There are all sorts of ways to lose to the Packers, and the Bears have experienced most of them during the past 25 years. But it would be hard to find one as Bear-ish as the way they lost Sunday.
Thirty-six seconds left in the game, the score tied after a valiant Bears comeback and the Packers at their own 26-yard line on third-and-11 without a timeout left. In literature, that previous sentence would be called foreshadowing. In Bears terms, it would be called uh-oh. Somehow, someway, Aaron Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson with a 60-yard completion down the middle of the field. Somehow, someway, Nelson found himself in single coverage, with only rookie cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc on him. And then behind him. Did I mention that Nelson is Rodgers’ favorite receiver?
Why the Bears would give a wily veteran the opportunity to fly past an undrafted defensive back without giving the youngster help is a very good question. Just don’t ask it.
“I am not going to get into the blame game,’’ Bears coach John Fox said.
It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme anyway. Mason Crosby’s 32-yard field goal as time expired gave Green Bay a 30-27 victory and sent the Bears to their 11th loss in 14 games. It was nice that they came back from a 17-point deficit to make a game of it, but what does it all mean? Nothing, really.
This was a game to get through in a season to get through during an ownership regime to get through. Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
You can gush all you want about the Bears’ effort on a bitterly cold Sunday afternoon and throughout this injury- and bad-football-plagued season. But the result is the same, and the problems are the same going forward. The Bears still don’t have a starting quarterback, and we still don’t know if the people charged with finding one can.
Quarterback Matt Barkley made his fourth start for the Bears, and if you want a guy who can hit an open receiver on a short or intermediate route, he’s your man. I’m still waiting for opponents to realize he’s not a threat to throw deep. On Sunday, he went 30 of 43 for 362 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. One interception in the end zone on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half carried no import. He also lost a fumble. What the Bears are left with is a good backup. That’s not faint praise. That’s more than anyone thought Barkley could be when he arrived before the season as a practice-squad player.
He had a chance to give the Bears a lead on third down from the Packers’ four-yard line in the waning moments Sunday, but he couldn’t take advantage of the fact Green Bay had only 10 defenders on the field. Big-time quarterbacks salivate when they see a wounded defense. Barkley stuck with the play given to him and watched his pass to Cameron Meredith get knocked down by the Packers’ Micah Hyde.
The Bears settled for a short field goal to tie the game at 27, and, well, what could go wrong? Aaron Rodgers, his team battling for a playoff spot and 74 yards to the Bears’ end zone? Oh, practically nothing.
“I can only imagine what we would look like if we were consistent in executing for four quarters,’’ Barkley said.
But that’s just it: The Bears don’t put four good quarters together because they can’t. They don’t have the talent for it. Missed tackles were the problem Sunday, which helps explain how Green Bay’s Ty Montgomery could rush for 162 yards on 16 carries.
The temperature at kickoff was 11 with a wind chill of minus-4. That and a bad season explain why there were 16,536 reported no-shows at Soldier Field. The fans who did show up looked like the last few ice cubes in a tray. Why were they there? I have no earthly idea. Some were Packers fans, but there were Bears fans too, identifiable by their thick blue-and-orange clothing. Only the players’ effort stopped those caps from being brown paper bags.
But if that’s considered a victory, then clearly the Bears have lost their way. It feels like smoke and mirrors, with the Bears lauding themselves for their heart and desire after every game, and some people buying into it. If watching someone give effort is a spectator sport, Bears fans might want to consider setting up bleachers to watch coal miners work.
Watching winning football apparently is too much to ask.