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Bears fall to rival Packers, eliminated from playoff contention

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Bears fall to rival Packers, eliminated from playoff contention

GREEN BAY, Wisc. And then it was justover.

A season that saw the Bears on the brink of the playoffs just a month ago at 7-3 effectively ended Sunday night in Lambeau Field with a 35-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

It was the Bears fifth straight defeat, the longest losing streak under Lovie Smith. Not since 2002 under Dick Jauron had the Bears lost five straight and this one was particularly painful.

It eliminated the Bears from the postseason that seemed all but assured even as quarterback Jay Cutler was going down with a fractured right thumb against San Diego, the last win for the Bears (7-8).

It just hasnt gone the way we wanted it to, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. The last five weeks we havent played well enough to win and we lost all five games. Im not happy about where we are.

The season will be over next week. Thats good.

The loss was also the fourth in the same calendar year to the Packers (14-1), following a game-16 loss last season, the NFC Championship defeat and the week-three loss in Soldier Field this season. Green Bay clinches home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Bears put up their biggest yardage total (441 yards) of the year despite using a quarterback in Josh McCown who hadnt started a game since 2007, and running backs in Kahlil Bell and Armando Allen who were third- and fourth-string not all that long ago but who helped the Bears rush for 199 yards on the day.

Its encouraging the amount of yards our offense put up, said Bell, who had 121 on 23 carries. But yards without points dont mean anything. There were a couple times we stalled in the red zone and thats just disappointing.

The Bears indeed had chances, getting inside the Green Bay 35 three times in the first half but netting just three points. And after drawing to within four points at 14-10 early in the third quarter, breakdowns in the secondary turned a close game into a rout, and by the fourth quarter, the only question was Green Bays winning margin.

Aaron Rodgers was out of the game by mid-fourth quarter with 21 completions in 29 attempts, five touchdown passes and 281 passing yards.

It was good to bounce back from last weeks loss to Kansas City and play better and know that the Super Bowl run has to go through Green Bay, Rodgers said.

The bad news

A few actual positives on offense, like the performances of Bell and McCown, were more than offset by problems on defense.

Safety Major Wright was guilty of significant mistakes, including failing to maintain deep coverage on Jordy Nelson that allowed the Green Bay wideout to gather in a 55-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers. That score, coming after the Bears had pulled to within 14-10, seemed to take the life out of the defense.

Zackary Bowman, starting at cornerback over Tim Jennings, was beaten cleanly for two TD passes from Rodgers to James Jones on short strikes. Bowman was beaten by Nelson for a 25-yard completion.

Rodgers is going to put it in places for those guys to catch it, Bowman said. Our job is just mainly to get in front of the receivers and make Rodgers hold the ball. With the quick slants and stuff like that, it cant just be an easy pitch-and-catch.

The Bears have only two cornerbacks under contract for next year (Charles Tillman, D.J. Moore) and the play of Bowman and Jennings over the past two games all but assures the Bears moving to overhaul their corners in free agency and the draft.
Early battering

Rodgers and the Packers went through the Bears defense with embarrassing ease for an opening-drive touchdown. Then, with McCown throwing an occasional pass to break up the steady pounding by Bell and Allen, the offense made three straight drives into the Green Bay end of the field.

But with an interception and missed field goal, two of those drives produced nothing.

The Bears did many things right in the first half and still went in trailing 14-3. Green Bay scored on the opening possession of the game on a Rodgers pass to Jermichael Finley, then scored on their last possession of the half when Jones beat Bowman on a slant from the 2-yard line.

In between, it was largely a Bears half. Three times they reached inside the Green Bay 35-yard line and only came away with one field goal. They had the ball more than 19 minutes of the half and outgained the Packers 207-162.

Quirky half

The Packers put McCown and the offense under immediate pressure as Rodgers completed all eight of his pass attempts on the opening possession, accounting for 77 yards on an 80-yard drive. That finished with a two-yard touchdown pass to Finley.

