Chicago Sun-Times

Playoffs? Next year is here after 35-21 loss to Packers

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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Josh McCown threw only two interceptions. Kahlil Bell rushed for 121 yards and only fumbled once. But those silver linings to the dark cloud that couldn't be ignored Sunday night -- the Bears' 35-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, their fifth consecutive loss, eliminated them from playoff contention.

''If we play like that, that's what's going to happen,'' middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. ''The last five weeks we haven't played well enough to win and we lost all five games. I'm not happy about where we're at. Our coaches aren't happy. But that's what we got. The season will be over next week. That's good.''

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, coming off a subpar game in a stunning loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that knocked the Packers (14-1) from the ranks of the unbeaten, solidified his MVP candidacy with a sterling performance. Rodgers was 21-of-29 for 283 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks for a 142.7 rating.

Against the Chiefs, Rodgers threw back-to-back completions on the same drive only twice until late in the fourth quarter. But he was 8-for-8 on the Packers' opening drive against the Bears, driving the Packers 80 yards on nine plays for a 7-0 lead.

The Bears' defense stiffened, but it was pretty clear that when Rodgers wanted to do something, he could do it. After Edwin Williams recovered a Bell fumble in the end zone for a touchdown to cut the Packers lead to 14-10 with 11:35 left in the third quarter, Rodgers needed just four plays to drive the Packers 80 yards for a back-breaking touchdown. His 55-yard scoring pass to Jordy Nelson, who badly burned safety Major Wright on the play, was Rodgers' longest pass play against the Bears in his four seasons as a starter.

''When you are playing the Super Bowl champions, you have to be on top of your game,'' Bears coach Lovie Smith said -- a painful statement when you consider the Bears could have prevented the Packers from even making the playoffs last year, but lost 10-3 at Lambeau Field in Week 17. ''We did some good things. Josh McCown did a heck of a job coming in and leading our offense -- making throws he had to.''

McCown was being hailed merely for getting the ball over the plate. He was 19-of-28 for 242 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. But most of his best work was in the fourth quarter after Rodgers' fifth touchdown pass gave the Packers a 35-10 lead. McCown was 11-of-14 for 141 yards and a touchdown after that. Prior to that he was 8-of-14 for 135 yards and two interceptions, a 50.1 rating.

Bell and rookie running back Armando Allen gave the Bears a potent running attack in the absence of Matt Forte and Marion Barber. Bell (23 carries, 121 yards) and Allen (11-40) combined for 161 yards on 34 carries. With McCown adding 38 rushing yards (32 of them in the fourth quarter), the Bears rushed for 199 yards.

Offensively, we did enough things to keep us in the game and have a chance to win the game at the end,'' Smith said. ''Defensively, just didn't have it tonight.''

The Bears fell to 7-8 and have a chance to finish the season on a winning note against the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field on Sunday. But there was sadness in the Bears locker room as the Bears will be unable to repeat their glorious run to the NFC Championship Game last season.

''It's tough,'' center Roberto Garza said. ''We had a lot of big goals for the season. We suffered a lot of injuries, but that's doesn't matter. We have to step in and guys have to step up and make plays and we haven't done that.

''We haven't been able to finish gamesand we haven't been able to score enough points. It falls squarely on us and we have to do a better job.''

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In order for the Bears to do anything next year, they have a lot of holes to fill. The defense may be in worse shape than the offense. The players who have excelled are not getting any younger, and the defensive secondary is uniformly in need of total revamping. The Cutler/Forte duo can certainly make some waves, and Bell and Barber are a decent pair of back-ups, but the receiver corps has problems. Hester still is at the stage where he "has potential,"Knox and Williams are occasionally fairly good, as are a couple of others, but there really is no elite receiver that can be consistently counted upon.We can hope that the draft and free agency can work to correct the deficiencies, but that's asking a lot if the bears are going to beat out Green Bay in their own division.

Paul you better check the salary cap before you start thinking about free agency and the Bears. A lot of people saw it writen that the Bears were not 19 million under the cap. Which was sort of true but what they didn't do is point out how the Bears were 19 million under the cap. What they did was defer 10.5 million of Julius Peppers salary from this year over the length of his contract. The cap will be around 125 million next year, but there are some problems. First Peppers cap number next year will be about 12 million higher. So that's half you available cap room, second Matt Forte will either be signed or franchised, franchising him will be a huge single season hit and take up around 8-10 million of what will be a remaining 12 million. Garza and Bennett just got raises, Lance Briggs and Urlacher will see an increase in there respective salaries as part of there contracts as well. Tim Jennings is a FA, and while not expensive he will cost more that they are paying him now. Then of course you have to pay your draft players. The bears cap does not look to be in good shape. Several other players such as Henery Melton will be seeking new contracts as well, they will also be getting raises.

I doubt the Bears will have the cap room for another impact player, FA get paid a premium and the Bears have had to pay Peppers a huge contract, and Cutler also has a huge contract, along with Urlacher and Briggs has a big Contract. Your not going to see Carlos Rogers or Brent Grimms walk in the door, there will be no Bowe or Jackson playing reciever, no Gruubs or Bell for the O-Line, no Robert Mathis, no Jason Jones or Cliff Avril. No they will have to do it in the draft.

They will look to Cutler and Forte to carry the offensive line and recievers, while they once again focus on defense. You know they tell themselves the line is good with Cutler, and the recievers are good with Cutler.

Also I would not count on a Knox return. I have seen it writen that Knox injured his back. This cleared up, he did not just hurt his back, Johnny Knox broke his back and had he not been an elite athlete he would probably be crippled or dead. Nobody has any idea how his back will heal and how his body will respond, usually a humans back does not respond well to being broken, and then put in a high impact sport.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on December 25, 2011 11:38 PM.

Devin Hester active, Marion Barber is not was the previous entry in this blog.

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