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Bears Fall To Packers Again, Fade From Playoff Picture

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Dec 17, 2012 4:00PM

Having lost four of their last five games, Sunday's matchup against the Green Bay Packers was critical on a number of fronts. By falling to their hated rivals 21-13, the Bears handed Green Bay the division title and fell out of the current NFC playoff picture. And that could mean Lovie Smith's job is also on the line.

The Bears scored first in the second quarter when Jay Cutler connected with Brandon Marshall from 15 yards out. Given good field goal position when Green Bay's Mason Crosby missed a field goal, the drive was set up by a Matt Forte 22-yard run, with a 15-yard penalty tacked on to the end. The Pack came back on their next possession when Aaron Rodgers connected with James Jones from 29 yards out to tie the game. With less than two minutes to play in the half, Green Bay cornerback Casey Hayward intercepted a Jay Cutler pass intended for Devin Hester. Green Bay quickly converted the turnover into another James Jones TD and jumped out to a 14-7 lead at halftime.

The Packers extended their lead to 14 points and ate up nearly seven minutes of game clock when Jones caught his third touchdown pass of the day on the half's first possession. Charles Tillman forced a fumble late in the third quarter and, after a 53 yard pass interference call on a Cutler pass targeted for Alshon Jeffery, the Bears had first-and-goal from the five yard line. After three unsuccessful run attempts, Jeffery was called for an offensive pass interference on an apparent fourth down TD. The Bears settled for three points after Olindo Mare kicked his first field goal in place of Robbie Gould. Following another Crosby missed field goal (look for kicker tryouts at Lambeau this week!), the Bears countered by Mare hitting his second of the afternoon, making it a one possession game. But the offense, stifled in part by two more offensive pass interference calls on Jeffery and a bad no-call on a defensive pass interference against Sam Shields guarding Jeffrey, couldn't find a way to score again.

Jeffery had no catches on the afternoon, although he was targeted often by Jay Cutler. Either Jeffery or Shields was flagged for interference every time. Cutler looked for Jeffery because the Packers managed to shut down Brandon Marshall, who still managed to catch six balls for 56 yards and the Bears' lone TD. Matt Forte led the team with 64 receiving yards on five catches, while also rushing for 69 yards on 20 carries — but a majority on those came on the game's opening drive before Green Bay adjusted. Cutler completed just 12 of 21 passes for 135 yards and the critical INT that helped give the Packers their halftime lead.

Without a number of starters, the defense struggled at times to slow down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. Even so, they kept the game close enough the offense had their chances. In the end, the Bears couldn't pull it out, and they fell to their bitter rivals.

The Bears fell to 8-6 and drop out of the current playoff picture. While the Packers locked up the NFC North title, the Minnesota Vikings leaped ahead of the Bears in the wild card hunt. While each team is 8-6, tiebreakers give the "black & blue" division rivals the edge. Seattle, who beat the Bears two weeks ago and holds a 9-5 record appears destined for the other wild card spot. The Bears wrap up their regular season against Arizona and Detroit, both games on the road. Those are both winnable games and the Bears could finish the year 10-6 but that may not be enough to make the postseason this year. And even if it is, they've proven they can't hang among the 49ers, Packers, Texans and the NFL's other elite teams.

In his postgame press conference, Brandon Marshall called out the offense, "Everyone on offense needs to be held accountable, even if it means jobs. It's the same every single game. There's no excuse. We need to be held accountable." And there's no doubt that includes the increasing calls for the head of Lovie Smith. (And Mike Tice, too.) This offense was supposed to be greatly improved in 2012, yet ranks 29th in total offense. The defense, at least before it was decimated by injury, did all it could to help the Bears win games. And all it took was a little slip in the defense's play for a team that started 7-1 to go 1-5 over the next six as the offense couldn't pick up any of the slack. We just don't see how Lovie Smith can remain as head coach, after a second straight end of the season collapse. Hopefully, GM Phil Emery has Bill Cowher's phone number on speed dial.