Bears out of playoffs with 35-21 loss to Packers

The Chicago Bears placed their slim playoff hopes in the hands

of quarterback Josh McCown and running back Kahlil Bell in a

prime-time road game against the defending Super Bowl

champions.

It didn’t turn out quite as badly as it sounded going in. Bell

rushed for 121 yards, and McCown made enough plays to keep the game

close into the third quarter.

But it wasn’t good enough to keep the Bears in the playoff

chase. Aaron Rodgers threw five touchdowns, and the Green Bay

Packers beat Chicago 35-21 on Sunday night.

”Yeah, that’s what this business is all about, getting a chance

to showcase your abilities,” said Bell, a third-year player out of

UCLA. ”Tonight, I had a good shot and a good chance to get out

there and play and try to make some plays for our team. Just

unfortunate that we fell short.”

With the win, the Packers nailed down the No. 1 seed in the NFC

and claimed another round of bragging rights in the NFL’s most

storied rivalry. The loss eliminated the Bears (7-8) from

postseason contention and put the Atlanta Falcons in the

playoffs.

The Bears trailed by only four points early in the third

quarter, but Rodgers drove the Packers for touchdowns on their next

three possessions to put the game out of reach.

”When you play the Super Bowl champions, you have to be on top

of your game,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. ”Offensively, we did

enough things to keep us in the game and have a chance to win the

game at the end. But defensively we just didn’t have it.”

The Bears have lost five straight games since losing quarterback

Jay Cutler to a broken right thumb in a Nov. 20 victory over San

Diego. Chicago was 7-3 then.

The Bears started McCown on Sunday after backup Caleb Hanie

struggled to fill in for Cutler. McCown’s most recent start came

with the Oakland Raiders in 2007, and he was out of the NFL last

season.

McCown was 19 of 28 for 242 yards with a touchdown and two

interceptions.

”All I know is, my number was called tonight and I played as

hard as I could,” McCown said. ”The bottom line is, we still came

up short. We have to protect the football better. You can’t have

those two (interceptions).”

To make matters worse for the Bears’ offense, Barber was

inactive because of a calf injury. Chicago already was without

Forte, who missed his third straight game because of a sprained

medial collateral ligament in his right knee.

Chicago did have Devin Hester, who played despite a lingering

ankle injury, but he didn’t look like himself.

The Bears were able to stay in the game early, with solid

defense and tough running by Bell and Armando Allen. Rodgers’

second-half fireworks proved to be too much for Chicago.

”Thirty-five points on that defense, that’s a good night,”

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

The victory was the Packers’ fourth over the Bears in 2011.

Green Bay also beat Chicago in the 2010 regular-season finale, the

NFC Championship game, and at Soldier Field on Sept. 25.

With the Bears trailing 14-3 at halftime, McCown found Earl

Bennett wide open for a 49-yard gain to set up first-and-goal on

the 1. Bell fumbled just short of the goal line on the next play

but offensive lineman Edwin Williams recovered the ball for a

touchdown.

With the Packers nursing a four-point lead, and the Lambeau

Field crowd nervously quiet early in the third quarter, Rodgers

answered by dropping deep and throwing a rainbow pass to Nelson,

who blew through the Chicago secondary and hauled in the ball for a

55-yard touchdown.

Rodgers then showed his running ability on the Packers’ next

possession, juking his way between linebackers Brian Urlacher and

Lance Briggs on a scramble. Rodgers finished the drive with a

7-yard touchdown toss to Jones, giving the Packers a commanding

28-10 lead.

Packers safety Charlie Peprah came up with an interception, and

Rodgers found Nelson for another score to give Green Bay a 35-10

lead.

McCown finally answered with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight

end Kellen Davis – then drew the ire of the Lambeau crowd by

scrambling for a two-point conversion and spiking the ball over the

goalpost with his team trailing 35-18.

”I was overcome with Christmas joy, I guess,” McCown said.

Now the Bears will be home for the playoffs.

”It’s tough,” offensive lineman Roberto Garza said. ”We had a

lot of big goals for the season. We had a lot of injuries, but that

doesn’t matter. We have to step in, guys have to step up and make

plays. We haven’t done that. We haven’t been able to score enough

points. We haven’t been able to finish plays. Obviously, it falls

squarely on us. We have to go out and do a better job of

that.”