Anatomy of a horrible quarter

When the second fateful quarter began Sunday at Lambeau Field, the heavily-favored Packers held a 3-0 lead over the Bears. When it ended, Green Bay trailed 14-3 with more than a couple demoralizing plays to mull over in the lockerroom.<P>

In the initial minute of the second quarter, the Packers looked just great. Brett Favre opened with a 44-yard pass to Javon Walker which took Green Bay into Chicago territory. The ensuing pass to Donald Driver and run by Ahman Green were also big gainers.

It was all downhill from there.

The promising drive took Green Bay to the door of the Chicago red zone before throwing it into reverse with two negative yardage plays. Looking to salvage the drive with a 45-yard field goal, the Packers found that door slammed in their face as well. Ryan Longwell's record-setting 224th field goal attempt as a Packer dinged off the right upright.

Fired up by the miss, the Bears posted their best drive of the season to that point. Sunday's Packer-killer Thomas Jones opened with a 19-yard burst, and the Bears marched to the GB 16 against a surprsingly porous Packer D. It looked liked the Packers had righted the ship when Rex Grossman's third-down pass fell incomplete. But Bhawoh Jue was flagged for illegal contact away from the play. A closer look at the play showed that the contact was not only initiated by the receiver and was incidental at worst, it also occurred within five yards on the line of scrimmage.

Given second life by one of several inconsistent calls, the Bears took full advantage of the automatic first down. Rather than the expected field goal attempt, the Bears had a first down at the GB 11. Grossman threw an 11-yard TD pass to fullback Bryan Johnson to give the Bears a lead they would never surrender with half the quarter still to go.

On the Packers' ensuing possession, Green Bay approached midfield before yielding their first turnover of the season. Favre's pass intended for Donald Driver was intercepted by Mike Green at the Chicago 6-yard-line. A big return was correctly challenged by the Packers because Driver had made contact with Green, but frankly that wasn't much of a silver lining in the dark cloud.

Green Bay forced Chicago to go three-and-out following the interception, but the joy was short-lived. The Bears may not have converted that turnover into points but they were soon to get another chance that would put an indelible stamp on the game.

Gren Bay wasted no time storming into Chicago's red zone. A pass to William Henderson opened the drive with a first down. Ahman Green then produced 26 yards with four consecutive carries.

It was his fifth in a row that dismantled Green Bay's game.

On first-and-goal from the Chicago 2, Green ran right end, as he had on the previous 11-yard play. This time linebacker Brian Urlacher charged at Green untouched, catching the unsuspecting Green five yards deep into the backfield and popping the ball loose. Mike Brown was in the right place at the right time, scooping up the fumble and running 95 yards for a touchdown that shocked the record crowd.

"Urlacher came through a gap on the inside and should have been picked off by one of our lineman, but he wasn't," coach Mike Sherman said. "It never should have happened. It was a complete turn around. They got seven and we didn't.

"It was really a deciding factor in the football game," Sherman said.

Urlacher not only did what he couldn't do all year in creating the turnover, he put his own exclamation point on the play by blocking out of the play the only possible tackler - Brett Favre.

Probably surprised to have surrendered two TDs before halftime, Green Bay was unable to mount one of their trademark two-minute drills. Again, things started out well enough, but good fortune ran out quick in this quarter. Favre found Bubba Franks and Javon Walker with back-to-back passes to reach the Green Bay 44. With more than a minute to go to get at least into field goal range, Favre's next three passes fell incomplete. Green Bay punted the ball away.

A curious Green Bay time out nearly made this quarter even worse. The Packers called for a time out after Chicago's Jones ran for five yards but remained inbounds on their next play. That stopped the clock with 42 seconds, giving the Bears perhaps enough time for a couple of shots at field goal range.

Maybe the Packers were trying to lure Chicago into making a mistake. Would they give the inexperienced Grossman the green light to take a couple shots at the end zone? If that happened, would Grossman be bullied into an interception? Was there anyway for the Packers to get on the board again before halftime?

No, no and no.

The Bears ran out the clock, knowing they had the Packers right where they wanted them. Coming in, conventional wisdom said the only way the Bears could win this game was to come up with turnovers and turn them into points early, burying and embarrassing the Packers out of their game plan.

As usual, conventional wisdom was right.


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