By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Rather than playing for the win, John Fox let Aaron Rodgers beat his Bears.
Opportunity was there for the Bears in their 30-27 loss to the Packers on Sunday at Soldier Field. In fact, it was one play away.
Facing fourth-and-goal from the Packers’ 4-yard line with 1:19 left and trailing 27-24, Fox sent kicker Connor Barth out to tie the game. It was the conservative call, one a team in the playoff race could explain, but the Bears are 3-11 now and had been eliminated.
After Barth tied it, Fox gave Rodgers the ball back needing three points instead of six. And you’d seen this movie before. Playing for overtime proved to be costly when the Mason Crosby drilled the winning field goal as time expired, halting the Bears’ rally from a 27-10 deficit in the fourth quarter.
“We tied the game, had an opportunity to go to overtime, didn’t quite get there,” Fox said. “I’m sure we’d have questions if we had gone for it on fourth down and din’t get that either. It comes with the territory, and we managed to not win the game.”
On the Bears’ final possession, quarterback Matt Barkley had driven them down the field on a 14-play, 75-yard drive. Barkley found his form after having three interceptions and a fumble prior to the fourth quarter. Then came the field goal to tie the game. At that point, Fox was thinking about overtime.
The Packers took over with 1:19 and soon found their backs against the wall. Rodgers threw an incompletion, then hit Ty Montgomery on a one-yard loss. On the play, Packers left guard Lane Taylor was hurt, forcing an injury timeout the Packers didn’t have left. Offered a 10-second run-off with 46 seconds remaining, Fox declined it, now thinking about a victory in regulation. His problem was that the Packers still have Rodgers.
On third-and-11, Rodgers threw deep to receiver Jordy Nelson, who beat a busted Bears coverage for a 60-yard reception to the 14-yard line. The Bears called quarters coverage, so cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc was left with no help over the top. Rookie safety Deon Bush played the underneath route, leaving the rookie LeBlanc on an island with Nelson. LeBlanc let Nelson get by him.
“I’m not going to get into the blame game,” Fox said of the blown coverage.
Those 10 seconds Fox tendered proved to be the difference. The Packers spiked the ball with three seconds remaining, and Crosby kicked the game-winning field goal. The thousands of Packers fans at Soldier Field celebrated, while the Bears fans went home to warm up.
Hindsight is 20-20, but Fox wavered in playing for overtime, and his Bears got beat by Rodgers.
“We didn’t really forecast a 60-yard play down the middle there actually letting the clock run,” Fox said.
The feeling of disappointment in the Bears’ locker room was great, a quiet scene as they attempted to figure out how they lost the game. The Bears showed heart in their comeback, braving the elements and tussling with a talented Packers team. Adversity has struck all season.
But the Bears are sick of moral victories. Receiver Alshon Jeffery’s voice was quiet as he deflected questions. Then, he ranted at no one in particular.
“I just know we want to win games,” Jeffery said. “Shit, if you’re aren’t trying to win games, they get rid of players — that’s how I feel about it. We need guys on this team that’s going to win, fight. That’s all that matters to me.
“If you’re not trying to win, shit, I don’t know about you.”
Faced with a chance to win in regulation, Fox instead played for a chance to win in overtime, then wavered on that decision. Rodgers once again beat his Bears.