by Troy A. Sparks
Chicago – Trying to get to Soldier Field in Chicago was half the battle for me. I paid a heavy price to leave the city after the game. I’ll explain later.
I left for my journey to the Windy City after attending the Bucks’ Media Day event earlier. It was a good idea to leave Milwaukee no later than 3 p.m. for the two-hour drive – in fact, because of rush hour traffic on the Kennedy Expressway, my two-hour drive turned into three and a half hours. The long drive was well worth it to see these two teams face each other.
The rivalry between Green Bay and Chicago is the oldest in NFL history. Game No. 180 was a sellout as you would expect. The Packers took it to the Bears in the first half with a touchdown from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to receiver Greg Jennings in the first quarter with 4 minutes 31 seconds remaining. The Pack then followed the TD with a 38-yard field goal from Mason Crosby in the second quarter.
With nine seconds remaining in the first half, Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler found tight end Greg Olsen in the end zone from 9 yards out to cut their deficit to 10-7. It took them four plays to score their TD and bring the game within three points. That was where the score stood at halftime.
Chicago mounted a charge to start the second half after getting a turnover on a blocked field goal attempt from Crosby in the third quarter. After getting down to the Green Bay 1-yard line, quarterback Jay Cutler threw a sure TD pass to tight end Desmond Clark, who dropped the ball. That was a costly score for the Bears.
The players have Tuesdays off. That’s when some teams make transactions. I wouldn’t be surprised if Clark is deactivated for the next game or released for screwing up on a play that would’ve given the Bears a 4-point lead. Or, the team might bring in another tight end and work him out. How could Clark, a 12 year veteran drop the ball? And he wore gloves.
Chicago got their TD anyway from the special teams. Devin Hester caught a Green Bay punt at the 38-yard line and ran on the outside 62 yards for the score and a 14-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. He leaped into the stands to celebrate with the Bear fans.
While a delight for the Bears, Hester’s touch down, was a major blow to the Packers. In fact, that “screw up” on the Packer side belonged to special teams coach Shawn Slocum. Maybe his punter, Tim Mashay, outkicked his coverage.
“I thought we had good coverage lanes,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “At that particular situation, you always want to place the ball in certain places on the field against a Devin Hester. But you know, we’re in a backed-up situation. We’re trying to change the field position. You got to cover the ball once in a while. We need to cover the football better. It didn’t happen. Obviously it was a huge play in the game.”
In a nail-biting, fight to the end game, the Packers and Bears continued with back-to-back scoring. The Packers scored a TD. Then The Bears scored the last six points of the game, which basically put an end to all the Super Bowl hype for Green Bay with a 20-17 loss.
“It was disappointing,” Rodgers said. “It was an uncharacteristic game for us on offense. As a team, (we had) way too many penalties.”
Let’s talk about the 17 penalties in the game, which tied a team record that stood since 1945. Actually, in the official stats, Green Bay had an additional penalty with no yards lost.
“Seventeen penalties, that doesn’t cut it,” McCarthy said. “You can’t play football like that. We need to evaluate that and apply to our preparation for Detroit (at home Oct. 3).”
The big penalty came on third-down with 7 minutes 25 seconds at the Chicago 15-yard line and a 10-7 Green Bay lead. Rodgers found tight end Jermicheal Finley for a TD. But hold up … That touchdown was wiped out by a offensive holding call by tackle Mark Tauscher. That score would’ve put the Packers in the driver’s seat for the win.
“I don’t feel bad about the penalties,” Rodgers said. “That’s not the way we play. That’s disappointing. We’re not that team.”
While Rodgers understood that the racking up penalties is not the norm for the Green Bay Packers, he recognized the damage sustained by the penalties in Monday night’s game. . . . And when we do that . . . “We took points off the board and took big plays off the board as well,” he said.
Tausher’s offensive holding call wasn’t the only game-changing penalty for the Pack.
With the ball at their 38-yard line, Rodgers threw to receiver James Jones, who fumbled the ball, which was recovered byChicago linebacker Brian Urlacher. The Packers challenged that Jones was ruled inbounds; they thought he was out of bounds. After a review from the officials, the play was upheld and the Packers were charged a timeout.
“I was standing right there,” McCarthy said. “I had a pretty good indication of what happened. I did see the defensive backs swing out of bounds. So, I was just hopeful that the official maybe saw that (Jones) foot may have been hit (before the ball went out of bounds).
“It was 2:18 (in the game). We had two challenges left. Obviously, that was a huge play in the game. And, maybe (the call) would swing our way.”
Well we all know the end result. The call didn’t swing in favor of the Packers. And in fact, lead to the game-winning field goal by the Bears.
Oh well, we’ll take it out on the Lions.