CHICAGO – The Green Bay Packers’ last-second 20-17 loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Monday night will go down as one of the most brutal and disappointing games in Mike McCarthy’s five-year tenure as head coach.
The Packers blew a 10-point first-half lead. They blew a chance to grab sole possession of first place in the NFC North. They blew a game they should have won.
The defeat produced some customary clichés in the locker room, but phrases like “We shot ourselves in the foot” and “We didn’t execute” just don’t cut it.
The Packers’ undisciplined, sloppy brand of football was alarming coming from a team that is talented enough to compete for a Super Bowl championship this season. It wasn’t just a few plays here, or some missed opportunities there. The entire game was littered with Packers’ blunders.
“We did a lot of things we don’t characteristically do,” said guard Daryn Colledge. “We’re a smarter team than that. You can’t play football like that.”
No, you can’t play like that and expect to win. But players were left staring at the locker room floor afterward unable to provide any answers.
“That’s not the way we play,” said Aaron Rodgers. “That’s disappointing.”
But that’s exactly how the Packers played, and there were few credible excuses.
“We did not do what we needed to do to win,” said veteran tackle Mark Tauscher.
What the Packers did instead was commit a team record 18 penalties, one of which nullified a touchdown and two others that canceled potentially game-turning interceptions. Their special teams were horrid, with the worst of it coming when they gave up two long Devin Hester punt returns, one of which he took for a touchdown and another that set up the Bears’ other TD.
“A back-breaker” is how Charles Woodson described Hester’s special teams score. “That killed us there,” said Woodson, “but we still had a chance to win the game.”
Amazingly, despite all their mistakes, the Packers had the ball late in the game with a tie score and a chance to drive for the winning score. But fittingly on this night, receiver James Jones fumbled away that chance and set up the Bears’ winning field goal.
McCarthy, perhaps caught up in his team’s error-prone ways, got into the act when he asked for a challenge on Jones’ fumble. Replays showed there was no doubt it was a turnover, and McCarthy’s ill-advised challenge cost the Packers a valuable timeout.
That was the story of this game. The Packers appeared to be the more talented team, but it didn’t matter because they couldn’t stop bumbling and fumbling around and letting the Bears steal a victory from their grasp.
“They won, it doesn’t matter (how),” said Woodson. “We hurt ourselves a lot but they won the game, that’s what it boils down to.”
And to the victorious and unbeaten Bears goes sole possession of the division lead and a healthy dose of confidence.
The Packers are left to pick up the pieces from an extremely bitter lose.
“It’s a huge disappointment,” said Colledge. “We had a lot of prep for this game. We had big plans.”
Those plans came crashing down under the weight of their ineptitude.
Mike Vandermause is sports editor of the Press-Gazette.