Cowboys at Packers December 13.
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By CHRIS HAVEL
Brett Favre’s halftime celebration highlights a rainy night in which
Green Bay’s offense was lackluster
Black Friday? More like Midnight Blue Friday.
The Bears’ predominant team color – along with orange and white accents – pretty much describes the scene in Green Bay.
It’s Friday. The Packers’ fans are feeling blue. And if the offense doesn’t get its stuff together soon the clock will strike midnight on what once was a promising season.
The Bears’ 17-13 victory over the muddling Packers (7-4) on Thanksgiving evening was humbling on so many levels.
It dropped the Packers into second place in the NFC North. It undid so much of the good that came of last week’s 30-13 rout of the Vikings in Minnesota. It continued to be punctuated by the Packers’ offensive futility, which to be honest is painful to watch right now.
Unlike the Denver Broncos, who honored owner Pat Bowlen with a 29-10 rout of Green Bay earlier this season, the Packers and their offense failed to do Brett Favre justice.
Favre saw his name and No. 4 placed on Lambeau Field’s north façade along with the Packers’ five other retired numbers. The halftime ceremony was emotional and heartfelt.
It featured an appearance by Bart and Cherry Starr, who rode a golf cart to midfield, where Favre leapt off the stage, helped Cherry out of the cart and then embraced Bart.
Later, Favre explained that Bart was gritting with determination – he wanted to be there so bad – and that it took a momentous effort to accomplish. The Packers’ effort wasn’t nearly so gallant or inspirational.
On a windy, rain-swept night – perfect Favre weather – the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers was reduced to mediocre at best. Rodgers completed 22 of 43 attempts – scarcely better than 50 percent – while throwing for 202 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The turnover was particularly damning, as always.
It came with the Packers trailing by four with 3:15 play. It occurred at the Bears’ 45-yard line.
Nevertheless, Green Bay’s defense responded. After a feisty Packers’ stand, Rodgers drove the football to set up first-and-goal at the Bears’ 8 with less than a minute to play.
Chicago’s defense responded by stymieing Rodgers – the dagger coming on fourth-and-goal at the 8 – on a pass that whistled off Davante Adams’ fingers and caromed harmlessly away. With that a cold reality set in.
The Bears’ Jay Cutler outplayed Rodgers at Lambeau Field. What’s more the Bears’ defense didn’t seem to be particularly put out by the Packers’ attack. Green Bay’s receivers failed to show the mental toughness required to look in every pass on a cold, wet and windy night.
The Packers had way too many drops. Randall Cobb, James Jones (late) and Adams all struggled. Eddie Lacy, who rushed for 105 yards on 17 carries, was one of the few reliable weapons. But for some inexplicable reason the Packers’ play caller, Tom Clements, went away from him.
Lacy’s costly fumble in Bears territory undoubtedly took points off the board, but that shouldn’t have prevented the Packers from going back to him and sticking with him in the second half.
Bears head coach John Fox had one explanation.
“It was just a really good team effort defensively,” he said.
Well, there was that. And there was a Packers offense that hasn’t been right since coming out of the bye week.
“Difficult loss this evening; you need to win your home games,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said.
McCarthy called the loss “unexpected.”
Indeed, the Packers have owned the Bears and Jay Cutler lately. But Cutler hit on 19 of 31 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t turn the ball over and it was the difference.
“We didn’t get it done tonight, and really I think one of the biggest factors was handling the football,” McCarthy said. “We had opportunities to catch the football, protect the football. … They did a better job than we did.”
Lacy’s 105 yards rushing came on the heels of a 100-yard effort against the Vikings. He also scored on a 25-yard catch in which he flashed some nifty moves.
Still, the Packers’ offense couldn’t muster much of anything for three quarters. Then, with the game in the balance, it failed to convert on first-and-goal on the final drive. It’s as frustrating a stretch as Packers’ fans can remember.
There doesn’t appear to be any easy solution. It’s going to take more from everybody.
Frankly, the Packers’ receivers need to work harder on the practice field and in the class room. The drops are a byproduct of improper preparation. The routes aren’t crisp. The communication with the quarterback is shabby.
The passing game is unreliable right now. It used to be the offensive staple. The quest to recapture the offense’s excellence continues.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.