Packers skid off road in Chicago, lose 35-7

The Green Bay Packers turned in their first clunker of the season Sunday afternoon, and lost for the second straight time to the Chicago Bears on a cold and windy day at Soldier Field.

The Packers (12-3) were out-played by the Bears from the get-go and in the process lost any chance at home-field advantage throughout the playoffs to the Dallas Cowboys (13-2), who clinched the No. 1 seed with their win over Carolina Saturday night. Green Bay fell to 5-1 in NFC North Division road games this season by getting beaten in all phases – offense, defense and special teams – and were swept by the Bears (6-9) for the first time since 2005.

The Bears blocked two punts, the first time since Sept. 11, 1995 that the Packers have have had a punt blocked, which coincidently occurred against the Bears at Soldier Field, and Jon Ryan shanked another that led to a touchdown and 13-7 halftime lead for the Bears.

With a game-time temperature of 17 degrees, intermittent snow showers, and wind gusts of up to 40 mph that made for a minus-1 wind chill, the Packers appeared to cave in to the elements before the game began. Players were huddled around the heaters on the sideline and quickly put coats on when coming off the field.

"The weather is no excuse," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "We prepared for the weather. We met about it Friday. We watched the forecast. Saturday morning, we went through the whole thing with the quarterbacks. As far as the approach to the game, I comfortable with, but the execution was very poor."

Meanwhile, the Bears, who have been eliminated from the playoffs, handled the weather much better, played with more of an ‘edge,' and improved to 6-2 against the Packers since Lovie Smith took over as head coach.

Besides Ryan, Brett Favre had trouble holding onto the ball. When Favre wasn't bobbling and dropping snaps, his receivers were dropping passes. Favre completed 17 of 32 passes for 153 yards, but only had two completions and 9 yards passing in the first half and finished with two interceptions.

The Packers finish the regular season Sunday at Lambeau Field against the Detroit Lions.

"I think you need to go into the playoffs with some momentum," said Favre. "I don't think today, as bad or as ugly as it was, doesn't make or break your season, but it's like preseason to me - you'd like to go into the (post) season on a roll. ... As a player I would like to go into the regular season feeling good about what we're doing, or what we hang our hat on. I don't look at this (game against Detroit) as much different."

Running back Ryan Grant finished with 100 yards rushing, but only had three yards in the second half as the Packers were forced to play catch-up. Favre threw his second interception of the game on the third play of the third quarter, giving Chicago the ball on the Packers' 28. The Bears proceeded to take a 21-7 lead on quarterback Kyle Orton's 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Bernard Berrian off a play-action fake that totally fooled the Packers. Orton's pass to tight end Greg Olsen for the two-point conversion made it 21-7.

Green Bay continued to struggle punting the ball when Charles Tillman blocked Ryan's punt, and Corey Graham picked up the loose ball and ran seven yards for a touchdown to push Chicago's lead to 28-7 midway through the third quarter.

The Packers attempted to pass their way back into the game, but that backfired as well when middle linebacker Brian Urlacher jumped a slant route early in the fourth quarter to snare a pass from Favre and run 85 yards for a touchdown, his first return for a touchdown in his impressive career. Urlacher's interception in the third quarter on Oct. 7 against the Packers helped turn the game in Chicago's 27-20 victory.

"That was exciting. It's a good day for our whole team," Urlacher said. "We didn't quit. We're not playing for anything, so we could have quit easily. We have a lot of pride."

Aside from Grant, who rushed for 97 yards on just eight carries, including a 66-yard touchdown, Green Bay's offense and special teams struggled against the Bears in the first half. Ryan dropped a snap, which resulted in a turnover, had a punt blocked and mishandled another snap that turned into a 9-yard shank in the first two quarters. Favre was held to 9 yards passing, completing just 2 of 7 in the wind and cold.

Despite the Bears' good field position, Green Bay's defense kept Chicago out of the end zone till running back Adrian Peterson blew up the middle for an 8-yard touchdown run that gave the Bears a 13-7 lead with 48 seconds left in the first half.

Peterson finished with 102 yards rushing on 30 carries behind an offense that entered the 175th meeting between the two teams ranked last in the league rushing the ball at 82.0 yards per outing.

Grant got a key block from guard Daryn Colledge, then made a cutback to his left for a 66-yard burst, his longest of the season, that gave the Packers a 7-6 lead with 3:08 left in the second quarter. Until that point, the Packers had just 35 yards of offense on 10 plays. Chicago had the ball on Green Bay's 31 and 3 in the first and second quarters but did not score any points. Wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad dropped a pass from Orton that hit him between the numbers on fourth-and-goal from the 3 early in the second quarter.

Chicago took the opening drive 67 yards, gobbling up 10:45 of the first quarter, but was forced to settle for a Robbie Gould's 31-yard field goal. Orton completed a 10-yard pass to Clark and 16-yard pass to Peterson as the Bears converted consecutive third-and-9's. Garrett Wolfe picked up another third down with a 7-yard run, and Peterson converted a third-and-1 with a 4-yard run. Peterson and Wolfe combined for 41 yards on the ground on 13 carries on the 18-play drive.

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