The Green Bay Packers may have lost to the Chicago Bears, but the Pack remain the best team in the NFC North.
Despite Monday night’s 20-17 loss, the Packers outplayed their longtime rivals and when the two teams meet again for the final game of the regular season, the Packers will be on their way to another division crown.
The Bears deserve credit for their improved defense, thanks in large part to Brian Urlacher returning to full health. Still, Aaron Rodgers found ways to move the ball, running exceptionally well and throwing with pinpoint accuracy. His 75 percent completion percentage and 314 passing yards make it hard to believe the Packers lost.
On the other side, Jay Cutler still remains the mistake-prone quarterback that he was in 2009, when he threw 13 of his 26 interceptions in primetime games. On Monday night, Cutler, once again, pressed too much on the big stage. In the first quarter, he forced a throw to Greg Olsen in the endzone that the Packers picked off. Then, during the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, he threw an errant pass that slipped through the hands of a Packers defender. A few plays later, he threw a pick that was erased by a pass interference call. Granted, the interference probably contributed to the interception, but Cutler still forced the ball on that play.
So Cutler clearly still has a ways to go improving his decision making. So how did the Bears escape with a win?
The answer lies in Devin Hester. Once the most-feared return man in the NFL, Hester hadn’t returned a touchdown in each of the last two seasons, primarily because teams kicked away from him. But Packers’ rookie punter Tim Masthay had no problem kicking to Hester and the Packers paid a hefty price.
Hester’s big return with less than two minutes left in the first half set up a Bears touchdown, and Hester took another punt to the house to start the fourth quarter. If the Packers avoided kicking to Hester, they would have easily won.
Simplification? Yes. But the bottom line is that the Packers played far more impressively than the Bears, and they’re too talented to not bounce back and climb to the top of the North.
What do you think? Are the Packers the better team?