Fortunately for the Packers nobody had to make a play. On fourth-and-four from the Packers' 15, quarterback Jim Miller dropped back and fired a pass in the right flat toward running back James Allen who was being chased by defensive end John Thierry. Allen was open, but the ball hit him in the right shoulder as he was running toward the right sideline and fell incomplete with 35 seconds remaining in the game.
The Packers hung on for a 20-12 victory in a key NFC Central Division game before 65,630 fans who packed Soldier Field. The win allowed the Packers to gain a tie for first place with the Bears at 6-2 and snap the Bears' six-game winning streak.
The Packers won their eighth straight at Soldier Field in the biggest game between the two rivals since 1995. The win also improved the Packers' division record to 3-2. The Bears, who play their next five games against division opponents, are 1-1 in the division.
"This is a game that could have gone either way," said Packers coach/GM Mike Sherman. "We kept hanging in there. I talked about the fact that the Bears drove down the field on that first drive, and the defense screwed it up and forced a field goal. We struggled on offense, but found a way. We struggled on special teams with coverage units, but we found a way. We hung in there and were able to come away with the victory."
Brett Favre has made a living picking apart the Bears in Chicago. He did it again Sunday and got help from running back Ahman Green in the process. Despite early turnovers, Favre and Green settled down, then pierced a tough Bears defense through the air and on the ground.
Favre, who is 9-1 in 10 starts at Soldier Field, overcame an early interception and threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns. Green rushed 18 times for 93 yards against the NFC's top-ranked defense, which has not allowed an individual rusher to gain more than 100 yards since Oct. 15, 2000. The Packers finished with 100 rushing yards of their 368 total yards of offense.
Green Bay's defense, ranked second overall in the league entering the game, allowed Bears kicker Paul Edinger four field goals, but kept Chicago out of the end zone. It also derailed the Ann Arbor Express of running back Anthony Thomas and wide receiver David Terrell. After rushing for 27 yards on the first drive of the game, Thomas was held to 18 yards on the ground the rest of the way while Terrell had three catches for 12 yards. Altogether the Bears finished with 262 total yards of offense, but only 43 on the ground.
"They're a good team," said Packers safety LeRoy Butler. "They're going to beat a lot of people because no one wants to give them respect. We gave them a lot of respect. They're very well coached. They don't make a lot of mistakes. ... When you come in here you can't be thinking that they're the Bears of a long time ago. You've got to come in here and play. If you don't play, you'll get your butt kicked."
Favre's nine-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Antonio Freeman highlighted an eight-play, 74-yard drive on Green Bay's first series of the second half. Favre and wide receiver Bill Schroeder, who played in his first game since Oct. 14 against Baltimore when he suffered a deep ankle sprain, combined for completions of 23 and 19 yards early in the drive. After completing a seven-yard pass to tight end Bubba Franks to the Bears' 23, Favre, on third-and-one, rolled to his right and threw against the grain to fullback William Henderson for 14 yards to the nine. Two plays later, Favre found Freeman wide open in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown. The offensive line, playing without starting left tackle Chad Clifton, often gave Favre plenty of time to throw and opened running lanes for Green.
"I can't give them enough credit," said Favre of the line. "They've been doing that all year." Ryan Longwell snapped out of his slump by making both of his field goal attempts, including a 31-yarder with 9:10 left in the game as the Packers took a 20-12 lead. Longwell also booted a 40-yarder in the second quarter to snap a skid of four straight misses dating back to Oct. 14 against Baltimore.
Bears kicker Paul Edinger made field goal attempts from 37, 48, 38 and 41 yards to account for the Bears scoring. Edinger's 41-yarder with 3:07 left in the game pulled the Bears to within 17-12.
After forcing the Packers to punt on the ensuing series, Chicago was facing a third-and-one from the 50. The Bears ran a reverse to wide receiver Marty Booker, but Booker was thrown for a four-yard loss. "When you do not execute against a team like Green Bay things happen like that," said Booker.
Despite committing two turnovers, the Packers led the Bears 10-9 at halftime thanks to a solid defensive effort and Favre's 41-yard touchdown pass to Schroeder late in the second quarter. Schroeder slipped past cornerback Walt Harris off the line, then got beyond safety Tony Parrish, catching the ball in the corner of the end zone from Favre, who had plenty of time in the pocket.
"Billy's done that for us all year," said Favre. "It's nice to have him back." The Bears bounced back with a 40-yard drive in the final 45 seconds and closed to within a point on Edinger's 38-yard field goal as time expired. Running back Leon Johnson's 18-yard pass to Booker to the 24 with less than 20 seconds left in the half set up the field goal, Edinger's third of the half.
Edinger gave the Bears a 6-0 lead in the first quarter by making field goals from 37 and 47 yards. The Bears used nearly eight minutes on the opening drive of the game and drove 55 yards to the Packers 19 before the Packers stopped the Bears.
Safety Mike Brown, who made two game-winning interception returns for touchdowns in overtime in the Bears' previous two victories, intercepted a pass from Favre on the Packers 41 to set up Edinger's second field goal, which bounced across the top of the cross bar and through for three points.
Longwell's 40-yard field goal with 9:33 left in the second quarter closed the Packers to 6-3. Sharper forced fullback Daimon Shelton to fumble the ball, which was recovered by Bernardo Harris on the Bears' 46. Favre's 7-yard pass to Dorsey Levens moved the Packers to the 22. But Green Bay was forced to settle for the field goal when Favre threw the ball out of the end zone.
"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. ... I think the last play of the game (for us on offense) was an example of it. We had an opportunity. We just didn't cash in on it."