Green Bay Replay: Bears 35, Packers 7
Podcast: Brett Favre talks about the cold conditions
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Apathetic. Unmotivated. Overmatched. Overwhelmed. Inert. Unenthusiastic.
The adjectives flowed easily after the Packers' lackluster (there's another one!) showing in a 35-7 loss to Chicago Sunday afternoon at frigid Soldier Field.
After watching the first half of that game, contested in minus-18 wind chill temperatures with 40-mph winds, I glanced at the yard outside my window and realized that Saturday's daylong drizzle had unearthed several piles of dog waste. As a favor to Fido -- and neighbors and passing motorists - I went out and chiseled the dung out of the snow and into a garbage bag.
The Packers may want to do the same with the game film.
Green Bay, which surrendered any chance of wrestling home-field advantage away from Dallas in a potential NFC Championship matchup, seemed psyched out by the cold and unable to match the Bears' intensity from the outset.
Led by lightly regarded quarterback Kyle Orton, the Bears took the opening kickoff and mounted a 18-play drive that chewed up 10 minutes, 45 seconds and ended in a field goal.
The Packers took a brief 7-6 lead on Ryan Grant's 66-yard touchdown scamper, but the rest of their day was marked by bad coverage, botched snaps, blocked punts and other sundry miscues.
The key figure in this tragi-comedy was punter Jon Ryan, who fumbled a snap, saw two punts blocked and shanked a kick nine yards to help set up a key score.
Even with two more games at Lambeau - next week and in the second round of the playoffs - Ryan will likely not experience conditions less conducive to punting than he did Sunday.
Packers fans can probably find other things to worry about.
For starters, you have to wonder if this Green Bay team is constructed to take advantage of the Frozen Tundra.
Neither Vince Lombardi nor Mike Holmgren constructed a major part of their attack around shotgun formations and five-wideout sets. Those didn't work too well Sunday and you wonder why head coach Mike McCarthy didn't adjust the game plan.
You also have to wonder how the Packers allowed the Bears to gash them with the running game, rather than stacking the line and daring Orton to cut through the wind that played havoc with Brett Favre's accuracy.
The Packers' defense was bad on third down. Middle linebacker Nick Barnett, the unit's steadiest performer, looked lost at times. (Maybe the Pro Bowl snub impacted him the way playing Terrell Owens sidetracked Al Harris at Texas Stadium?)
The game was out of reach early, but McCarthy chose to keep Favre on the field. That was a curious decision, but it ended up not being costly.
Fans may be upset about a number of things that took place. People can question that preparation, but that's a talk-radio cliché. (If you spend any time around football coaches, you know that they treat even preseason games with exaggerated urgency. It was the players who didn't show up mentally; that's not the coaches' fault.) Other people may question why the Packers don't practice outside more often to get "used" to the cold. That assumes that repetition would make it easier for Ryan to catch snaps with frozen lobster claws for hands.
Chances are, the Christmas holiday will be enough of a distraction for this loss to fade into irrelevance. The Packers didn't control their own destiny in the home-field derby, anyway. And, there is no reason to think they can't beat the Cowboys in Texas next month if the opportunity arises.
Losing to a rival is never fun. Doing it twice in a season can seem like a bitter pill, but the Bears would gladly trade places and records with the Packers for the next few weeks.
When the game ended, several Packers talked about how the conditions were the worst they've ever seen. At the same time, virtually everybody admitted that the Bears handled the once-in-a-lifetime cold and wind better than the guys in the white jerseys.
Well, the Packers are about to enter another rare circumstance. They will face the Lions in the regular-season finale last week with absolutely nothing at stake.
The only goal at this point is to keep the principals healthy and prepare for the postseason. A cold-weather victory in January will make everyone forget about the loss to Chicago.
"Let this be a wakeup call to us," Favre told reporters after the game. "We've had a lot of good things said about us, and maybe it's time to have a few things we don't like to see in the paper.
"I'm glad we're in the playoffs, but sure, it sure feels terrible, especially to have success like we've had in the past, to play like that today."
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