Packers’ locker room looks to finish strong for each other

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CHICAGO – The visiting locker room inside Soldier Field was cloaked in silence in the aftermath of the Packers’ 24-17 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

The outcome not only eliminated Green Bay from playoff contention, but also marked the first time in more than eight years the Bears had defeated the Packers on their home turf.

So much time had passed since Chicago’s last home win over Green Bay, veteran cornerback Tramon Williams admitted afterward that he was racking his brain in the locker room before the game, trying to think of it (a 30-27 defeat early in 2010).

Coming off a decisive 34-20 win over the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday, the Packers felt good about their chances for picking up a ninth straight road win over the Bears and staging a potential late-season run.

Instead, Sunday’s game against the Bears featured many similar elements from Green Bay’s previous six road losses this season and the end result was the Packers falling to 5-8-1 on the year.

“I don’t think anybody anticipated having a losing season. It is what it is,” said linebacker Clay Matthews, who had a sack and was credited with a forced fumble. “We’re that close to having this whole thing flipped, but that’s all you can say in hindsight. We just haven’t done enough. We haven’t made those few plays that usually turn the game in our favor.”

The offense started slow, punting on three of its first four possessions. When the Packers finally scored a touchdown on a 10-yard run by Jamaal Williams at the end of the third quarter, the offense was unable to stack the momentum on back-to-back three-and-outs to start the fourth.

Green Bay still mounted a late drive in the fourth quarter, including a 23-yard catch on second-and-4 from receiver Davante Adams that put Green Bay firmly in scoring territory and marked his 100th reception on the season.

A few plays later, however, quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a pass deflected into the air and picked off by Chicago safety Eddie Jackson in the end zone, effectively ending Rodgers’ streak of 402 passes attempted without an interception.

While Green Bay’s playoff hopes weren’t over completely with a loss to the Bears, Minnesota’s 41-17 victory over Miami sealed the Packers’ fate.

“It’s really tough. Just having that idea in your head that the five percent chance or whatever it was,” said Adams, who finished with eight catches for 119 yards. “It’s not that far-fetched for the Vikings to lose two and whoever else to lose one. It looked pretty promising (but) that’s why I don’t like to focus on all the other stuff and who needs to beat who and all that. You just need to focus on winning the game.”

Conversely, the Packers mostly held Chicago’s offense in check despite not having defensive tackle Kenny Clark (elbow) available. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen were limited to 24 carries for 81 yards, while a botched read-option between the two led to the Packers’ only takeaway at the start of the fourth quarter.

However, Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky made the plays he needed to make in completing 20-of-28 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns. Looking to ice the game late, Cohen returned a JK Scott punt 44 yards to set up a Cody Parkey chip-shot field goal to put Chicago up two scores with 6 minutes, 46 seconds remaining.

This season has had its share of highs and lows for the Packers. The challenge now for a locker room accustomed to deep January runs is finishing the 2018 season on a high note.

“You play for your teammates. You play for your coaches. You play for the people in this organization that brought you here and gave you a chance,” Williams said. “You play for your family. You play for your name. You play for all those things. You don’t pack it in because the season didn’t go the way you wanted it to go.

“It’s a chance to show, especially now, what you’re made of, what the team is made of. What the guys in the locker room are made of. I have no doubt that’s what we’ll show.”

The Packers have one more chance to pick up a road victory next Sunday when they travel to face the New York Jets.

“Play for the guys next to me, play for the guys in this locker room, play for the organization, play for Coach (Joe) Philbin,” left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “That’s what we’ve been playing for since the beginning.

“Obviously, you have personal goals and you want to go to the Super Bowl and all that stuff. When all those go away, all the noise from the outside, it’s the men in this locker room. That’s really what gives me energy are the guys I want to play for.”

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