Bears can't conjure miracle

Packers win, 20-12, end Chicago's run of comeback victories

November 12, 2001|By John Mullin | John Mullin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

CHICAGO - The Chicago Bears were winning but living on the edge the past few weeks, making more mistakes than a 6-1 team should but managing to pull out wins with late theatrics. They didn't delude themselves: There were still problems that needed fixing.

Yesterday, Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers presented a bill, and this time the Bears didn't have the miracle to pay it.

With Favre passing for 268 yards, the Packers rolled up 368 total yards, the most by a Bears opponent this season, and left with a 20-12 victory, their eighth straight at Soldier Field.

The victory gave Green Bay (6-2) first place in the NFC Central Division by virtue of head-to-head play being the first tiebreaker and got the Bears (6-2) off to a poor start in the first of six straight division games.

"In my opinion, it came down to a number of big plays," said Bears coach Dick Jauron. "I thought they made them and we didn't."

As they have the past two weeks in wins over San Francisco and Cleveland, the Bears had their chance at rescuing a game that they let slip steadily away after taking a 6-0 lead in the first quarter. The Bears escaped their mistakes in those past two games with spectacular plays. Not this time.

A fourth-down pass from quarterback Jim Miller to running back James Allen, the hero of the overtime win against Cleveland last week, fell incomplete at the Green Bay 10 with 35 seconds remaining. All during that final drive from their own 20, the Bears expected to score and tie the game with a two-point conversion, as they had against San Francisco. Indeed, those in the huddle were startled when they didn't score.

"It wound down as it always seems to for us," said offensive tackle Blake Brockermeyer. "But it didn't work out this time. It was a surprise when we didn't score."

It surprised no one that Favre and the Packers did score. Favre threw touchdown passes of 41 yards to Bill Schroeder and 9 yards to Antonio Freeman when either the pass rush or coverage failed. The defense sacked Favre just once and allowed him time to throw and places to throw, as first Walt Harris and Tony Parrish, and then R.W. McQuarters, were beaten for touchdown passes in the end zone.

Those breakdowns and the lack of pressure on Favre were upsetting to a defense that has played its way near the top of the NFL rankings.

"It just came down to guys not doing their jobs," Bears linebacker Rosevelt Colvin said bluntly. "You let the team down when you don't take care of your responsibilities. When you drop a coverage and a guy gets a touchdown, or when you don't read your keys right, it's like when the offense fumbles the ball or someone doesn't make a block and you get a sack."

The offense managed a season-low 43 rushing yards as the Packers played like the No. 2 defense in the NFL, stacking the line of scrimmage after early rushing success by Anthony Thomas, who rushed for 45 yards in 22 carries. They held Thomas to 16 yards in his final 18 carries and dared the Bears to beat them some other way. The Bears couldn't.

Chicago was down only 10-9 at halftime, but the Favre-to-Freeman pass midway through the third quarter gave Green Bay a 17-9 lead. The teams added a field goal each over the final 19 minutes.

"We still put ourselves in position to be in first place and battle," said Bears center Olin Kreutz. "Who knows? In four weeks, we might be able to play them again for first place."

John Mullin is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

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