Rodgers can't get monkey off his back

Despite a strong performance in the bitter 2-degree chill, the quarterback loses yet another close game. The Packers are 0-7 in games decided by four points or less. One play in particular will haunt Rodgers, and it was not the blocked field goal at the end of regulation.

As far as game-winning drives goes, this one wouldn't have earned a catchy moniker like "The Drive."

But if you're Aaron Rodgers, any game-winning drive is better than no game-winning drive.

With Monday night's 20-17 overtime loss at Chicago, the Packers fell to 0-7 in games decided by four points or less. Toss in a 30-21 loss at Tampa Bay in which Rodgers threw an interception with the Packers trailing by two late in the fourth quarter, and that makes Rodgers 0-for-8 in close games since Week 1.

But, as was the case in several of them, Rodgers could only watch as the Packers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Putting together a strong performance in the 2-degree Chicago chill, Rodgers guided the Packers to leads of 14-3 at halftime and 17-10 in the fourth quarter.

Rodgers faced his crucible after the Bears scored the tying touchdown with 3:11 remaining in regulation. A breakthrough victory, however, was practically handed to him when Will Blackmon returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield and a foolish personal foul tacked on an additional 15 yards.

Set up at the Bears' 35-yard line and with the wind at their back, the Packers were practically in range for the go-ahead points. Rodgers, however, delivered a key third-and-8 completion to James Jones. With the ball at the 24, 2 minutes on the clock and only one timeout left for Chicago, the Packers were in the driver's seat.

All that was left was the easy decision to run the ball three times, bleed the clock down to about 25 seconds, kick a field goal and jog into a warm locker room to enjoy a victory that knocked the rival Bears out of the playoff race.

Instead, Alex Brown blocked Mason Crosby's field goal, and Chicago won the overtime coin toss and drove to the winning points.

"It's really frustrating," Rodgers said.

Playing on the kind of brutally cold night that his Hall of Fame predecessor, Brett Favre, struggled in against Chicago and the New York Giants last season, Rodgers was superb. He completed 24-of-39 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns without the benefit of a decent running game.

"The feeling on the field was we were going to win," Rodgers said. "We started to get rolling a little bit. We felt very confident, and they weren't able to stop us. When we played them at home, we had the same feeling but the Bears played completely different. They brought a lot of pressure. Our guys picked it up well and we had good checks at the line of scrimmage. We made enough plays offensively, but we didn't convert in the red zone."

Rodgers was, as coach Mike McCarthy put it, "solid," but he wasn't perfect. He threw an interception against a blitz, though the Bears failed to turn that into points. The mistake that will haunt him came on first-and-goal from the 5-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Facing a blitz, Rodgers threw incomplete to Tory Humphrey. His other tight end, Donald Lee, was open on the left side of the end zone. Lee was the primary read, and McCarthy said Rodgers should have gone there.

"I didn't see him," Rodgers said. "I looked for him, but couldn't see him. I was disappointed. I (should) throw a touchdown there; he's wide open. By the look on his face as he ran off the field, he was probably wide open. So, that puts us up by 11 and a two-score game."

On second down, McCarthy called a quarterback draw but right tackle Tony Moll was beaten on a stunt and Rodgers lost 5 yards. Rodgers' third-down pass to Donald Driver was incomplete.

So, even though the Packers piled up 325 yards, converted 8-of-17 third downs and hogged the ball for almost 36 minutes, Rodgers was kicking himself that all of that production netted merely 17 points.

"Offensively, we didn't cash in on our opportunities," he said. "We didn't get a touchdown when we were first-and-goal and we ended up with a field goal. We didn't convert a third down in the third quarter (when Rodgers' pass slipped through Driver's fingers) and we missed a field goal. With the amount of yards we put up, and the efficiency with which we moved the ball, we have to put more than 17 points up there. The defense did a great job and put us in a good situation. We just didn't score enough points on offense to win the game."

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com.


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