It was Finley who destroyed the Bears with three TD catches in game three. And it was a virtual match for the way the Packers started against the Bears in Chicago, when they also went 80 yards for a TD on the opening possession.

The offense answered with a strong drive, nearly all of it on Bells back. But the push to the Green Bay 33 then went the other direction with penalties for delay of game and an illegal shift, and Robbie Goulds field goal try from 49 yards was wide right.

Mike Ditka describes his recent heart attack as 'massive'

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USA TODAY

Mike Ditka describes his recent heart attack as 'massive'

As one of the icons in Chicago sports history, Mike Ditka's recent heart attack got plenty of attention.

Turns out, Ditka isn't downplaying it either.

In an article in The Athletic by Dan Pompei, Ditka said his heart attack was "massive." He was in the hospital for a week and a half and doctors inserted four stents and a pacemaker.

“I got my ass kicked pretty good there, but I’m feeling a lot better,” Ditka said. “Every day I get stronger. I’m not exerting myself. When I exert myself is when I can feel it. So things are good. If you had asked me two weeks ago, I couldn’t have said that.”

The 79-year-old was golfing in Florida when the heart attack happened. The Hall of Famer is still recovering in Florida.

 

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Bears James Daniels stands tall against NFL’s best DT Aaron Donald

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USA TODAY

Bears James Daniels stands tall against NFL’s best DT Aaron Donald

Rookie guard James Daniels laughed and shook his head in the aftermath of the Bears’ 15-6 win Sunday over the Los Angeles Rams:

Had he ever gone against a defensive tackle anything like Rams All-Pro Aaron Donald?

“I don’t think I’ve ever played a D-tackle like that one,” Daniel said. “He rushes unique compared to other defensive tackles. [Ndamukong] Suh plays like a lot of other tackles but just better than they do. But Donald is different.

“No defensive tackle I’ve ever played has played like that. He protects his chest and that’s why offensive linemen have trouble. You’re trying to ‘punch’ him but he protects and there’s nothing you can punch. He’s at an angle. That’s why he’s so good. If you really look at tape, you see how he protects, and he was doing a great job every play of keeping his hands inside.”

Daniel, who didn’t get his first NFL start until Game 7, has played every bit like the second-round draft choice he was this year. Against Donald on multiple occasions Sunday, he and right guard Bryan Witzmann faced a modern incarnation of similarly-undersized Hall of Fame defensive tackle John Randle.

The result was a win for the Bears and a game in which Donald, the NFL sack leader with 16.5 over 12 games, managed just one (of the Rams’ three for the game) hit on Mitchell Trubisky to go with one solo tackle and one assist. It was Donald’s least-productive 2018 day since Week 1 at Oakland.

Donald did beat Daniels on more than one occasion. But it’s what happened next that made perhaps an even greater impression.

Daniels recovered within the play, kept his physical and mental balance – “If you start panicking,” he said, laughing, “that’s not going to be good” – and kept Daniels at bay in pass protection and, along with Witzmann and center Cody Whitehair, moved the Rams tackle as part of the Bears amassing a season-high 194 rushing yards.

“He just kept his poise, stuck to his basics and technique, and against a guy like that, that’s what you gotta do,” Whitehair said. “There’s going to be ups and downs and it’s all in how you respond to it.”

Coach Matt Nagy saw the same: “One of James’ biggest strengths is if he happens to lose a little leverage he can recover, but for the most part he was very consistent. And man, for being such a young kid, very calm, composed and that was one of the big things we talked about as a team was to stay calm and composed and next play mentality, he did that.”

Daniels credits Whitehair, himself a fellow second-rounder, with helping him through the rough spots of acclimating to the NFL. Whitehair also was instrumental in executing a blocking scheme that dealt with a Rams front seven that included five No. 1 draft picks.

“That was one of the biggest challenges that he’s ever going to have,” Nagy said. “Not all the time, he was not going against him every play, but there’s times where he’s out there and Aaron has so many great moves. But I thought [Daniels’] technique was really good last night. He never lunged too much, he stayed balanced.”

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