Bears’ offense performs better, but Aaron Rodgers rules day
By RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org December 25, 2011 11:54PM
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for five touchdowns and had a 142.7 passer rating. | Jeffrey Phelps~AP
Updated: February 24, 2012 1:41AM
GREEN BAY, Wis. — It was hard to decide whether the Packers were playing with their food or toying with their opponents Sunday night.
Every time the Bears got it into their heads that they sort of, kind of, almost were a decent team, Aaron Rodgers did something that was murder on the self-esteem of the visitors from Chicago.
This is what happens when one team is very good and the other is on its third starting quarterback and third starting running back of the season.
The Packers were kind enough to beat the Bears 35-21 and relieve them of any silly playoff thoughts they might have been harboring. No matter how small the possibility was, the mere idea of the Bears in the postseason was somewhere between laughable and criminal.
Afterward, a reporter asked Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher whether there was reason for hope.
“Yeah, the season will be over next week,’’ he said. “That’s good.’’
The announcer inside the press box at Lambeau Field spent half his time informing reporters of all the records that were being broken during the game. It eventually became white noise, but the gist of it was that this Rodgers fellow is pretty good.
He threw five touchdown passes Sunday night.
Bears quarterback Josh McCown scored on a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter and dunked the ball over the crossbar. The score was Packers 35, Bears 18.
If you’re looking for the difference between the two teams, there it is. The Packers have a star. The Bears have a guy who’s happy to be here.
“I was overcome with Christmas joy, I guess,’’ McCown said.
Going into the game, it looked as if he would be the latest punch line at quarterback for the Bears, a man from the Cade McNown-George McFly-Ronald McDonald lineage. This was based on the knowledge that he hadn’t started a game since 2007, hadn’t played in a game since 2008 before last week and had been working as a high school coach as recently as November.
But McCown looked OK Sunday night. Faint praise? I don’t think so. The Bears would have died for OK from Caleb Hanie.
But McCown wasn’t good enough. He had a bad interception in the second quarter, when his pass to fullback Tyler Clutts went straight into the hands of Packers linebacker Clay Matthews. But the pick didn’t lead to any Green Bay points. In a normal game against a normal team, that kind of good fortune can lead to a victory. The Packers aren’t normal.
McCown completed 19 of 28 passes for 242 yards and a touchdown, but threw two interceptions.
When the Bears crept to within 14-10 early in the third quarter, Rodgers responded with a 55-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson to make it 21-10. Safety Major Wright was considered a person of interest in the touchdown investigation.
That’s how it went. For a while there, the game seemed in reach. The Bears’ defense played well for stretches, and running back Kahlil Bell tore up the Green Bay defense.
But the roof caved in, inevitably. Rodgers went crazy, as you figured he would. He has 45 touchdown passes and six interceptions this season.
The giveaway that this game was going to get out of hand should have been the Packers’ opening drive, a nine-play, 80-yard surgical procedure. It seemed almost effortless. Rodgers completed eight of eight passes for 77 yards on the drive.
Bell rushed for 121 yards on 23 carries. That’s not as surprising as it might seem. Every time he has gotten a chance to play, he has done well. He’s quicker than the man he replaced, Marion Barber. But it wasn’t enough. Everything had to go right for the Bears to win this game. Didn’t happen.
“It was encouraging the amount of yards our offense put up, but yards without points doesn’t mean anything,’’ Bell said.
With the victory, the Packers clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. For the Bears, the season mercifully ends next Sunday in Minneapolis. It can’t come soon enough. They have lost five straight.
The Bears and the Packers might both be in the NFC North, but they’re not in the same league. Not even close.