No Aaron Rodgers meant the Bears were favored against the Green Bay Packers for the first time in nearly a decade.

But while Rodgers’ absence gave the Bears a golden opportunity, they couldn’t get out of their own way Sunday, leading to a disappointing 23-16 loss to their visiting rivals at Soldier Field.

The Bears were plagued by penalties in this one, slowing down an offense that hasn’t had much luck scoring points this season, anyway. A defensive breakdown allowed the Packers’ offense, led by backup quarterback Brett Hundley, to reach the end zone in the first half, and that same defense gave up a couple second-half scoring drives, as well. And one of the more jaw-dropping things you’ll ever see in a football game took points off the board for the Bears.

It was a bunch of mistakes the Bears couldn’t afford to make. And because of them, it didn’t matter what the oddsmakers said, a win wasn’t coming with or without Rodgers in uniform.

John Fox’s challenge blunder

Without a doubt the most ridiculous moment of the game came in the second quarter, when John Fox’s challenge backfired about as bad as a challenge can backfire.

With the Bears driving toward the red zone, Mitch Trubisky dumped a pass off to Benny Cunningham, who ran about 30 yards before diving for the goal line. He was ruled to have stepped out of bounds a couple yards shy of the goal line, setting up the Bears at the two-yard line.

 

But Fox — along with plenty of Bears fans in the stands at Soldier Field — thought Cunningham successfully dove for the pylon and scored a touchdown, and so he threw the challenge flag arguing just that. He got a ruling he probably never expected, however, as after review Cunningham was determined to have stayed in bounds and to have lost control of the football. The ball hit the pylon, therefore being a touchback. Packers ball.

Wait, what?

Yes, Fox won the challenge. But he turned it around from a first and goal for the Bears to a Packers touchback, likely stripping his team of at least three points in the process. Social media expectedly blew up with the outcome, and the frequently under-fire Fox took tons more heat — all the while showing his displeasure with the officials.

Flags a-flyin’

Forcing your own turnover is tough to beat, but the Bears made many other mistakes that crippled their offense in the form of a litany of penalties.

The Bears were penalized seven times for 73 yards in the first half alone, with several of them negating positive plays by the offense. Even when they didn’t follow positive plays, they pushed the Bears backward, making a huge difference in a low-scoring game.

The Bears’ offense, of course, hasn’t necessarily been prolific this season when it comes to scoring points, entering Sunday’s game with just four offensive touchdowns in the four games since Trubisky took over as the starting quarterback. That number did increase by one, Trubisky bombing a deep-ball touchdown pass to Josh Bellamy in the fourth quarter. But, thanks in part to the steady stream of penalties making things even more difficult than they already were, that big play wasn’t enough.

Oh, and the Packers scored three points directly because of a Bears penalty. A personal foul at the end of the first half had the Bears kicking off from their own 20-yard line. The Packers turned that short field — they started the drive in Bears territory — into a field goal to give them a touchdown lead.

What about the defense?

The Rodgers-less Packers offense found the end zone in the first half on Ty Montgomery’s 37-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. That long run only happened because the Bears’ defense broke down at the line of scrimmage, allowing Montgomery to burst through for the scoring dash.

In the fourth, when the Bears closed within three points on Trubisky’s long touchdown throw, Hundley and the Packers responded immediately with an easy-looking touchdown drive, getting in on Hundley’s 19-yard pass to Davante Adams that made it a 10-point game once more.

Even a small shot at a comeback was snuffed out when Hundley bombed a 42-yard pass to Adams right around the two-minute warning, converting a big third down and sending the Packers far down the field where the Bears couldn’t win the field-position battle.

 

Despite those bad moments, the defense was productive at times, as it has been much of the season, limiting the Packers to field goals on three different drives (and a missed field goal on a fourth) and sacking Hundley five times. Still, the Packers scored 23 points after averaging 14.7 points per game during the three-game losing streak that preceded this game.