decision in the game. On the other three interceptions, Brett was just trying to make things happen, and they weren't as costly to the Packers' chances. The Bears made some pretty nice defensive plays, too. All in all Favre's performance against the top-ranked defense was pretty good. The Packers also made their share of mistakes via penalties. It was a shame that a holding penalty wiped out the touchdown pass to Mark Tauscher. It was a creative play and the fans loved it.
Before the Packers staff can settle in and fully evaluate the 2005 season and start making plans to turn the ship around for 2006, the Seattle Seahawks come to town on New Year's Day. On paper the game won't have much meaning. The Seahawks have their division and home field playoff advantage all wrapped up. Shaun Alexander has the opportunity to break Priest Holmes' all-time touchdown record (27), needing just one more touchdown. I know the record is important to him. If he doesn't score in the first quarter, don't be surprised to see him play a bit more to receive that opportunity.
There will be enough emotion to fill Lambeau Field. After all, Mike Holmgren is making a return visit to Green Bay, and that's always exciting. Much has been made -- and rightfully so -- about the fine season the Indianapolis Colts have put together. But Holmgren deserves at least some consideration for NFL Coach of the Year after quietly (if that's possible) leading his team to a 13-2 record. Everyone knows he was Favre's mentor, and it might even be the last time Packers fans get to see No. 4 at Lambeau Field. It should be a lot of fun to watch, and, hopefully the Packers will find a way to end their season on a positive note.
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.